Political corruption

Political corruption
World map of the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, which measures "the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians". High numbers (blue) indicate less perception of corruption, whereas lower numbers (red) an indicate higher perception of corruption.

Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not directly involved with the government. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties, is done under color of law or involves trading in influence.

Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and human trafficking, it is not restricted to these activities.

The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. For instance, certain political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some cases, government officials have broad or poorly defined powers, which make it difficult to distinguish between legal and illegal actions. Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion US dollars annually.[1] A state of unrestrained political corruption is known as a kleptocracy, literally meaning "rule by thieves".

Political corruption
Corruption Perceptions Index, 2010
Corruption Perceptions Index, 2010

Bribery · Cronyism · Economics of corruption
Electoral fraud · Nepotism · Slush fund

Corruption by country

Angola · Armenia · Canada · Chile · China
Colombia · Cuba · Ghana · India · Iran
Ireland · Kenya · Nigeria · Pakistan
Paraguay · Philippines · Russia
South Africa · Ukraine · United States

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Effects on politics, administration, and institutions

Detail from Corrupt Legislation (1896) by Elihu Vedder. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Corruption poses a serious development challenge. In the political realm, it undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes. Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law; and corruption in public administration results in the inefficient provision of services. It violates a basic principle of republicanism regarding the centrality of civic virtue. More generally, corruption erodes the institutional capacity of government as procedures are disregarded, resources are siphoned off, and public offices are bought and sold. At the same time, corruption undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.

Economic effects

In the private sector, corruption increases the cost of business through the price of illicit payments themselves, the management cost of negotiating with officials, and the risk of breached agreements or detection. Although some claim corruption reduces costs by cutting bureaucracy, the availability of bribes can also induce officials to contrive new rules and delays. Openly removing costly and lengthy regulations are better than covertly allowing them to be bypassed by using bribes. Where corruption inflates the cost of business, it also distorts the playing field, shielding firms with connections from competition and thereby sustaining inefficient firms.[2]

Corruption also generates economic distortions in the public sector by diverting public investment into capital projects where bribes and kickbacks are more plentiful. Officials may increase the technical complexity of public sector projects to conceal or pave the way for such dealings, thus further distorting investment. Corruption also lowers compliance with construction, environmental, or other regulations, reduces the quality of government services and infrastructure, and increases budgetary pressures on government.

Economists argue that one of the factors behind the differing economic development in Africa and Asia is that in Africa, corruption has primarily taken the form of rent extraction with the resulting financial capital moved overseas rather than invested at home (hence the stereotypical, but often accurate, image of African dictators having Swiss bank accounts). In Nigeria, for example, more than $400 billion was stolen from the treasury by Nigeria's leaders between 1960 and 1999.[3] University of Massachusetts researchers estimated that from 1970 to 1996, capital flight from 30 sub-Saharan countries totaled $187bn, exceeding those nations' external debts.[4] (The results, expressed in retarded or suppressed development, have been modeled in theory by economist Mancur Olson.) In the case of Africa, one of the factors for this behavior was political instability, and the fact that new governments often confiscated previous government's corruptly-obtained assets. This encouraged officials to stash their wealth abroad, out of reach of any future expropriation. In contrast, Asian administrations such as Suharto's New Order often took a cut on business transactions or provided conditions for development, through infrastructure investment, law and order, etc.

Environmental and social effects

Corruption facilitates environmental destruction. Corrupt countries may formally have legislation to protect the environment, it cannot be enforced if officials can easily be bribed. The same applies to social rights worker protection, unionization prevention, and child labor. Violation of these laws rights enables corrupt countries to gain illegitimate economic advantage in the international market.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has observed that "there is no such thing as an apolitical food problem." While drought and other naturally occurring events may trigger famine conditions, it is government action or inaction that determines its severity, and often even whether or not a famine will occur. Governments with strong tendencies towards kleptocracy can undermine food security even when harvests are good. Officials often steal state property. In Bihar, India, more than 80% of the subsidized food aid to poor is stolen by corrupt officials.[5] Similarly, food aid is often robbed at gunpoint by governments, criminals, and warlords alike, and sold for a profit. The 20th century is full of many examples of governments undermining the food security of their own nations – sometimes intentionally.[6]

