Center for Media Studies has been conducting periodic studies on petty corruption in public services since 2000. An analysis of CMS’s corruption studies shows a mismatch between perception that corruption is increasing and actual experience. The analysis of perception shows that higher percentage of respondents in 2005 study felt the need to pay bribe to avail public services when compared to similar study in 2002. Increased and persistent media coverage of corruption could be one of the reasons for this.
However, perceptions need not be reality. Infact, lesser percent of respondents had actually experienced corruption in 2005 while availing public services when compared to 2002.
Despite a reduction in reporting of corruption in 2005, a large cross section of households had to pay bribes to avail public services in 2005. In case of five public services (Police, Land Administration, Judiciary, Electricity & Government Hospitals) covered in the CMS corruption study, more than 10 million households had paid bribes during the year for availing services.
This study shows that there is negative correlation between corruption and usage of public services across departments / states. For instance in government hospitals, one unit drop in corruption index leads to 0.5 percent increase in percentage of people availing the service. Similarly states with relatively high corruption have low usage of public services. Our analysis confirms that the poor households are much more dependent on the public services.
Therefore they are much more affected by poor quality of service and corruption in public services. Perhaps this is one factor why people are
going more and more to private services, as in the case of health, and spending increasing percentage of their earnings for such services.
The service providers often cite shortage of manpower as a reason for poor service quality. However, this study indicates that there is no significant correlation between manpower and quality of service across various departments. Adequate manpower is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition for providing good service. Overall, across the country the awareness about the grievance redressal mechanism in various departments is quite low.
Hardly 10 -35 percent of the households interacting with various departments are aware about the existence of grievance redressal mechanism in the respective departments. The study shows that for every one percent increase in awareness about complaint redressal mechanism, the corruption index could drop by 0.17 units. The privatization of certain services is offered as solution to reducing corruption and improving services. A case study of power sector suggests that there is no appreciable difference in corruption between cities serviced by private DISCOMs and cities serviced by public power distribution utilities. The 2005 study shows that a very large proportion of citizen’s visit respective departments for making payments or merely to register a compliant. The visits of this nature can be avoided by taking simple initiatives. This will reduce opportunities for corruption as well as bring down the pressure on infrastructure.
Information technology can be used to improve transparency and reduce direct interaction with cutting edge level staff of the various public service departments. This will help in reducing corruption and improving quality of services as has been noticed in case of computerization of railway reservation system in the country. This study has prepared a list of IT initiatives that have potential to be replicated across the country.
The 2006 study hopefully would reflect as to what extent Right to Information Act (RTI) would reduce corruption and pave the way for good governance.
The full report can be downloaded here.