the Integrity Assessment
Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission

The Problem

In the 1990s, there was a growing awareness that corruption problems undermine economic efficiency, as well as government transparency and accountability.

In fact, Korea Development Institute estimated that if Korea had maintained the corruption level of average OECD countries for 10 years in the 1990s, it might have been able to record additional 0.72 to 0.83% point economic growth every year. That means Korea recorded an average annual loss of 0.72 to 0.83% point compared to other OECD countries just because of corruption.

Recognizing this, the Korean government made strenuous efforts to solve the corruption problem. But despite its continuous efforts, the integrity levels of Korea in the late 1990s and early 2000s did not appear to get better. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Transparency International in 2000, Korea ranked 48th among 90 countries, and a survey conducted by the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) in 2002 showed that 48.1% of Korean people believed civil servants were corrupt.

Some people pointed out that despite the government's continuous efforts, corruption problems had not been solved because anti-corruption policies were heavily focused on detection and punishment. In general, the chances of detecting corrupt public officials are less than 10%. Therefore, there was a growing recognition that reactive and passive anti-corruption system focusing on detection and punishment could not fundamentally solve the problem.

Under such circumstances, it was imperative to shift the policy paradigm from punishment toward prevention in order to address corruption in a more fundamental way and minimize the cost of corruption. Consequently, the Korean government started new attempts to fight corruption by focusing on preventive and proactive measures.

The "Integrity Assessment" was developed as one of such preventive initiatives, and it has affected a wide range of government agencies and their officials by engaging them in voluntary efforts to fight corruption.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The "Integrity Assessment" was introduced to assess the integrity levels and corruption-prone tasks of public organizations objectively so that public organizations can make voluntary efforts to prevent corruption.

Even before the development of the "Integrity Assessment," there were various tools to diagnose corruption, such as the CPI. The existing tools, however, mostly covered macro areas such as national defense, education, and taxation. Furthermore, many and unspecified persons were surveyed only about the perception on the level of corruption. Therefore, precise corruption-prone tasks, current situations, or causes of corruption were not identified and it was also difficult to reflect the result of surveys into policies.

The Integrity Assessment is designed to assess corruption status of individual organizations and their specific tasks, rather than macro areas of public service. And only firsthand service users and internal staff of public organizations are surveyed about their corruption experience and perception, while inaccurate perception of the general public is excluded from the assessment.

Hence, the assessment results point out the areas where corruption is most severe in each organization, making it possible for public organizations to focus their efforts on addressing corruption in those specific tasks and improving relevant legal and institutional frameworks.

Meantime, the scores calculated from these results are disclosed to the public through the media showing the integrity level of each public organization. And this caused competition among public organizations to make voluntary efforts to improve their integrity levels.

As a result, since the assessment officially started in 2002, the "overall integrity index" of the Korean public sector has increased consistently from 6.43 in 2002 to 8.43 in 2011. And corruption experienced by citizens dealing with public service also has been decreased substantially. The rate of respondents who answered that he/she had offered money or other valuables to public officials was 4.1% in 2002, but the rate has continuously decreased down to 0.8% in 2011.

These results indicating the improvement of integrity level can be regarded as strong evidence for positive impact of the "Integrity Assessment". According to the ACRC's survey conducted in May 2011, the public officials surveyed said that the Integrity Assessment made the greatest contribution to preventing corruption in the public sector among the ACRC's anti-corruption measures.

Of course there might be many other external variables, but the voluntary efforts of public offices induced by the Integrity Assessment have had far-reaching effect on the increased levels of integrity in the Korean public sector. And providing reliable reference point and information about corruption status, the "Integrity Assessment" has contributed to enhancing transparency in the public sector, benefiting people in both direct and indirect ways.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The "Integrity Assessment" for public offices was developed by the Presidential Special Committee on Anti-Corruption, which was established in 1999 as a presidential advisory body dedicated to corruption prevention.

Experts in public administration and corruption issues, and officials from the public organizations subject to the assessment participated in the development of the initial assessment model. They examined the points where corruption usually occurs as well as diverse forms of corruption.

After three rounds of pilot assessment between 2000 and 2001, the assessment officially started in 2002 by the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC), Korea's first national anti-corruption body. KICAC had since conducted the assessment on a yearly basis, and continuously improved the assessment framework until it was consolidated into the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) in February 2008.

