Corruption Hotlines and the Media as Corruption Prevention Tools


Corruption Complaint form
Corruption Complaint form

Corruption hotlines are potentially valuable for management in corruption prevention.

Handled properly the data from hotlines can be useful for both government and private sector executives.

In the same way that media fulfills the first act of justice by helping us see what is happening, a corruption hotline can provide data that can be used by executives to develop policies and programs to perceived corruption problems.

Typical corruption hotline data includes a description of an incident or collection of incidents associated with a part of an organization.  Frequently, the data provided is not detailed enough to take law enforcement action on a specific complaint.

Nonetheless, when the entire population of complaints is examined, there can be enough data to indicate that a policy change may need to happen in a particular department.

Suppose, for example, that the corruption hotline shows a high volume of anonymous messages left regarding corruption involving customs officials and private sector clearing agents during the course of several months.

Sample Summary of Hotline Data.
Sample Summary of Hotline Data.

An attentive executive will investigate further with an eye to making a policy change, or increasing staff training, or both.

Some government officials fear criticism of any kind and refuse to collect corruption hotline data.  Such officials may also have a problem with the media.

In emerging economies, a robust media both threatens government institutions and people, as well as strengthens them.

Media can be seen as something akin to an ongoing public survey for information about what people need from their leaders.   (E.g., Complaints about corruption in the schools, may suggest a need for stricter enforcement of policy and more transparency.)

The rationale offered for not collecting hotline data might be an inability to manage the data, or a preliminary determination that “people who have real complaints will come in for an interview.” Worse, sometimes I hear “we decide upon hearing the complaint whether we should record the complaint or not,” and “we do collect the data, but we can’t discuss it.”

Corruption Hotline Complaint
Corruption Hotline Complaint

With all of the above examples the corruption fighting institutions are denying themselves and other government institutions access to data that can have more long term impact than if uses solely as a source of data corruption convictions.

I have previously discussed the fact that culture can and does change.  The rapidity of change is directly related to the willingness of a society to look at and discuss things that may not be right.

Indeed, I have seen a government increase its willingness to confront the complaints of its citizens expressed through the media.

Corruption hotline data is a valuable source of information that can support corruption prevention and policy research.

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