Effects on Humanitarian Aid

The scale of humanitarian aid to the poor and unstable regions of the world grows, but it is highly vulnerable to corruption, with food aid, construction and other highly valued assistance as the most at risk.[7] Food aid can be directly and physically diverted from its intended destination, or indirectly through the manipulation of assessments, targeting, registration and distributions to favour certain groups or individuals.[7] Elsewhere, in construction and shelter, there are numerous opportunities for diversion and profit through substandard workmanship, kickbacks for contracts and favouritism in the provision of valuable shelter material.[7] Thus while humanitarian aid agencies are usually most concerned about aid being diverted by including too many, recipients themselves are most concerned about exclusion.[7] Access to aid may be limited to those with connections, to those who pay bribes or are forced to give sexual favours.[7] Equally, those able to do so may manipulate statistics to inflate the number beneficiaries and syphon of the additional assistance.[7]

Other areas: health, public safety, education, trade unions, etc.

Corruption is not specific to poor, developing, or transition countries. In western countries, there have been cases of bribery and other forms of corruption in all possible fields: under-the-table payments made to reputed surgeons by patients willing to be on top of the list of forthcoming surgeries,[8] bribes paid by suppliers to the automotive industry in order to sell poor quality connectors used for instance in safety equipment such as airbags, bribes paid by suppliers to manufacturers of defibrillators (to sell poor quality capacitors), contributions paid by wealthy parents to the "social and culture fund" of a prestigious university in exchange for it to accept their children, bribes paid to obtain diplomas, financial and other advantages granted to unionists by members of the executive board of a car manufacturer in exchange for employer-friendly positions and votes, etc. Examples are endless. These various manifestations of corruption can ultimately present a danger for the public health; they can discredit certain essential institutions or social relationships.

Corruption can also affect the various components of sports activities (referees, players, medical and laboratory staff involved in anti-doping controls, members of national sport federation and international committees deciding about the allocation of contracts and competition places).

There have also been cases against (members of) various types of non-profit and non-government organisations, as well as religious organisations.

Ultimately, the distinction between public and private sector corruption sometimes appears rather artificial and national anti-corruption initiatives may need to avoid legal and other loopholes in the coverage of the instruments.



A bribe is a payment given personally to a government official in exchange of his use of official powers. Bribery requires two participants: one to give the bribe, and one to take it. Either may initiate the corrupt offering; for example, a customs official may demand bribes to let through allowed (or disallowed) goods, or a smuggler might offer bribes to gain passage. In some countries the culture of corruption extends to every aspect of public life, making it extremely difficult for individuals to stay in business without resorting to bribes. Bribes may be demanded in order for an official to do something he is already paid to do. They may also be demanded in order to bypass laws and regulations. In addition to using bribery for private financial gain, they are also used to intentionally and maliciously cause harm to another (i.e. no financial incentive). In some developing nations, up to half of the population has paid bribes during the past 12 months.[9]

In recent years, efforts have been made by the international community to encourage countries to dissociate and incriminate as separate offences, active and passive bribery. Active bribery can be defined for instance as the promising, offering or giving by any person, directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage [to any public official], for himself or herself or for anyone else, for him or her to act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her functions. (article 2 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 173) of the Council of Europe). Passive bribery can be defined as the request or receipt [by any public official], directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage, for himself or herself or for anyone else, or the acceptance of an offer or a promise of such an advantage, to act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her functions (article 3 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 173)). The reason for this dissociation is to make the early steps (offering, promising, requesting an advantage) of a corrupt deal already an offence and, thus, to give a clear signal (from a criminal policy point of view) that bribery is not acceptable. Furthermore, such a dissociation makes the prosecution of bribery offences easier since it can be very difficult to prove that two parties (the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker) have formally agreed upon a corrupt deal. In addition, there is often no such formal deal but only a mutual understanding, for instance when it is common knowledge in a municipality that to obtain a building permit one has to pay a "fee" to the decision maker to obtain a favourable decision. A working definition of corruption is also provided as follows in article 3 of the Civil Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 174): For the purpose of this Convention, "corruption" means requesting, offering, giving or accepting, directly or indirectly, a bribe or any other undue advantage or prospect thereof, which distorts the proper performance of any duty or behavior required of the recipient of the bribe, the undue advantage or the prospect thereof.

