It is always difficult to say how much (or how little) corrupt the administration of a country is unless a proper operational definition of corruption is used. There are two ways of dealing with the more general approach towards corruption. First, the denial-of-everything approach which claims that corruption is too complex, too vague and too difficult to define and eventually measure and/or analyze. Many reports and analyses of corruption adopting this approach usually begin with the notion that corruption is a complex social phenomenon that is practically immeasurable and difficult to define. In addition corruption (as most social phenomena) is system dependent, i.e. its forms and involvement in different societies varies. Respectively, perceptions of corruption in different countries and governments differ substantially. Most often this approach is politically biased and is used to reject findings on corruption at all levels. The rationale is that one cannot measure something that could not be defined.
Secondly, the positivist approach, which includes the attempt to compose and decompose corruption to its different forms and mechanisms and to construct a system of measures which aim to account for the levels of corruption in societies, social sectors, or among different population groups. The logic of this approach is that the function of science is to measure the immeasurable, i.e. to step by step create preconditions (theory) that would make is possible to asymptotically get closer to the true understanding of a given phenomenon.
In Bulgaria, a well-known and systematic approach to analyze and counteract corruption has been adopted by Coalition 2000 (1). One of the instruments used by Coalition 2000 has been its Corruption Monitoring System (CMS) (2). The basic methodological assumptions and concepts on which the CMS is based are:
Administrative corruption. This concept refers to the corruption transactions in which lower and middle level officials receive kickbacks (money, gifts, favors) from citizens either to provide a better service or to violate existing rules and laws. This type of corruption has been found to be characteristic for all post-socialist countries and is manifested in forms and sectors that seem fairly unlikely for developed countries. The main systemic reason for the existence of this type of corruption is the character of transition processes in these countries. More specifically this is the dynamically shifting balance between the public and the private spheres within a short period of time. Administrative corruption seems to be the negative byproduct of systemic adjustment to the new public-private balance in society.
Political corruption. This concept refers to corruption of high level officials in the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. In principle corruption transactions of this type involve manipulation of substantial resources and more complicated corruption schemes (including political party financing).
Perception based measures. Perception based measures of corruption include accounts for the perceived spread of corruption in different social sectors (also institutions, professional groups, etc.). CMS research findings and other international research has shown that perception based measures reflect attitudes of different targets groups towards corruption are not precise estimates of the actual level of corruption. In this respect perception based measures are dependent on situational factors and are strongly politically biased. However they proved a fair account of public tolerance or intolerance of corruption practices in society.
Experience based measures. Experience based measures account for incidences of personal experience with corruption transactions. These measures are based on anonymously provided reports. The same approach is used in crime victimization research and experience accumulated since the 1960-ies has proved that obtained results are fairly accurate. …