Types and Causes of corruption, effects of corruption


  • Like that of several other socio-economic offences, corruption stands out as an offence which affects the community as a whole. It is not just an offence between the perpetrator of a traditional crime like murder, theft or rape and an innocent victim. In fact and reality the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker are equally guilty. Although, corruption undoubtedly affects the morality of the people in general, but its overwhelming impact is on the economic health of a nation and accordingly corruption will have to be classified as an ‘economic offence’. It goes without saying that the poor strata of our society, which has limited paying capacity, suffers the most due to administrative corruption and besides this, the economy of a country beset with the evil of corruption is affected due to the generation of unaccounted or ‘black money’ which is a major factor responsible for unbridled inflation. The offence of corruption appears to have been regarded more as an economic evil rather than immoral hazard and accordingly corruption deserves to be classified as an economic offence.


  • It is difficult to apportion the blame for corruption as between officers at the highest level and their subordinates. It is true that economic deprivation in the middle and lower class officials in the past may have led to a large number of corrupt practices but this, in itself, does not absolve the superiors whose lust for higher and higher standard of living .is never satiated. Then again, corruption like sacrifices, starts at the top and percolates down to the bottom.


  • One more distinguishing feature of the offence of corruption is that the victim as also the beneficiary of the offence are equally interested in maintaining utmost secrecy about their transactions. This aggravates the difficulty on the part of the enforcement staff in obtaining vital evidence which will help the prosecutor to secure conviction in deserving cases.



• The simplest definition of corruption is improper or selfish exercise of power and influence attached to a public office or to a special position in public life. In the legalistic jargon of the Indian Penal Code, a corrupt person is one who “being of expecting to be a public servant, accepts or obtains, or agrees to accept, or attempts to obtain, from any person, for himself or for any other person, any gratification whatever, other than legal remuneration, as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act, or for showing or forbearing to show, in the exercise of his official functions, favour or disfavour to any person, or for rendering or attempting to render any service or disservice to any person, with the Central or any State Government or Parliament or the Legislature of any State, or with any public servant as such”.
In other words, any act of commission or omission by a public servant for securing pecuniary or other material advantage directly or indirectly for himself or his family or friends is corruption.

• According to Peter H. Odegard , corruption is in a sense a product of the way of life of an acquisitive society where ‘money talks’, where what ‘works’ is justified, and where people are judged by what they have rather than what they are. The over-emphasis on the general cultural milieu may suggest that spiritual values as distinct from material pursuits are an antidote to corruption.

• A broad definition is that “corruption is the betrayal of public trust for individual of group gain. This definition, it is needless to say, does not define the content of ‘public trust’ and accordingly it has a tendency to indicate that it speaks of or it presupposes some sources of wealth which a public servant can take or use to his private advantage. Accordingly, therefore, the definition appears to be more suited to cases of misappropriation of public funds by a public servant, which represents only a category of corruption. From this angle, the position will not be very much different if corruption is defined as misappropriation of government properties or funds through criminal breach of trust”.

• Indeed, there are thinkers who feel that corruption in administration has certain positive aspects too since it helps in speeding up the administrative process. This may be partly true only in the context of speed money, but that is only a part of the story. It is now widely known that a large portion of public funds are being siphoned off by responsible public servants and even bank officials entrusted with the task of advancing loans to lowest category of farmers and entrepreneurs are deducting a sizeable portion of the loan in the name of commission.

• Corruption is an offence like that of many other offences punishable under the criminal law of our country. Basically, therefore, it is the sociologists and the criminologists who can delve deep into causes of corruption. For that matter, the causes of crime, in general, equally applied to the offence of corruption. However, it can perhaps be suggested that certain special socio-economic and political factors do accentuate the tendency to commit these offences which could be bracketed together under the title of corruption. The aforesaid factors can be summarised in the following works.
• The aftermath of the second World War accompanied by scarcities, controls and the flush of easy money was perhaps one of the factors responsible for corruption. The second factor was the fall in real income of the various categories of public servants.
According to Myrdal, the extent of corruption has a direct bearing on the stability of the government of a state.
He thinks that the main factors responsible for increasing corruption in the developing countries
are :
• Little loyalty to the community as a whole, whether on the local or the national level. This, according to Myrdal, implies stronger loyalty to less inclusive groups family, cast, ethnic religious or linguistic community.
• The state of transition from colonial to self government.
• Wide discretionary powers and low level of real wages.
• Cumulative effects working within the system of corruption itself.