Trading in influence

Trading in influence, or influence peddling in certain countries, refers to the situation where a person is selling his/her influence over the decision process involving a third party (person or institution). The difference with bribery is that this is a tri-lateral relation. From a legal point of view, the role of the third party (who is the target of the influence) does not really matter although he/she can be an accessory in some instances. It can be difficult to make a distinction between this form of corruption and certain forms of extreme and poorly regulated lobbying where for instance law- or decision-makers can freely "sell" their vote, decision power or influence to those lobbyists who offer the highest retribution, including where for instance the latter act on behalf of powerful clients such as industrial groups who want to avoid the passing of certain environmental, social, or other regulations perceived as too stringent, etc. Where lobbying is (sufficiently) regulated, it becomes possible to provide for a distinctive criteria and to consider that trading in influence involves the use of "improper influence", as in article 12 of the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 173) of the Council of Europe.


Patronage refers to favoring supporters, for example with government employment. This may be legitimate, as when a newly elected government changes the top officials in the administration in order to effectively implement its policy. It can be seen as corruption if this means that incompetent persons, as a payment for supporting the regime, are selected before more able ones. In nondemocracies many government officials are often selected for loyalty rather than ability. They may be almost exclusively selected from a particular group (for example, Sunni Arabs in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the nomenklatura in the Soviet Union, or the Junkers in Imperial Germany) that support the regime in return for such favors. A similar problem can also be seen in Eastern Europe, for example in Romania, where the government is often accused of patronage (when a new government comes to power it rapidly changes most of the officials in the public sector).

Nepotism and cronyism

Favoring relatives (nepotism) or personal friends (cronyism) of an official is a form of illegitimate private gain. This may be combined with bribery, for example demanding that a business should employ a relative of an official controlling regulations affecting the business. The most extreme example is when the entire state is inherited, as in North Korea or Syria. A milder form of cronyism is a "Good ol' boy network", in which appointees to official positions are selected only from a closed and exclusive social network – such as the alumni of particular universities – instead of appointing the most competent candidate.

Seeking to harm enemies becomes corruption when official powers are illegitimately used as means to this end. For example, trumped-up charges are often brought up against journalists or writers who bring up politically sensitive issues, such as a politician's acceptance of bribes.

Electoral fraud

Electoral fraud is illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an election result, whether by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both. Also called voter fraud, the mechanisms involved include illegal voter registration, intimidation at polls, and improper vote counting.


Embezzlement is outright theft of entrusted funds. It is a misappropriation of property.

Another common type of embezzlement is that of entrusted government resources; for example, when a director of a public enterprise employs company workers to build or renovate his own house.


A kickback is an official's share of misappropriated funds allocated from his or her organization to an organization involved in corrupt bidding. For example, suppose that a politician is in charge of choosing how to spend some public funds. He can give a contract to a company that is not the best bidder, or allocate more than they deserve. In this case, the company benefits, and in exchange for betraying the public, the official receives a kickback payment, which is a portion of the sum the company received. This sum itself may be all or a portion of the difference between the actual (inflated) payment to the company and the (lower) market-based price that would have been paid had the bidding been competitive. Kickbacks are not limited to government officials; any situation in which people are entrusted to spend funds that do not belong to them are susceptible to this kind of corruption. Kickbacks are also common in the pharmaceutical industry, as many doctors and physicians receive pay in return for added promotion and prescription of the drug these pharmaceutical companies are marketing.

