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The untouchables? Tanzanians’ experiences and views of corruption

Almost 9 out of 10 citizens (85%) think that the level of corruption has declined compared to five years ago. In contrast, in 2014, 8 out of 10 (78%) said that there was more corruption than 10 years ago.

Citizens also say they that across almost all sectors, they are less likely to be asked for bribes in 2017 compared to 2014.

Percentage saying they were asked for a bribe in their last interaction with the following:

Police: from 60% in 2014 to 39% in 2017

Water: from 20% in 2014 to 6% in 2017

Land: from 32% in 2014 to  18% in 2017

TRA: from 25% in 2014 to 5% in 2017

Healthcare: from 19% in 2014 to 11% in 2017

NGOs: from 13% in 2014to 6% in 2017


The only sector in which reports of bribe requests have remained the same is in job-seeking, 34% were asked for a bribe by an employer in 2014 while 36% were in 2017.

Perhaps as a consequence of these experiences, more citizens are optimistic about the possibility of tackling corruption; in 2014, half (51%) thought that corruption in the country could not be reduced at all, while in 2017, 63% say it can be reduced to a certain degree.

These findings were released by Twaweza in a research brief titled The Untouchables? Tanzanians’ views and experiences of corruption. The brief is based on data from Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone survey. The findings are based on data collected from 1,705 respondents across Mainland Tanzania (excluding Zanzibar) in July-August 2017.

Despite the improvements in citizens’ experiences of corruption, however, the police and courts still lead the way in corruption, with 39% and 36% of citizens saying they were asked for a bribe in their last interaction with these two institutions. However, fewer than 20% of citizens report being asked for a bribe in 2017 in other sectors including land (18%), health (11%) and water (6%).

Citizens have comprehensive definitions of corruption covering money during campaigns (93%), money/materials for a service (78%) and ghost workers (65%). Interestingly half of citizens (51%) define sitting allowances as corruption, but only 1 in 50 (3%) see business people funding campaigns and then expecting favours in return as corrupt.

When it comes to reporting corruption, just over half of the population (56%) know where to go: either to the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) (42%), the police (10%), or to their village/street authority (4%). This is higher than in 2014: 44%.

Most citizens want those found guilty of corruption to go to prison. This was the most popular choice of punishment for a traffic police officer taking TZS 20,000 (39%); a local government land officer taking TZS 5 million (51%) and a senior national politician taking TZS 100 million (49%). A large proportion of citizens also wanted the police officer to be barred from office (30%) and the politician to pay back the money (31%).

While grand corruption scandals make the headlines, they are less likely to directly affect citizens’ day-to-day lives. Yet, slightly more citizens think that grand corruption should be the priority to tackle (57%) compared to petty corruption (43%). Many citizens have heard of the large cases of alleged corruption, but far fewer can explain the details:

  • Richmond: 40% had heard of it, 11% could explain it
  • Escrow: 32% had heard of it, 5% could explain it
  • Port / TRA tax evasion: 36% had heard of it, 3% could explain it
  • Acacia/mineral concentrates: 24% had heard of it, 12% could explain it
  • BAE radar: 18% had heard of it, 4% could explain it

Urban men were more likely to have heard of all of these cases.

For more recent alleged corruption scandals, most citizens think the government is handling the Acacia case (84%) and the TRA/Port case (67%) well while less think the same of the Escrow case (38%). Interestingly the first two are cases initiated by the government while the Escrow scandal was revealed through the media and the opposition shaped the agenda more. Nonetheless, only 1 in 5 citizens (18%) think that the opposition would do a better job of addressing corruption if they were in power.

The government recently (September 2016) established an economic crimes division of the High Court to address cases of grand corruption, 1 out of 3 citizens (32%) have heard of it. After it was explained to them, 2 out of 3 citizens (68%) thought it would be effective. The court is a major component of the government’s anti-corruption strategy. However, citizens are divided on whether corruption is best addressed through punishment for crimes committed (53%) or stronger prevention (47%).

Citizens are willing to make sacrifices to reduce corruption: 81% agree that it is important to combat it even if that leads to slower development while 19% think that we should not be too strict because it will hurt the economy. Despite this, the majority are not willing to abandon due process to combat corruption: 65% agree that everyone must be given a chance to defend themselves while a sizeable 35% think that basic rights can be set aside. 

Read more: corruption Sauti za Wananchi Tanzania Twaweza

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