Currently, the Integrity Assessment is conducted by the Anti-Corruption Survey & Evaluation Division of the ACRC. The assessment is based on a survey on the integrity levels of more than 700 public sector organizations in Korea, including central government agencies, local governments, offices of education, and other public service organizations. The ACRC commissions a private research agency to carry out the survey.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The Integrity Assessment was developed to accurately and objectively assess corruption and to make better use of the assessment results.

In order to satisfy this purpose, the Presidential Special Committee on Anti-Corruption adopted the following strategies in developing the assessment framework.

First of all, the unit of assessment is "tasks" of public organizations. In the past, the existing corruption assessment tools focused on broad categories of policies (i.e. defense, education, etc.). But from the outset, the Integrity Assessment was designed to assess the level of corruption of major tasks of public organizations. The assessment results allow each public organization to figure out which tasks are most corruption-prone and make voluntary efforts to improve relevant systems and institutions by eradicating corruption factors out of the tasks.

In addition, survey respondents are selected among the citizens and public officials who had firsthand experience of the public services subject to the survey. Previously it was common to assess the perception of ordinary citizens to measure the level of corruption. Although this kind of assessment is useful to understand the degree of corruption in society as a whole, it lacks objectivity because it only depends on subjective perception. Therefore, in order to retain objectivity, the respondents of the survey for the Integrity Assessment are confined to those who actually experienced the public services subject to the survey.

Also, the survey asks respondents about not only their perception on corruption but also experience of corruption (i.e. frequency of bribe payments and amount of bribes including money, valuables, entertainment, or convenience). Compared to the past assessment tools that focused on subjective perception on the level of corruption, the Integrity Assessment has a higher level of objectivity as it reflects the experiences of service users and employees of public organizations.

Recently, the Integrity Assessment has further enhanced its objectivity by adding quantitative data, such as records on the public officials who were punished for corrupt acts.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The Integrity Assessment has been continuously improved to be what it is today. The original assessment system was created in 1999, and the operation system was determined after three times' test-operations. Finally, the assessment officially started in 2002.

In the beginning, only "External Integrity" was assessed based on a survey of external service users on major tasks of the concerned organization. In 2007, "Internal Integrity" started to be assessed by surveying public employees on operations of their organizations, such as personnel management and budget. Since 2008, in order to meet people's increasing expectation, the ACRC has assessed transparency of process and accountability of public officials as well as experience of corruption.

Since the Integrity Assessment officially started in 2002, the target organizations for assessment have been gradually expanded. In 2002, a total of 348 tasks of 71 public organizations were assessed by surveying about 30,000 people. In 2011, the assessment covered more than 2,700 tasks of about 700 public organizations, including central administrative organizations, local governments, educational offices, and public-related organizations (state-owned companies, quasi-government organizations, etc.). The number of respondents has also increased to over 250,000. Particularly, from 2011, overseas Korean embassies are also included in the target organizations.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
At the early stage of the operation, the integrity scores of target organizations were not published for fear of their resistance. The organizations were simply divided into high, middle, and low ranks among their groups (central governments/local governments/public-related organizations).

Afterwards, since lawmakers and citizens called for the disclosure of the assessment results, the integrity scores and ranks of public organizations started to be released to the media, attracting a lot of public attention in the nation. However, with the Integrity Assessment gaining greater acceptance, it met with complaints and criticisms about the validity of the assessment methodology.

Over time, public organizations have complained that only outsiders' opinions are reflected in the integrity score regardless of their anti-corruption efforts. But, the "Integrity Assessment" does not measure public sector integrity from the perspective of public officials. Rather, it assesses the integrity levels of public organizations from the customers' perspective such as ordinary citizens (public service users) and internal staff of public organizations (users of service for public employees such as personnel management).

Therefore, the ACRC explains public organizations that anti-corruption efforts are different from the concept of 'integrity' itself, so they can't be included as part of the assessment. Instead, the ACRC separately conducts "Anti-Corruption Initiatives Assessment," which assesses the efforts of each public organization to prevent corruption.

In the mean time, some people complained that individual organizations differ in the characteristics of their tasks and thus it is not appropriate to compare all public organizations at the same time regardless of their functions. Indeed, previous assessment results show that the integrity scores of the agencies in charge of inspection, supervision and investigation tend to have been lower than those of other agencies. This is mainly attributable to the fact that these agencies' mandates are related to regulation and punishment, which may exert a negative effect on the responses of the survey.