Unholy alliance

An unholy alliance is a coalition among seemingly antagonistic groups, especially if one is religious,[10] for ad hoc or hidden gain. Like patronage, unholy alliances are not necessarily illegal, but unlike patronage, by its deceptive nature and often great financial resources, an unholy alliance can be much more dangerous to the public interest. An early, well-known use of the term was by Theodore Roosevelt (TR):

"To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day." – 1912 Progressive Party Platform, attributed to TR[11] and quoted again in his autobiography[12] where he connects trusts and monopolies (sugar interests, Standard Oil, etc.) to Woodrow Wilson, Howard Taft, and consequently both major political parties.

Involvement in organized crime

An illustrative example of official involvement in organized crime can be found from 1920s and 1930s Shanghai, where Huang Jinrong was a police chief in the French concession, while simultaneously being a gang boss and co-operating with Du Yuesheng, the local gang ringleader. The relationship kept the flow of profits from the gang's gambling dens, prostitution, and protection rackets undisturbed.

The United States accused Manuel Noriega's government in Panama of being a "narcokleptocracy", a corrupt government profiting on illegal drug trade. Later the U.S. invaded Panama and captured Noriega.

Conditions favorable for corruption

It is argued that the following conditions are favorable for corruption:

  • Information deficits
    • Lacking freedom of information legislation. For example: The Indian Right to Information Act 2005 is perceived to have "already engendered mass movements in the country that is bringing the lethargic, often corrupt bureaucracy to its knees and changing power equations completely."[13]
    • Lack of investigative reporting in the local media.
    • Contempt for or negligence of exercising freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
    • Weak accounting practices, including lack of timely financial management.
    • Lack of measurement of corruption. For example, using regular surveys of households and businesses in order to quantify the degree of perception of corruption in different parts of a nation or in different government institutions may increase awareness of corruption and create pressure to combat it. This will also enable an evaluation of the officials who are fighting corruption and the methods used.
    • Tax havens which tax their own citizens and companies but not those from other nations and refuse to disclose information necessary for foreign taxation. This enables large scale political corruption in the foreign nations.[14][citation needed]
  • Lacking control of the government.
  • Opportunities and incentives
    • Individual officials routinely handle cash, instead of handling payments by giro or on a separate cash desk—illegitimate withdrawals from supervised bank accounts are much more difficult to conceal.
    • Public funds are centralized rather than distributed. For example, if $1,000 is embezzled from a local agency that has $2,000 funds, it is easier to notice than from a national agency with $2,000,000 funds. See the principle of subsidiarity.
    • Large, unsupervised public investments.
    • Sale of state-owned property and privatization.[citation needed]
    • Poorly-paid government officials.
    • Government licenses needed to conduct business, e.g., import licenses, encourage bribing and kickbacks.
    • Long-time work in the same position may create relationships inside and outside the government which encourage and help conceal corruption and favoritism. Rotating government officials to different positions and geographic areas may help prevent this; for instance certain high rank officials in French government services (e.g. treasurer-paymasters general) must rotate every few years.
    • Costly political campaigns, with expenses exceeding normal sources of political funding, especially when funded with taxpayer money.
    • Less interaction with officials reduces the opportunities for corruption. For example, using the Internet for sending in required information, like applications and tax forms, and then processing this with automated computer systems. This may also speed up the processing and reduce unintentional human errors. See e-Government.
    • A windfall from exporting abundant natural resources may encourage corruption.[16] (See Resource curse)
    • War and other forms of conflict correlate with a breakdown of public security.
  • Social conditions
    • Self-interested closed cliques and "old boy networks".
    • Family-, and clan-centered social structure, with a tradition of nepotism/favouritism being acceptable.
    • A gift economy, such as the Soviet blat system, emerges in a Communist centrally planned economy.
    • Lacking literacy and education among the population.
    • Frequent discrimination and bullying among the population.
    • Tribal solidarity, giving benefits to certain ethnic groups

In the Indian political system, for example, it has become usual that the leadership of national and regional parties are passed from generation to generation[17][18] creating a system in which a family holds the center of power. Some examples are most of the Dravidian parties of south India and also the Congress party, which is one of the two major political parties in India.

