What is the Local Integrity Initiative?
The Local Integrity Initiative is a collection of unique projects assessing anti-corruption and governance at the sub-national and sector levels. As an extension of our nationally-focused Global Integrity Report, these joint projects are carried out with local partner groups to be directly relevant to the diverse governance challenges found at the local level. They often involve follow-on outreach and advocacy. While different in their design and implementation, all Local Integrity projects combine actionable indicators with the best in-country researchers we can find.
What does the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit measure?
The Liberia Local Governance Toolkit assesses the existence, effectiveness, and citizen access to key anti-corruption mechanisms at the county level in Liberia. It does not measure corruption per se or perceptions of corruption. Nor does it measure governance "outputs" statistics of local service delivery, crime, or socio-economic development. Instead, the Toolkit is an entry point for understanding the anti-corruption and good governance safeguards in place in each county in Liberia what's working, what's not, and what can be improved.
How did Global Integrity generate the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit?
The Toolkit utilizes a uniquely designed series of Integrity Indicators to assess the existence, effectiveness, and citizen access to key anti-corruption mechanisms at the county level in Liberia. Rather than being a survey that polls households or businesses or aggregates third-party opinion polls, the Toolkit is a compilation of country-specific expert assessments backed up by standardized scoring criteria, explicit references and sources, and a blind peer review process. All data were scored by in-country experts coordinated by the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL).
Who are your target audiences?
We generally target our work at five primary audiences: government policymakers seeking to design evidence-based reform programs; grassroots advocates that want to sharpen their message when calling for reform; journalists seeking insight into where corruption is more or less likely to occur in a country; researchers and academics interested in exploring the relationship between anti-corruption safeguards and other variables; and businesses (especially investors focused on emerging markets) seeking to assess risk and opportunity.
What time period does the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit cover?
The research and data gathering for the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit were carried out from mid-2007 to mid-2008. The final scorecards can be considered to cover that same period.
Is this Liberian Local Governance Toolkit just a research exercise?
No; in fact, the data gathering and publication of the county-level assessments in Liberia is just the first half of this overall project. The second phase of the project is an evidence-based outreach and advocacy program implemented by our partners at CENTAL, who are using the results of the data gathering to target specific county-level governance reforms in Liberia. Stay tuned to the Global Integrity Commons blog for updates.
How is "sub-national" defined in this project? How is it related to and distinguished from related concepts such as "local governance" and "decentralization?"
We refer to "sub-national" in any country as the political unit residing directly beneath the national government; in the Liberian context, the country's 15 counties. We use "local governance" as an omnibus concept to refer to a wide range of sub-national administrative governing mechanisms that depend on the country context (ranging from the regional, provincial and state to municipal and village levels). Finally, we understand "decentralization" to refer to the devolution of political, budget, and administrative authority from a national government to any type of local governance entity.
Why focus on sub-national governance?
Although all countries have specific cultural and historical traditions of local government, decentralization and local governance are increasingly viewed as crucial to strengthening public participation in government, fostering socio-economic development, and enhancing local accountability and transparency. We too believe that a strong sub-national system can be a key component of a broader governance reform framework. In assessing the strengths and weaknesses of anti-corruption and good governance mechanisms at the sub-national level, we see the Local Integrity Initiative (as well as the Liberian Local Governance Toolkit) at the cutting edge of this agenda.
Why was Liberia chosen for the pilot Local Integrity Initiative project?
As the inaugural country in which we launched a Local Integrity Initiative project, Liberia presents an interesting case in sub-national governance primarily because of the current anti-corruption reform momentum in the country. With so much effort being spent by the Liberian government and the international community on reforming (and decentralizing) the country's unitary governance institutions, both Global Integrity and CENTAL felt the time was ripe for raising awareness around the need to focus on strengthening the country's sub-national governance mechanisms, not just those in Monrovia. Thus, the Liberian case presented a unique window of opportunity when the project began in mid-2007.
What are some appropriate or inappropriate ways of interpreting data from the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit?
The Toolkit provides in-depth material for users to identify strengths and weaknesses in Liberia's anti-corruption framework at the county level. Our stress on "integrity" is meant to highlight the sub-national Integrity Indicators' usefulness as a positive tool for policy formulation rather than as a "naming and shaming" ranking. We view the Toolkit's greatest strength as its ability to unpack governance challenges within each of Liberia's 15 counties into discrete, actionable choices rather than just single numbers or rankings. The richness of the data set enables a discussion of how best to allocate limited political and financial capital when the challenges are many and the resources few.
There are, however, a few caveats users should bear in mind when interpreting the data.
First, the Toolkit, as well as other Local Integrity Initiative projects, does not measure corruption but rather assess its opposite, that is, anti-corruption and good governance institutions, mechanisms, and practices. While corruption and bribery are difficult if not impossible phenomena to capture empirically, assessing the performance of integrity systems and practices provides a much more concrete entry point through which to analyze and monitor government accountability at the sub-national level.
That said, it is not always the case that provinces/regions/counties that implement seemingly "best practices" by way of sub-national governance inputs the laws, mechanisms, and enforcement of anti-corruption safeguards end up with ideal governance outputs: reduced corruption and increased government accountability. That is to say, users should not necessarily interpret high scores on the Toolkit as reflective of counties in Liberia where there is no corruption. Instead, those results should simply be understood to reflect circumstances where key anti-corruption safeguards exist and have been enforced, which while one would hope reduces corruption may not eliminate it entirely. In simple terms, corruption can still occur even where local communities have implemented what are understood to be ideal reforms.
In addition, users should avoid conflating the wide diversity of formal and informal institutional practices that promote good governance when using the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit, since the sub-national Integrity Indicators focus heavily on formal institutions. While we realize this may prejudice sub-national entities where informal relations remain strong and weak institutions predominate, whenever possible we have tried to recognize functional equivalences even in the absence of a specific, sought-after institution or mechanism.
Did government play a role in the process of developing and "owning" the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit?
No, but the Liberian government is a key target audience of the Toolkit. In keeping with Global Integrity's commitment to generating independent and unbiased information, government did not partake in the development or scoring of the Toolkit, nor did we ask permission of government to undertake the Liberia assessment. Nevertheless, the Liberian government is among the most important constituents of the Toolkit because the sub-national Integrity Indicators provide government decision-makers with actionable data that, when combined with other resources, can yield a road map for reform. This helps explain why we place such emphasis on ensuring that our information is grounded in a rigorous and transparent methodology that governments can trust as unbiased and credible. While we did not seek the Liberian government's "ownership" over this assessment process, we do very much seek government "buy-in" to the results.
How many countries will the Local Integrity Initiative eventually cover?
We are launching similar Local Integrity Initiative projects next in Latin America, focusing first on in-depth regional and provincial assessments in Peru, Argentina and Ecuador. We hope to continue expanding coverage as rapidly as possible, especially to larger, federally-organized countries.
Is Global Integrity an advocacy organization?
No. Global Integrity is an independent information provider dedicated to educating the public. We are not a lobbying organization. While we hope that both national and international organizations utilize our data and reporting in their efforts to promote better governance, we do not engage in any overt lobbying efforts. Although many of our Local Integrity Initiative projects involve a follow-on outreach or advocacy component, those activities are designed and implemented by our local partner organizations, not Global Integrity.
Who can I contact for further information?
The Global Integrity staff is happy to respond to questions and requests for further information about the Liberia Local Governance Toolkit or the Local Integrity Initiative. Please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.