IRI developed the Vulnerabilities to Corruption Approach (VCA) checklist as a tool to assess the enabling environment for corrupt practices in select municipalities over time and across countries. The checklist complements other data collection efforts that are part of the VCA methodology, including semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and public opinion polling when possible.

The responses to the questionnaire help IRI identify potential gaps as well as proposed solutions that local governments and other stakeholders can implement to improve transparency and accountability and counter corruption. IRI staff developed this assessment tool with support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). A beta version of the tool was socialized with experts and the peer review provided during these panels resulted in further refinement of the various vulnerability indicators.

The VCA checklist includes one contextual section and assesses four “dimensions” that determine vulnerabilities to corruption at the local level from a democratic governance side:

  1. Legal and institutional environment. The existence and effectiveness of a legal framework to combat corruption.
  2. Public service. The rules and regulations that govern and shape the conduct of civil service and public officials.
  3. Transparency and accountability mechanisms. The tools and norms that allow citizens to access information and hold government officials accountable.
  4. Non-governmental actors. The role played by political parties, CSOs, and the business community in controlling corruption at the local level.

The sources of information, data collection process and the scoring system associated with the checklist are presented below.

Sources of information

The primary source of information is a panel of local experts that IRI assembles in each locality. These experts are drawn from the country’s watchdog institutions, specialized NGOs, businesses, professional associations and academic institutions. Experts may include professors, democratic governance professionals, business people, reporters, activists, lawyers or other corruption observers. The panels aim to feature representatives from the given locale as well as the capital city, and when possible, their composition reflects the gender, ethnic, and religious diversity of the locality. For consistency from assessment to assessment, at least half of the previous assessment’s participants are included on the following assessment’s panel.

Data collection

The scoring is completed in two parts. First, panel participants are provided with the questionnaire and instructions on filling it out as well as the scoring system. This process can happen remotely or in-person. When possible, an IRI specialist will administer the questionnaire and input the information into the VCA online platform. Typically, each municipality has approximately 2-3 expert respondents depending on the size. An IRI specialist with a technical background in corruption matters then also fills out the checklist for the locality, based on a field assessment. This score carries the same weight as an individual panelist. The name of the experts is not made available on this site. IRI allows contributors to remain anonymous.

Scoring system

The sum of the average scores for the 10 individual questions determines the score for the dimension. The overall score for a given local authority is an aggregate of the scores received for each of the four dimensions. The maximum possible score for each dimension is 50. Accordingly, 200 points would be a perfect overall score. Low scores do not indicate actual or ongoing corruption, but rather, the presence of structural vulnerabilities to corruption that may be in place in a locality. IRI has decided against assigning different weights to various questions at this stage, as pilot studies did not produce a clear pattern in which particular factors measured on the questionnaire pose a greater vulnerabilities risk than others. As IRI collects data from more markets, we will continue to investigate whether factor weighting may be appropriate.

50Legal and institutional environment

50Public service

50Transparency and accountability mechanisms

50Non-governmental actors

Guidance on how to score each question is as follows:

Yes/No Questions
Rating Scale Questions
Not at All0
Increasing Range
of Relevance
Very Much So5

What do the scores mean?

180-200: Resilient to corruption

150-179: Less susceptible to corruption

100-149: Susceptible to corruption

0-100: Very susceptible to corruption

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