Size of public sector

Extensive and diverse public spending is, in itself, inherently at risk of cronyism, kickbacks, and embezzlement. Complicated regulations and arbitrary, unsupervised official conduct exacerbate the problem. This is one argument for privatization and deregulation. Opponents of privatization see the argument as ideological. The argument that corruption necessarily follows from the opportunity is weakened by the existence of countries with low to non-existent corruption but large public sectors, like the Nordic countries.[19] However, these countries score high on the Ease of Doing Business Index, due to good and often simple regulations, and have rule of law firmly established. Therefore, due to their lack of corruption in the first place, they can run large public sectors without inducing political corruption.

Like other governmental economic activities, also privatization, such as in the sale of government-owned property, is particularly at the risk of cronyism. Privatizations in Russia, Latin America, and East Germany were accompanied by large scale corruption during the sale of the state owned companies. Those with political connections unfairly gained large wealth, which has discredited privatization in these regions. While media have reported widely the grand corruption that accompanied the sales, studies have argued that in addition to increased operating efficiency, daily petty corruption is, or would be, larger without privatization, and that corruption is more prevalent in non-privatized sectors. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that extralegal and unofficial activities are more prevalent in countries that privatized less.[20]

There is the counter point, however, that industries with an oligarchy of companies can be quite corrupt, with collusive price-fixing, pressuring dependent businesses, etc., and only by having a portion of the market owned by someone other than that oligarchy, i.e. public sector, can keep them in line. If the public sector company is making money and selling their product for half of the price of the private sector companies, the private sector companies won't be able to simultaneously gouge to that degree and keep their customers: the competition keeps them in line. Private sector corruption can increase the poverty and helplessness of the population, so it can affect government corruption, in the long-term.[citation needed]

In the European Union, the principle of subsidiarity is applied: a government service should be provided by the lowest, most local authority that can competently provide it. An effect is that distribution of funds into multiple instances discourages embezzlement, because even small sums missing will be noticed. In contrast, in a centralized authority, even minute proportions of public funds can be large sums of money.

Governmental corruption

If the highest echelons of the governments also take advantage from corruption or embezzlement from the state's treasury, it is sometimes referred with the neologism kleptocracy. Members of the government can take advantage of the natural resources (e.g., diamonds and oil in a few prominent cases) or state-owned productive industries. A number of corrupt governments have enriched themselves via foreign aid, which is often spent on showy buildings and armaments.

A corrupt dictatorship typically results in many years of general hardship and suffering for the vast majority of citizens as civil society and the rule of law disintegrate. In addition, corrupt dictators routinely ignore economic and social problems in their quest to amass ever more wealth and power.

The classic case of a corrupt, exploitive dictator often given is the regime of Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled the Democratic Republic of the Congo (which he renamed Zaire) from 1965 to 1997. It is said that usage of the term kleptocracy gained popularity largely in response to a need to accurately describe Mobutu's regime. Another classic case is Nigeria, especially under the rule of General Sani Abacha who was de facto president of Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998. He is reputed to have stolen some US$3–4 billion. He and his relatives are often mentioned in Nigerian 419 letter scams claiming to offer vast fortunes for "help" in laundering his stolen "fortunes", which in reality turn out not to exist.[21] More than $400 billion was stolen from the treasury by Nigeria's leaders between 1960 and 1999.[22]

More recently, articles in various financial periodicals, most notably Forbes magazine, have pointed to Fidel Castro, General Secretary of the Republic of Cuba since 1959, of likely being the beneficiary of up to $900 million, based on "his control" of state-owned companies.[23] Opponents of his regime claim that he has used money amassed through weapons sales, narcotics, international loans, and confiscation of private property to enrich himself and his political cronies who hold his dictatorship together, and that the $900 million published by Forbes is merely a portion of his assets, although that needs to be proven.[24]

Judiciary corruption

There are two methods of corruption of the judiciary: the state (through budget planning and various privileges), and the private. Budget of the judiciary in many transitional and developing countries is almost completely controlled by the executive. The latter undermines the separation of powers, as it creates a critical financial dependence of the judiciary. The proper national wealth distribution including the government spending on the judiciary is subject of the constitutional economics. [25]

Fighting corruption

Mobile telecommunications and radio broadcasting help to fight corruption, especially in developing regions like Africa,[26] where other forms of communications are limited. In India the anti corruption bureau Fights against corruption and a new ombudsman bill called jan lokpal bill is being prepared.

