Bolivia: Perceptions of the Population Concerning Corruption in Public Services

This survey was conducted in January and February 1998 in 50 communities throughout the country among 6,851 households. Its objectives were to quantify the dimensions of the problem, identify the most problematic areas, solicit recommendations for change and provide baseline data for evaluating the National Plan=s progress. The 50 sentinel sites were selected by the Instituto Nacional de Estadística. Three out of four households saw corruption in the public services as severe or very severe.

According to the communities, the police service is most in need of reform regarding corruption. To reduce corruption in the police, they proposed better supervision, personnel changes with better training, and improved salaries. In the rural areas they suggested election of the local heads of police stations, obliging them to work with the other local authorities.

One in every four people had to pay a bribe in the course of their most recent official transaction — activities like obtaining a birth certificate, paying rates or taxes. One in four also employed an intermediary in order to make the transaction successful. Someone who used an intermediary was, paradoxically, also more likely to have to pay a bribe than someone in the same place who did not hire an intermediary. Someone who used the services of a lawyer was also more likely to have to attend more often. In part, this is explained by the fact that more serious legal issues are more likely to require professional legal support. But there is also an indication that the lawyers are part of the petty corruption in the administrative and legal services: someone who used the services of a lawyer was more likely to have to pay a bribe than someone who did not. This effect was more pronounced in the rural areas.

Some 69% of people said they received little orientation or information on how to go about their transactions. Those who did receive orientation were marginally better off, particularly in relation to the time taken. The implication is that not only is it necessary to extend the process of orientation, it is also necessary to look closely at the contents, to optimise what is passed on to the communities.