Corruption as Resource Transfer: An Interdisciplinary Synthesis

Date01 July 2019
Published date01 July 2019
Corruption as Resource Transfer: An Interdisciplinary Synthesis 523
Abstract: Despite significant investment in anticorruption instruments in the past decades, confusion about their
effectiveness remains. While a growing body of scholarship claims that anticorruption reforms have generally failed,
other scholars have shown that particular anticorruption tools may actually work. A likely explanation for these
puzzling outcomes is that public administration research holds a mistaken view of corruption, and improperly selected
anticorruption strategies often target the wrong type of corruption. To overcome this problem, this article proposes
a four-cell typology of corruption, reflecting two critical dimensions along which most corrupt behaviors occur: the
resource transfer and the primary beneficiary. Synthesizing recent research developments, this article introduces a new
conceptualization of corruption that integrates perspectives from several disciplines. It also offers a series of propositions
concerning how each corruption type could be fought. The article concludes with implications for research and
Evidence for Practice
Anticorruption policies should be supported by clearer corruption concepts.
Reflecting on resource transfer and primary beneficiary can help address the conceptual confusion
surrounding corruption.
A new typology-based conceptualization of corruption explains a wide range of corrupt activities and the
possible impacts of anticorruption policies on them.
Tailor the anticorruption strategy to specific types of corruption.
Despite the considerable amount of resources
invested in anticorruption policies, the track
record of such measures is perplexing. On the
one hand, a growing body of scholarship claims that
most anticorruption reforms have failed (Bauhr 2017;
Heywood 2017; Ledeneva, Bratu, and Köper 2017, 7;
Mungiu-Pippidi 2015; Persson, Rothstein, and Teorell
2013). On the other hand, several studies report that
anticorruption tools do reduce corruption (Armantier
and Boly 2011; Di Tella and Schargrodsky 2003;
Olken 2005). What is the reason for such ambiguity?
This article argues that the problem is poor alignment
between actual forms of corruption and policy
responses. The existing public administration research
holds a poorly conceptualized view of corruption;
therefore, anticorruption efforts often fail. To fix this,
a typology of different types of corruption is offered,
and propositions are formulated concerning how
each of them could be curbed. This typology-based
conceptualization integrates new perspectives from
other disciplines into public administration.
While the impacts of some anticorruption policies,
especially formal top-down measures such as rewards,
penalties, monitoring, and regulations, have been
studied extensively, the effectiveness of bottom-up
tools, such as whistle-blowing, staff morale, or
community monitoring, has attracted little attention
from empirical researchers (Gans-Morse et al. 2018).
Macro-level cross-sectional studies conclude that
rewards, specifically higher government wages,
have limited or no contribution to lowering levels
of corruption (Alt and Lassen 2014; Dahlström,
Lapuente, and Teorell 2012; Treisman 2000).
Moreover, the presence of a dedicated anticorruption
agency in a country has no significant effect on
the control of corruption (Mungiu-Pippidi, 2015,
106–9). In contrast to the common argument
that strong legal systems are key anticorruption
components, cross-country models suggest the
opposite: corruption undermines the rule of law,
which, in turn, increases corruption and reduces
the probability of being detected and punished
(Herzfelda and Weiss 2003). Surprisingly, many
nations that demonstrate a higher rate of corruption
are even more likely to have in place robust and strict
anticorruption regulations (Mungiu-Pippidi and
Dadašov 2017).
David Jancsics
San Diego State University
Corruption as Resource Transfer: An Interdisciplinary
Research Article
David Jancsics is assistant professor
of public administration in the School of
Public Affairs at San Diego State University
Imperial Valley Campus. He earned his
doctorate in sociology at the Graduate
Center of the City University of New
York. His research focuses on corruption,
white-collar crime, organizational deviance,
and informal practices. His current research
agenda focuses on corruption in customs
and border protection agencies.
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 4, pp. 523–537. © 2019 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13024.

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