In the 1990s, initiatives were taken at an international level (in particular by the European Community, the Council of Europe, the OECD) to put a ban on corruption: in 1996, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe,[27] for instance, adopted a comprehensive Programme of Action against Corruption and, subsequently, issued a series of anti-corruption standard-setting instruments:

  • the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 173);[28]
  • the Civil Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 174);[29]
  • the Additional Protocol to the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (ETS 191);[30]
  • the Twenty Guiding Principles for the Fight against Corruption (Resolution (97) 24);[31]
  • the Recommendation on Codes of Conduct for Public Officials (Recommendation No. R (2000) 10);[32]
  • the Recommendation on Common Rules against Corruption in the Funding of Political Parties and Electoral Campaigns (Rec(2003)4)[33]

The purpose of these instruments was to address the various forms of corruption (involving the public sector, the private sector, the financing of political activities, etc.) whether they had a strictly domestic or also a transnational dimension. To monitor the implementation at national level of the requirements and principles provided in those texts, a monitoring mechanism – the Group of States Against Corruption (also known as GRECO) was created.

Further conventions were adopted at the regional level under the aegis of the Organization of American States (OAS or OEA), the African Union, and in 2003, at the universal level under that of the United Nations.


Campaign contributions

In the political arena, it is difficult to prove corruption. For this reason, there are often unproven rumors about many politicians, sometimes part of a smear campaign.

Politicians are placed in apparently compromising positions because of their need to solicit financial contributions for their campaign finance. If they then appear to be acting in the interests of those parties that funded them, it could be considered corruption. Though donations may be coincidental, the question asked is, why are they funding politicians at all, if they get nothing for their money.

Laws regulating campaign finance in the United States require that all contributions and their use should be publicly disclosed. Many companies, especially larger ones, fund both the Democratic and Republican parties. Certain countries, such as France, ban altogether the corporate funding of political parties. Because of the possible circumvention of this ban with respect to the funding of political campaigns, France also imposes maximum spending caps on campaigning; candidates that have exceeded those limits, or that have handed in misleading accounting reports, risk having their candidacy ruled invalid, or even being prevented from running in future elections. In addition, the government funds political parties according to their successes in elections.

In some countries, political parties are run solely off subscriptions (membership fees).

Even legal measures such as these have been argued to be legalized corruption, in that they often favor the political status quo. Minor parties and independents often argue that efforts to rein in the influence of contributions do little more than protect the major parties with guaranteed public funding while constraining the possibility of private funding by outsiders. In these instances, officials are legally taking money from the public coffers for their election campaigns to guarantee that they will continue to hold their influential and often well-paid positions.

As indicated above, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recognised in 1996 the importance of links between corruption and political financing. It adopted in 1837 the Recommendation on Common Rules against Corruption in the Funding of Political Parties and Electoral Campaigns (Rec(2003)4). This text is quite unique at international levels as it aims i.a. at increasing transparency in the funding of political parties and election campaigns (these two areas are difficult to dissociate since parties are also involved in campaigning and in many countries, parties do not have the monopoly over the presentation of candidates for elections), ensuring a certain level of control over the funding and spending connected with political activities, and making sure infringements are subject to effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions. In the context of its monitoring activities, the Group of States Against Corruption has identified a great variety of possible improvements in those areas (see the country reports adopted under the Third Evaluation Round).

