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 compliments 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.

Pilot studies in a diverse set of locations identified these four dimensions as universally applicable and the most important aspects of that contribute to an environment conducive to corruption. A score is generated for each dimension by rating the answers based on 10 questions. These questions are based on USAID’s Corruption Assessment Handbook and Tools for Assessing Corruption and Integrity in Institutions, as well as Transparency International’s Local Integrity System Assessment Toolkit. Unlike these reference materials, however, the checklist does not include any questions related to national-level bodies, the judicial branch or law enforcement agencies, as these institutions are outside the scope of IRI’s VCA.

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, and their composition to reflect 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.

Guidance on how to score each question is as follows:

Yes/No questions:

Yes = 5 points
No = 0 points.
Rating scale questions: Not at all = 0 points
2 – 4 = Increasing range of relevance
Very much so = 5 points
What do the scores mean?
180-200: Resilient to corruption. The locale is resilient to corruption due to strong legal and institutional deterrents to corrupt practices, effective mechanisms to prevent corruption among the public officials and civil servants, wide adoption of transparency and accountability mechanisms, active and engaged non-governmental actors.
150-179: Less susceptible to corruption. Legal and institutional mechanisms to prevent corruption are in place but do not meet international standards; rules, training and compensations for public officials and civil servant do not fully comply with requirements; at least one basic transparency and accountability mechanism is lacking; non-government actors are not very active.
100-149: Susceptible to corruption. Vulnerabilities to corruption of varying intensity exist due to several factors, including insufficient or inadequate institutional and legal structures, unaccountable public service, limited transparency and accountability mechanisms and uncooperative or inactive political, civil and business actors.
0-100: Very susceptible to corruption. Vulnerabilities to corruption of high intensity exist due to several factors, including very insufficient or inadequate institutional and legal structures, unaccountable public service, very limited transparency and accountability mechanisms and very uncooperative or inactive political, civil and business actors.