Some of the major factors that have been regarded to be responsible for corruption by different scholar are also worth taking into account:

• A defective electoral system which had led to an unholy alliance between the politicians and big businessmen. The parties raise funds for the election expenses from business houses in exchange for favours done or to be done in future. The problem aggravates alongwith the increase in the cost of election.Unscruplous industrialists, businessmen, contractors, tax-evaders and smugglers are too ready to provide the finance for successive elections. Where ministers collect funds for their party, executive officers naturally get involved and are compelled to protect the saiderring persons. Obviously, therefore, some officials of the administration secure the protection of politicians and such favoured officials get the best positions and promotions. In their turn these officials use corrupt means and nepotism to please their political masters.
• Administrative delays and read-tapism is another major cause of corruption and this has led to the dishonest practice of giving speed money.
• Rapid industrialization and consequent urbanization has changed our values in such a way as to enhance the importf oece of status through possession of money.
• The emergence of a class of white-collar criminals indulging in tax evasion, under-invoicing, over-invoicing of export and import, substandard performance of contracts, hording, profiteering and blackmarketing etc. have afforded unprecendented opportunities for corruption to public servants.
• In an economy of expending money circulation, moral and ethical values have considerably slackened resulting again in corruption. Misplaced sympathy for corruption public servants is another factor for encouraging corruption.
• It is also said that existing anti-corruption law agencies are totally inadequate to prevent higher-level corruption.
• Inadequate financial resources by way of monthly salary resulting in economic deprivation coupled with the increase of consumerism and commercialism in the environment is another factor for corruption.
• Social obligation towards the members of one’s family, the customary practice of giving dowry for a daughter’s marriage and the hankering for social status have been responsible for corruption to a certain extent. It is true that no person is corrupt at his birth but the environment in which he lies including the various institutions and associations around him make him learn the techniques and methods of corruption. The Santhanam Committee had aptly pointed out that corruption can exist only if there is some one willing to corrupt and capable of corrupting.

• A colloquial word associated with corruption is that of ‘Bribery’ and hence, it becomes appropriate to clarify the meaning of the latter. Although the words ‘bribery’ and ‘corruption’ seem to have been used synonymously in the past but the former seems to have narrower cannotation. It is bribery to give a public servant money or property of any value in exchange for an agreement by the public official to do or refrain from doing something that is against his official duty. At the same time it is bribery for a public official to agree to do or not to do something in derogation of his duty in of) exchange for money or property. Broadly speaking, corruption refers to all sorts of dishonest dealings including bribery.
• It comprehends all “improper or selfish exercise of power and influence attached to a public office or to the special position one occupies in public life”. This is obviously a comprehensive meaning of corruption and it is in this sense that the word ‘corruption’ has been used in this work. It is needless to say, that the inchoate offences of attempt and abetment in relation to the aforesaid conducts will be naturally included in this study.


Types Of Corruption

Systemic corruption

  • As opposed to exploiting occasional opportunities, endemic or systemic corruption is when corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system, when it is embedded in a wider situation that helps sustain it. Systemic corruption is not a special category of corrupt practice, but rather a situation in which the major institutions and processes of the state are routinely dominated and used by corrupt individuals and groups, and in which most people have no alternatives to dealing with corrupt officials. Examples might include contemporary Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon and many others. (Michael Johnston: Fighting Systemic Corruption: Social Foundations for Institutional Reform.)


Sporadic (individual) corruption

  • Sporadic corruption is the opposite of systemtic corruption. Sporadic corruption occurs irregularly and therefore it does not threaten the mechanisms of control nor the economy as such. It is not crippling, but it can seriously undermine morale and sap the economy of resources.


Political (Grand) corruption

  • Political corruption is any transaction between private and public sector actors through which collective goods are illegitimately converted into private-regarding payoffs. Political corruption is often used synonymously with “grand” or high level corruption, distinguished from bureaucratic or petty corruption because it involves political decision-makers. Political or grand corruption takes place at the high levels of the political system, when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce the laws in the name of the people, are using this authority to sustain their power, status and wealth. Political corruption not only leads to the misallocation of resources, but it also perverts the manner in which decisions are made. Political corruption is when the laws and regulations are abused by the rulers, side-stepped, ignored, or even tailored to fit their interests. It is when the legal bases, against which corrupt practices are usually evaluated and judged, are weak and furthermore subject to downright encroachment by the rulers.


Grand corruption

  • High level or “grand” corruption takes place at the policy formulation end of politics. It refers not so much to the amount of money involved as to the level in which it takes place: grand corruption is at the top levels of the public sphere, where policies and rules are formulated in the first place. Usually (but not always) synonymous to political corruption.


Petty corruption

  • Small scale, bureaucratic or petty corruption is the everyday corruption that takes place at the implementation end of politics, where the public officials meet the public. Petty corruption is bribery in connection with the implementation of existing laws, rules and regulations, and thus different from “grand” or political corruption. Petty corruption refers to the modest sums of money usually involved, and has also been called “low level” and “street level” to name the kind of corruption that people can experience more or less daily, in their encounter with public administration and services like hospitals, schools, local licensing authorities, police, taxing authorities and so on.