Measuring corruption

Measuring corruption statistically is difficult if not impossible due to the illicit nature of the transaction and imprecise definitions of corruption.[34] While "corruption" indices first appeared in 1995 with the Corruption Perceptions Index, all of these metrics address different proxies for corruption, such as public perceptions of the extent of the problem.[35]

Transparency International, an anti-corruption NGO, pioneered this field with the Corruption Perceptions Index, first released in 1995. This work is often credited with breaking a taboo and forcing the issue of corruption into high level development policy discourse. Transparency International currently publishes three measures, updated annually: a Corruption Perceptions Index(CPI) (based on aggregating third-party polling of public perceptions of how corrupt different countries are); a Global Corruption Barometer (based on a survey of general public attitudes toward and experience of corruption); and a Bribe Payers Index, looking at the willingness of foreign firms to pay bribes. The Corruption Perceptions Index is the best known of these metrics, though it has drawn much criticism[35][36][37] and may be declining in influence.[38]

The World Bank collects a range of data on corruption, including survey responses from over 100,000 firms worldwide and a set of indicators of governance and institutional quality. Moreover, one of the six dimensions of governance measured by the Worldwide Governance Indicators is Control of Corruption, which is defined as "the extent to which power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as 'capture' of the state by elites and private interests."[39] While the definition itself is fairly precise, the data aggregated into the Worldwide Governance Indicators is based on any available polling: questions range from "is corruption a serious problem?" to measures of public access to information, and not consistent across countries. Despite these weaknesses, the global coverage of these datasets has led to their widespread adoption, most notably by the Millennium Challenge Corporation.[34]

In part in response to these criticisms, a second wave of corruption metrics has been created by Global Integrity, the International Budget Partnership, and many lesser known local groups, starting with the Global Integrity Index,[40] first published in 2004. These second wave projects aim not to create awareness, but to create policy change via targeting resources more effectively and creating checklists toward incremental reform. Global Integrity and the International Budget Partnership[41] each dispense with public surveys and instead uses in-country experts to evaluate "the opposite of corruption" – which Global Integrity defines as the public policies that prevent, discourage, or expose corruption.[42] These approaches compliment the first wave, awareness-raising tools by giving governments facing public outcry a checklist which measures concrete steps toward improved governance.[34]

Typical second wave corruption metrics do not offer the worldwide coverage found in first wave projects, and instead focus on localizing information gathered to specific problems and creating deep, "unpackable" content that matches quantitative and qualitative data. Meanwhile, alternative approaches such as the British aid agency's Drivers of Change research skips numbers entirely and favors understanding corruption via political economy analysis of who controls power in a given society.[34]

Institutions dealing with political corruption

  • Global Witness, an international NGO established in 1993 that works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide
  • Group of States Against Corruption, a body established under the Council of Europe to monitor the implementation of instruments adopted by member states to combat political corruption
  • Independent Commission Against Corruption (disambiguation)
  • Transparency International, a non-governmental organization that monitors and publicizes corporate and political corruption in international development
  • TrustLaw, a service of the Thomson Reuters Foundation is a global hub for free legal assistance and news and information on anti-corruption

See also

Forms or aspects of corruption
Good governance
Theoretical aspects
Anti-corruption authorities and measures
India Against corruption logo
Corruption in fiction


  1. ^ African corruption 'on the wane', 10 July 2007, BBC News
  2. ^ Luis Flores Ballesteros, "Corruption and development. Does the “rule of law” factor weigh more than we think?" 54 Pesos (November 15, 2008). Retrieved April 12, 2011
  3. ^ "Nigeria's corruption busters". Unodc.org. http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/nigerias-corruption-busters.html. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  4. ^ "When the money goes west". New Statesman. 2005-03-14. http://www.newstatesman.com/Economy/200503140015. Retrieved 2009-11-05. 
  5. ^ "Will Growth Slow Corruption In India?". Forbes. 2007-08-15. http://www.forbes.com/2007/08/15/wipro-tata-corruption-ent-law-cx_kw_0814whartonindia.html. 
  6. ^ Sheeter, Laura (2007-11-24). "Ukraine remembers famine horror". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7111296.stm. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Sarah Bailey (2008) Need and greed: corruption risks, perceptions and prevention in humanitarian assistance Overseas Development Institute
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Further reading

