The sluggish economy has prompted worries among one-quarter of Hongkongers who anticipate a rise in corruption cases this year, the annual survey by the graft-busting agency reveals. The concerns were borne out by data released by the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday that showed a 23 per cent surge in graft reports to 811 in the first three months of the year, compared with the same period last year. The ICAC-commissioned survey interviewed 1,543 people last November. A total of 65.7 per cent expected the graft situation to remain steady, but 25 per cent predicted the number of corruption cases would go up - the highest amount in four years. The remainder thought the number of graft cases would decrease or had no opinion. In 2007, only 18.6 per cent of respondents thought the number of graft cases would increase. Among those who expected the number of graft cases to increase, 85.2 per cent blamed the economy, citing people's eagerness to make quick money or the difficulty of earning a living in Hong Kong. 'Amid the economic downturn, the temptation to cut corners may become less resistible,' an ICAC spokesman said. 'The worry is understandable and appears to tally with the latest trends of corruption reports.' Of the graft reports received in the first quarter, 512 - or 63 per cent - involved the private sector. Thirty-two per cent were complaints against government departments, while the remaining 5 per cent were against public bodies. The number of respondents who regarded corruption as uncommon rose to a record 71.2 per cent, while 99.4 per cent expressed support for the ICAC - the highest since 1994, when the question was first posed. A total of 81.3 per cent indicated their willingness to report corruption, and 73.8 per cent said they were ready to reveal their identities when reporting graft. Both figures were the highest over the past four years. This high level of public confidence in the ICAC translated into a record 74 per cent of complainants identifying themselves to the anti-graft watchdog last year.