Breadcrumbs

Corruption Perceptions Index ‘biased’ and ‘flawed’

24 January 2020

A University of Waikato researcher has called Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, released this week, a biased survey based on flawed methodology that reinforces global stereotypes.

In a research paper titled The Visual Politics of Corruption, published in Third World Quarterly, Dr Olli Hellmann, Senior Lecturer in Political Science and International Relations at the University of Waikato, says although corruption is essentially invisible, the anti-corruption industry continues to use images that reinforce stereotypes of a “corrupt” developing world that needs to be saved by the “clean” North.

Transparency International (TI), the main non-governmental organisation working to end corruption worldwide, released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index this week, with New Zealand placing 1st out of 180 countries in the survey.

“Developed countries, including New Zealand, always rank fairly highly in this survey, yet we know we’re not immune to corruption. The way corruption is being measured and visually represented by TI serves to cover up the North’s role in transnational webs of corruption,” he says.

His research analysed photography competitions run by TI, the interactive world map it uses to illustrate “highly corrupt” and “very clean” countries and TI’s logo.

Dr Hellmann said imagery used to advertise TI’s photo competition, which seeks photos illustrating the effects of corruption, alluded to the global South. One image using a person of colour, the second an “exotic” scarf on a wrist, images often associated with the developing world. Winning photographs also overwhelmingly depicted images from developing countries.

“Where are the photos of a bank in London or the charging bull of Wall Street?”

He said the index’s methodology relies on surveys from experts in the different countries from businesspeople, journalists to NGO workers, but as corruption was invisible, he questioned how they were able to make any assessment.

“We know corruption by its nature is not something we can illustrate, and we certainly can’t just ask a country how corrupt it is, yet the pool of photos collated by Transparency International each year has played an important role in constructing a visual representation of corruption,” he said.

He also says, despite working for more than two decades, the anti-corruption industry has done little to reduce corruption worldwide but instead has often served the political and economic interests of the North through policy development like forcing free trade on developing countries or weakening states through programmes of structural adjustment.

Dr Hellmann said the conversation needed to move on from focussing on corruption and instead working on building strong institutions and businesses in countries and developing good governance, where corruption would struggle to take root.

He created his own photography project alongside his research, using images from London and setting them alongside stereotypes of the developing world. His fictional place, Paraíso, effectively turns London into a banana republic.

“I want people to question their stereotypical views of the North as “clean” and the developing world as “corrupt”.”


Latest stories

Related stories

Campaign image 2

World’s first Bachelor of Climate Change launched at University of Waikato

The world’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree has been launched by the University of…

Rob McGowan

The healing power of plants

Rob McGowan QSM would like New Zealanders to be more connected to their land –…

Dr Nick Munn

Teaching online nets lecturer national award

A University of Waikato lecturer has been recognised as one of New Zealand’s top tertiary…

Janet Peters profile2

A career studying human behaviour

Janet Peters has dedicated her research and career to helping New Zealand's mental health sector.

ioane-tuupo

Pacific heritage important to alumnus and government advisor

When Ta'atiti Ioane Tuupo was 13, he went to his older brother’s university graduation ceremony…

Taciano Milfont

Older generations are increasingly concerned about climate change

Opinion polls and news articles indicate climate change awareness and concern has increased globally, but…

Laurel Hubbard

Why the way we talk about Olympian Laurel Hubbard has real consequences for all transgender people

When Laurel Hubbard was announced as the first out transgender woman athlete to compete in…

Heartbreak and hope inspires Pacific student’s university journey

Earlier this month, 'Ana Taulani got one step closer to reaching her goal of becoming…

University of Waikato graduate puts the ‘social’ in social work

Nikita Costello (Ngāti Maniapoto, Tainui) secured her dream job as a youth social worker at…

bill-and-judy-gallagher

New Chair in Opera to revitalise Music at Waikato

A new, philanthropically-funded position at the University of Waikato is set to help revitalise music…

Niki Wade - from WINZ beneficiary to Waikato University masters graduate

Seven years ago, Niki Wade (Ngāti Apakura, Maniapoto, Tainui) was a stay-at-home sole parent on…

Whānau was the ‘why’ for Waikato University social work graduate

Taranaki-born Khey-Jhyn Martin (Ngā Rauru) left school without University Entrance but a last-minute bus trip…