  • Michael W. Collier. (2009) Political Corruption in the Caribbean Basin: Constructing a Theory to Combat Corruption excerpt and text search
  • Charles Copeman and Amy McGrath (eds.)(1997), Corrupt Elections. Ballot Rigging in Australia, Towerhouse Publications, Kensington, NSW
  • Donatella della Porta, and Alberto Vannucci, (1999). Corrupt Exchanges: Actors, Resources, and Mechanisms of Political Corruption. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
  • Axel Dreher, Christos Kotsogiannis, Steve McCorriston (2004), Corruption Around the World: Evidence from a Structural Model.
  • Kimberly Ann Elliott, (ed.) (1997) Corruption and the Global Economy
  • Edward L. Glaeser and Claudia Goldin, (eds.) (2006), Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History U. of Chicago Press, 386 pp. ISBN 0-226-29957-0.
  • Mark Grossman. Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed (2 vol. 2008)
  • Arnold J. Heidenheimer, Michael Johnston and Victor T. LeVine (eds.) (1989), Political Corruption: A Handbook 1017 pages.
  • Richard Jensen. (2001) "Democracy, Republicanism and Efficiency: The Values of American Politics, 1885–1930," in Byron Shafer and Anthony Badger, eds, Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775–2000 pp 149–180; online edition
  • Michael Johnston, Victor T. LeVine, and Arnold Heidenheimer, eds. (1970) Political Corruption: Readings in Comparative Analysis
  • Michael Johnston (2005), Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy
  • Junichi Kawata. (2006) Comparing Political Corruption And Clientelism excerpt and text search
  • George C. Kohn (2001). The New Encyclopedia of American Scandal
  • Johann Graf Lambsdorff (2007), The Institutional Economics of Corruption and Reform: Theory, Evidence and Policy Cambridge University Press
  • Amy McGrath, (1994), The Forging of Votes, Tower House Publications, Kensington, NSW
  • Amy McGrath, (2003), Frauding of Elections, Tower House Publications and H.S. Chapman Society, Brighton-le Sands, NSW
  • Amy McGrath, (1994), The Frauding of Votes, Tower House Publications, Kensington, NSW
  • Amy McGrath, (2005), The Stolen Election, Australia 1987 According to Frank Hardy, Author of Power Without Glory, Towerhouse Publications and H.S. Chapman Society, Brighton-le Sands, NSW
  • John Mukum Mbaku. (1999) Bureaucratic and Political Corruption in Africa: The Public Choice Perspective
  • Stephen D. Morris. (2009) Political Corruption in Mexico: The Impact of Democratization
  • Aaron G. Murphy. (2010) Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: A Practical Resource for Managers and Executives
  • Peter John Perry. (2002) Political Corruption in Australia: A Very Wicked Place?
  • John F. Reynolds. (1988). Testing Democracy: Electoral Behavior and Progressive Reform in New Jersey, 1880–1920 on corrupt voting methods
  • Robert North Roberts. (2001) Ethics in U.S. Government: An Encyclopedia of Investigations, Scandals, Reforms, and Legislation
  • James C. Scott. (1972) Comparative Political Corruption
  • Pietro Semeraro,(2008) Trading in influence and Lobbying in the Spanish Criminal Code
  • Mark Wahlgren Summers. (1993) The Era of Good Stealings, corruption in American politics 1868–1877
  • Darrell M. West (2000), Checkbook Democracy. How Money Corrupts Political Campaigns, Northeastern University Press, Boston (Mass.) ISBN 1-55553-440-6
  • Alexandra Wrage (2007) Bribery and Extortion: Undermining Business, Governments and Security
  • Woodward, C. Vann, ed. Responses of the Presidents to Charges of Misconduct (1975), American presidents from Washington to Lyndon Johnson

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