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 authors’research
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 ofﬁcials make signiﬁcant decisions worth
thousands, millions or even billions of dollars. These decisions can be exploited tounfairly
beneﬁt corrupt ofﬁcials, their friends and/or family in return for favorable treatment of
speciﬁc vendors. Other opportunities exist in public administration –personnel
appointments, management of ﬁnances, 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 ofﬁcials 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 ofﬁcial in the triangleof routine activity theory is important.
In a research project conducted by the authors, practitioners pointed out the signiﬁcant
downside of simply applying Clarke’s techniques to honest ofﬁcials. In low-corruption
environment, language should implicitly and explicitly encourage and support honestyand
integrity. A change of language thus supports honest public ofﬁcials in their dual role of
unmotivated [non]offenderand present capable guardian.
Theory and practice
Corruption poses a signiﬁcant 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 Ofﬁce 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 ﬁnd 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