Legal and Moral Corruption

  • Corruption is derived from the Latin verb rumpere, to break. According to this approach, corruption is where the law is clearly broken. This requires that all laws must be precisely stated, leaving no doubts about their meaning and no discretion to the public officials. A legal interpretation of corruption provides a clearly demarcated boundary between what is a corrupt activity and what is not. ‘If an official’s act is prohibited by laws established by the government, it is corrupt; if it is not prohibited, it is not corrupt even if it is abusive or unethical’.
  • The legal approach provides a neutral and static method of adjudicating potentially emotive and perception determined concepts of corruption. An understanding of corruption from law perspective serves to underline a deterioration of self-regulated behaviour and a dependence on the legal approach to determine right from wrong. The complexities of modern governance and a proliferation of corruption scandals have corresponded with a proliferation of complex corruption legislation.
  • Legislating for behaviour warrants focus upon the legality of an action and not the morality of that same action. Morality is increasingly being legislated for in the absence of and a loss of faith in self regulated behaviour. Although an act is committed within legal parameters it may lie outside moral boundaries. A corrupt act can be camouflaged by lawful justification. For example, ‘undue emphasis on narrow legalism has obscured more subtle yet costly manifestations of misgoverance’ where ‘“legal corruption” may be more prevalent than illegal forms’.
  • From this perspective corruption encompasses undue influence over public policies, institutions, laws and regulations by vested private interests at the expense of the public interest. Cultural change, rather than legal change, may be necessary to impede corrupt behaviour. Non-corrupt actions may be within the letter of the law but do not account for the spirit of the law. The legal approach diminishes the role of moral discretion and is constrained by clearly defined edicts.



Effects of corruption

The impact of corruption on developing countries cannot be overemphasized. The results areoften disastrous. The eleven year civil conflict in Sierra Leone, for instance was largelyattributed to pervasive corruption in all spheres of governance. The occurrence of corruption inlarge scale reflects in many areas of development and is intrinsically linked with underdevelopment. Poor conditions of service as is the case in many developing countries open thedoor to bribery. Corrupt officials often accept substandard quality of service because ofkickbacks thus depriving the country of value added service from contractors and consequently resulting to the implementation of water washed roads or schools. Health care facilities remaininadequate and inaccessible because most times, drugs meant for especially children and womenparticularly in provincial clinics and hospitals could be easily seen on the shelves of privatepharmacies.One of the greatest impacts of corruption normally arises out of the choices and priorities ofgovernments. This occurs when the real development priorities of a country are often neglectedin favour of those that generate the greatest personal gains for the decision makers. Here, it isclearly evident that many projects have become white elephants and easy route for personalenrichment. When loans taken by governments on the pretext of undertaking some projects arediverted to private accounts and coffers, the attendant effect is that such loans would have to bepaid with interest and at the same time increasing the debt burden of the country.


Corruption facilitates environmental destruction. Corrupt countries may formally have legislationto protect the environment; it cannot be enforced if officials can easily be bribed. The sameapplies to social rights worker protection, unionization prevention, and child labor. Violation ofthese laws rights enables corrupt countries to gain illegitimate economic advantage in theinternational market.The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in India has observed that “there is no suchthing as an a political food problem.” While drought and other naturally occurring events maytrigger famine conditions, it is government action or inaction that determines its severity, andoften even whether or not a famine will occur. Governments with strong tendencies towardskleptocracy can undermine food security even when harvests are good. Officials often steal stateproperty. In Bihar, India, more than 80% of the subsidized food aid to poor is stolen by corruptofficials. Similarly, food aid is often robbed at gunpoint by governments, criminals, and warlordsalike, and sold for a profit. The 20th century is full of many examples of governmentsundermining the food security of their own nations – sometimes intentionally.


Corruption undermines economic development by generating considerable distortions andinefficiency. In the private sector, corruption increases the cost of business through the price ofillicit payments themselves, the management cost of negotiating with officials, and the risk ofbreached agreements or detection. Although some claim corruption reduces costs by cuttingbureaucracy, 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 bebypassed by using bribes. Where corruption inflates the cost of business, it also distorts theplaying field, shielding firms with connections from competition and thereby sustaininginefficient firms.Corruption also generates economic distortions in the public sector by diverting publicinvestment into capital projects where bribes and kickbacks are more plentiful. Officials mayincrease the technical complexity of public sector projects to conceal or pave the way for suchdealings, thus further distorting investment. Corruption also lowers compliance withconstruction, environmental, or other regulations, reduces the quality of government services andinfrastructure, and increases budgetary pressures on government.


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