To cope with this problem, the ACRC introduced in 2011 a separate assessment for the group of regulatory agencies such as prosecutors' office, the police, and the National Tax Service. The assessment and announcement of the assessment results for this group are made at different time periods from other organizations so that the results cannot be compared among the two groups.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The Integrity Assessment is carried out based on the surveys of citizens and internal staff of target organizations. The overarching agency of the assessment is the ACRC, and its Anti-Corruption Survey & Evaluation Division is responsible for planning the assessment, and analyzing and announcing the survey results. The public can have confidence in the results of the Integrity Assessment since it is conducted by a public organization coordinating anti-corruption policies.

Meantime, conducting a survey requires technical expertise and well-trained researchers. So the ACRC outsources a professional research institute to conduct actual surveys. This is because we can both utilize the survey know-how of a professional research institute and secure objectivity of survey process and results at the same time. In order to ensure fairness, the ACRC opens a competitive bid every year in selecting a research institute to conduct surveys.

The Integrity Assessment involves the largest number of respondents among the assessments conducted by government organizations in Korea. In 2011, more than 250 thousand people participated in the integrity survey. Since the assessment cost depends largely on the number of respondents surveyed, the ACRC allocates about 2 billion Korean won (1.7 million US dollars) for the Integrity Assessment in its annual budget.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
For 10 years since it was introduced in 2002, the "Integrity Assessment" has been conducted under the Anti-Corruption Act of Korea and with strong support from the National Assembly and the public. This attests to the stability and sustainability of this system.

In the meantime, the Integrity Index has been used widely as a reference point by lawmakers, media, and academia in understanding the overall integrity level of public organizations in Korea as it shows a trend in corruption status in the public sector as a whole and allows comparison among public organizations. For this reason, various sectors of Korean society expect the ACRC to continue to conduct the Integrity Assessment.

The Integrity Assessment has the assessment model consisting of specific criteria and weight values. The ACRC conducts a survey by using a questionnaire designed on the basis of the assessment model. Since the assessment model can be commonly applied to central government agencies, local governments, and public companies, public sector organizations can conduct the assessment on their own.

In fact, some public organizations assess their integrity level for themselves to find out their corruption-prone tasks and causes of corruption in addition to the annual official assessment conducted by the ACRC. In 2009, more than 60 public organizations voluntarily assessed their integrity level. Such organizations target a broader range of their tasks than those assessed by the ACRC, and conduct regular assessments once or two times a year.

Also, some public-related organizations, which are not subject to the Integrity Assessment, conduct integrity assessment on their own. In this case, the ACRC provides the Integrity Assessment manual to those organizations.

Furthermore, the ACRC has received requests for technical assistance from numerous countries that intended to adopt the Integrity Assessment system. The Integrity Assessment has already been transferred to several countries. Indonesia introduced the Integrity Assessment in 2007, and has since carried out the assessment and published the results every year. Bhutan and Mongolia conducted a pilot integrity assessment a few years ago, while Thailand and Malaysia plan to conduct the assessment in 2012.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Based on 10 years' experience, we believe that the "Integrity Assessment" has successfully attracted the attention of public organizations and induced them to make voluntary efforts to fight corruption and improve their systems. Such voluntary efforts have been a key factor in the success of anti-corruption policies and served to increase integrity in the Korean public sector significantly.

It is noteworthy that there is a difference between the integrity levels of target public organizations and non-target organizations. In other words, the rate of offering bribes to target organizations was only 0.8% in the 2011 Integrity Assessment, while the rate was 2.9% when ordinary citizens were asked the same question in the Corruption Perception Survey in 2011. Of course, it might reflect the difference between the Integrity Assessment which only surveys service users and the Corruption Perception Survey which surveys many and unspecified citizens. But the lower bribery rate in the Integrity Assessment shows that the assessment has induced target organizations to make efforts to increase their integrity level. It means that the direction of the assessment can positively affect the direction of public organizations' efforts.

Also, the ACRC found that the Integrity Assessment might result in attracting the interest of only the heads and compliance officers in increasing integrity of their organizations while local branches or front-line officials pay little attention to this issue.

In order to address this problem, the ACRC subdivided target organizations, and conducted the Integrity Assessment even for the local branches of large-scale public organizations in 2011. The ACRC expects that this measure will induce even lower-level offices to join in anti-corruption efforts, consequently increasing the overall integrity level of their organization.

The ACRC will make its utmost to accomplish its goal of increasing the integrity levels of public organizations in a more effective way by continuously improving the assessment system in the future.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Eun Soo Jung
Title:   Deputy Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +82-2-360-6572 / +82-2-360-6866
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Imgwang BLDG, 81 Uijuro
Postal Code:   120-705
City:   Seodaemun-gu
State/Province:   Seoul

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