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Measurement options

Identifying the problem should always be a first step in any anti-corruption effort. However, practitioners working in anti-corruption face perennial challenges in measuring changes in corruption levels and evaluating whether anti-corruption efforts are successful.

Prior to assessing corruption risks in a particular sector or institutions, it is necessary to identify the main corruption drivers using a political economy analysis. This includes exploring the broader governance system, for example through framework-based indices like the African Integrity Indicators. For an overview of corruption measurements and analytical tools, see this U4 Guide to using corruption measurements and analysis tools for development programming.

To assess a specific institution’s overall ‘objective health’ – such as tax administration – the IMF’s Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool (TADAT) is often used. This tool is based on the internationally recognised and widely used Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) methodology.

In order to specifically assess and mitigate corruption risks within an organisation, the Corruption Risk Management (CRM) tool can be used. CRM is a specific set of procedures to detect, assess, and mitigate corruption risks within an organisation. It is an important part of implementing anti-corruption policy. CRM holds a strategic dimension, as it implies backing from the top leadership.

However, risk assessments do not measure the actual incidence of corruption. This can be difficult to measure because corruption often takes place in secret. CRM tools can only diagnose vulnerabilities within a system that may present opportunities for corruption.

To evaluate whether anti-corruption efforts are having an impact, the use of proxy indicators may be an option. Proxy indicators are alternatives to overly costly or complex data collection by way of ‘direct’ indicators that measure corruption in itself.


One of the leading research centres on tax administration is the International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD). This global policy research network is devoted to improving the quality of tax policy and administration in lower-income countries. ICTD research encompasses all aspects of tax administration – from technology adoption to data management and strategies for collecting revenue from different types of taxpayers. Tax compliance is a key focus, as low-income countries struggle with widespread evasion, corruption, and limited administrative capacity. Identifying concrete strategies for strengthening the links between taxation and good governance at both the local and national levels is another area of ICTD research.

Other areas of research also need to be covered to have a better foundation for anti-corruption efforts in tax and revenue collection and for developing concrete policy prescriptions. On the more macro level, research into the role of tax collection in the political economy of specific countries could reveal more about contextual determinants of the incentives for corruption and the political will for reform. At the micro-level, a qualitative look at the penalties for noncompliance in different countries would shed more light on how severe penalties should be and what constitutes credible deterrence and enforcement. At the same time, other factors affecting tax morale include people’s understanding (or lack thereof) that they pay taxes in return for receiving public services and the extent to which they do. Deterring noncompliance can be done even without service delivery, but it is still unclear what can best encourage voluntary compliance. What level of education, communication, transparency, accountability, and service delivery is required?

Policy agenda

There is no silver bullet that can eradicate corruption in tax and revenue administrations. In some cases, there is very little political will to address the problem because the politicians with the power to reduce corruption are dependent on it for their political survival. In such situations, there is probably nothing external actors and development partners can do – apart from supporting the broader agenda of transparency and democratisation.

When political will is present – or at least policy statements that can be used to push for an anti-corruption agenda – a range of possible actions are available. They range from technical and institutionally internal measures in staff recruitment, monitoring, remuneration, and advancement – via internal attitude measures such as codes of conduct, asset declarations, internal controls, and sanctions – to system-wide and political measures such as public sector reforms and mobilisation of taxpayers.

Donors have been active in supporting many revenue administrations, particularly in Africa, but also in some Latin-American countries. Technical assistance to tax administration modernisation programmes has contributed to computerisation of tax filing procedures and customs declarations, revisions and updating of legislation, and human resource management.

However, already back in 2008, David Child made clear that without a structured approach, there are real and obvious dangers that technical support to capacity building will not be sustainable. It requires coordination between the involved donors to avoid duplication and inconsistencies. Moreover, donor approaches have often overlooked the fact that reforming revenue administration – despite its many important technical aspects – is also a social and political process driven by human behaviour and local circumstances.


Hart, E. 2019. Guide to using corruption measurements and analysis tools for development programming. U4 Guide 2019: 1.


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