Preventing malfeasance in low corruption environments: twenty public administration responses

Author:Adam Graycar, Adam B. Masters
Position:Department of Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
Pages:170-186
SUMMARY

Purpose Corruption undermines good governance. Strategies for preventing malfeasance in low-corruption environments require a different approach to that applied in high-corruption environments. This paper aims to ask if criminological theories and practice contribute to the study and prevention of corruption in public organizations? Do crime prevention techniques help us in preventing... (see full summary)

 
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Preventing malfeasance in low
corruption environments: twenty
public administration responses
Adam Graycar
Department of Politics and Public Policy, Flinders University,
Adelaide, Australia, and
Adam B. Masters
Transnational Research Institute on Corruption, Australian National University,
Canberra, Australia
Abstract
Purpose Corruption undermines good governance. Strategies for preventing malfeasance in low-
corruption environments requirea different approach to that applied in high-corruption environments. This
paper aims to ask if criminologicaltheories and practice contribute to the study and prevention of corruption
in public organizations?Do crime prevention techniqueshelp us in preventing corruption?
Design/methodology/approach Empirical data demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of
public ofcialsin rich countries demonstrate high levelsof integrity; yet, signicant sums are invested in anti-
corruption agencies and prevention strategies. This paper reports on recent work with an anti-corruption
agency, whichforced us to re-think how to deliver an anti-corruptionagenda in a low-corruption environment.
The authors build on their research of public sector corruption in rich countries to develop a set of 20
situationalcorruption prevention measures for public administrators.
Findings The result, with lessons fromcrime prevention, is a prevention tool to support continued good
governance in low-corruption environments. Figure 1 is a template that readers can apply in their own
environments.Figure 2 is the authorsattempt to populate this templatebased on the research reported here.
Originality/value The matrix of situational corruption prevention techniques provides two original
approaches. First, it recasts the language of crime prevention into a non-confrontational approach to avoid
alienating honest public ofcials. Second, the matrix incorporates commonpublic sector functions to guide
the developmentof context specic corruption preventiontechniques.
Keywords Australia, Corruption, Anti-corruption, Situational crime prevention
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
For a crime to occur, routine activity theory tells us that three elements are necessary: a
motivated offender,a target and the absence of a capable guardian (Cohenand Felson, 1979).
This principle applies equallyto public corruption. If any one of these is missing, then there
is no corrupt event. Governance systems in modern states provide target-richenvironments
for motivated offenders. The guardianshipcan often be complex, convoluted and incredibly
rule bound.
The authors thank Ron Clarke and Robert Klitgaard for their insights and comments on earlier
versions of this paper. They also thank Marcus Felson at Texas State University, for his insights on
the functional approach to situational corruption prevention and his feedback on the development of
the authorscorruption prevention matrix.
JFC
25,1
170
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.25 No. 1, 2018
pp. 170-186
© Emerald Publishing Limited
1359-0790
DOI 10.1108/JFC-04-2017-0026
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1359-0790.htm
Can criminological theories and practice contribute to the study and prevention of
corruption in public organizations? Do crime prevention techniques help us in preventing
corruption? This paper uses situational crime prevention (SCP) techniquesto build a matrix
of corruption prevention for use in public administration. It builds on the authorsresearch
of public sector corruption in rich countries and draws from SCP theory and the practical
applications developed by Clarke (1997a, p. 18) and his colleagues (Braga and Clarke, 2014;
Clarke, 1997b;Clarkeand Felson, 2010;Cornish and Clarke, 2003;Felson and Clarke, 1998).
The stakes are high. Public procurement ofcials make signicant decisions worth
thousands, millions or even billions of dollars. These decisions can be exploited tounfairly
benet corrupt ofcials, their friends and/or family in return for favorable treatment of
specic vendors. Other opportunities exist in public administration personnel
appointments, management of nances, leadership and delivery of public services are all
governance functions susceptible to becoming targets for criminal and corrupt activity.
While corruption scandals do occur in rich countries, most public ofcials in developed
nations act with honesty and integrity, thereby precluding them from the category of
motivated offender and essentially placing them in the role of capable guardian. This dual
role of the honest ofcial in the triangleof routine activity theory is important.
In a research project conducted by the authors, practitioners pointed out the signicant
downside of simply applying Clarkes techniques to honest ofcials. In low-corruption
environment, language should implicitly and explicitly encourage and support honestyand
integrity. A change of language thus supports honest public ofcials in their dual role of
unmotivated [non]offenderand present capable guardian.
Theory and practice
Corruption poses a signicant concern to citizens globally, and many see it as one of the
most important issues facing their societies. This concern persists even in low-corruption
environments such as the USA or Europe. The international architecture of corruption
prevention ranges from the United Nations (UN) Convention Against Corruption, through
various integrity processes developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development, as well as national anti-corruption agencies and various cross-country
measures brokered by agencies like the UN Development Program, the UN Ofce of Drugs
and Crime and civil society action led by TransparencyInternational (Graycar and Prenzler,
2013, chap 4).
SCP builds upon routine activity theory and economic theories of rational choice.
Scholars of white-collar crime nd that rational choice theories and controls have greater
utility because of the higher levels of rationality among white-collar criminals (Simpson,
2013). Corrupt actors in low-corruption environments similarly act in a rational manner,
motivated by greed rather than need.
The criminological literature portrays prevention along a spectrum from enhancing
social capital to fostering strong social and physical amenity (Braga and Clarke, 2014)to
education and family support (Fagan, 2013), to target hardening (Clarke and Felson, 2010)
and a range of punishment alternatives including incarceration (Braithwaite, 2012). The
corruption literature also has a spectrum of prevention from building societal pillars of
integrity (Pope, 2000), developingcultures of transparency and social values (Transparency
International, 2014)and strengthening institutions and civil society through the processes of
criminalization, investigation, sanction and situational counter measures (Ede et al.,2002).
But there is a catch levels of crime and corruption vary across countries, and thus policy
responses also differ. Furthermore,crime prevention is aimed at controlling a deviant group
and their behavior recognized and visible by all, whereascorruption prevention is aimed at
Preventing
malfeasance
171

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