Corruption is always a hot topic in Russia.
Over just the last couple of days, articles have appeared with headlines like"Russian Interior Ministry Reports Rising Number Of Officials Involved In Corruption," "Federal Agencies Ignoring Presidential Anticorruption Plan," and "The Fight Against Corruption Being Waged Only On Paper."
Nevertheless, Russian officials consistently bristle when international watchdog groups point out the problem. When the international nongovernmental watchdog Transparency International issued its annual Corruption Perceptions Index last year, Russia was labeled highly corrupt, ranking 136th out of the 175 countries in the survey.
The ranking led Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov to remark: "You know perfectly well that anybody can make up a rating."
And that is exactly what experts at the Russian governmental Institute of Law and Comparative Jurisprudence (IZISP) have decided to do. IZISP researchers are preparing to unveil a new corruption-monitoring tool they say will help policymakers get past "subjective" assessments of corruption and quantitatively understand how effective their anticorruption efforts are.
The institute's new system, called the International Program for Monitoring Corruption (MONKOR), is currently being tested in Russia and Kyrgyzstan.
"We are also holding talks with other members of the Eurasian Economic Union and are hoping for the participation of Belarus and Kazakhstan," Artyom Tsirin, a researcher at IZISP and one of the creators of MONKOR, told Izvestia on April 20.
Tsirin says the new methodology will allow countries to carry out their own self-assessments without relying on the ratings of international organizations such as Transparency International or the World Bank.
MONKOR is intended to compete with Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, which Tsirin says relies too much on the "psychological attitudes of the people surveyed."
"We are trying to find a correlation between actions and effects," he told the daily. "It is important to move from a subjective-evaluative approach to objective indicators."
Transparency International calls its Corrupt Perceptions Index a "composite index," basing it on surveys of experts and citizens, as well as a basket of corruption assessments from leading international institutions.
Russia's rank in Transparency International's index has fallen steadily since it peaked with a rank of 46th in 1996.
Transparency International's corruption ratings have been repeatedly criticized as biased by senior Russian officials.
Iosif Diskin, a member of Russia's presidential council on civil society and human rights, told Izvestia that Transparency International's approach really measures the extent to which a particular society is concerned about corruption.
"If a society is worried about corruption, its rating falls," he said. "But if it has already reconciled itself to the problem, then it rises."
He said the IZISP idea is needed and that the Eurasian Union needs a common tool for assessing corruption.
IZISP researchers plan to give a detailed presentation of the MONKOR methodology during the April 23-24 Eurasian Anticorruption Forum in Moscow.