2016 Democracy and Human Rights, Public Administration Other

Våldsamma hot och priset för ärlighet: En omvärdering av tjänstemäns val att ta mutor

Aksel Sundström

In most low-income countries, the problem of bureaucratic or small-scale corruption is relatively widespread. This report is based on the premise that the dominant view of what drives officials’ choice to engage in corruption is in need of complementary perspectives, as they seldom take into account that violent threats can affect non-corrupt actors.

The dissertation asks the following question: in what way does violence and threats affect officials’ choice to take bribes? The empirical material consists of interviews with inspectors within the South African administration that monitors marine poaching.

The report was presented during the seminar Samhällsstyrning – nationellt och globalt.

Main findings

  • Threats from citizens and corrupt colleagues are an important aspect of officials’ decisions to take bribes.
  • Inspectors often feel threatened when working. Many have problems saying no to bribes offered under violent threats.
  • Threats come not only from poachers but also from corrupt colleagues. This can be seen as the enforcement of corrupt contracts, where corrupt officials have incentives to get more colleagues involved as this reduces whistleblowing.
  • Few officials want to pay the price for being non-corrupt and this decision is based on expectations of how other colleagues will act.

Policy implications

  • Anti-corruption policies should increasingly focus on ensuring the safety of officials in corrupt and violent environments.
  • Anonymous services should be installed to secure the opportunity to act as a whistleblower.

Aksel Sundström works as a researcher at the Department of Political Science, Gothenburg University, and is affiliated with the Quality of Government (QoG) Institute and the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project. In 2015, he defended his dissertation in political science at Gothenburg University.