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Report No. 179

(b) Meaning of the word 'Corruption'

There is no universal definition of what constitutes a corrupt behaviour. The definition of corruption and corrupt practices varies from country to country. The World Bank and other multilateral institutions refer to it as "the abuse of public office for private gain1 It involves the seeking or extracting of promise or receipt of a gift or any other advantage by a public servant in consideration of the performance or omission of an act, in violation of the duties required of the office. Mark Philip, a political scientist, identified three broad definitions of corruption, viz., public office centered, public interest centered and market centered.2

1. Published by Transparency International, "World Bank", in Financial Times, September 16, 1997.

2. Mark Philip Defining Political Corruption, Political Studies, Vol. 45, No. 3 Special Issue, 1997.

(i) The public office centered corruption is defined as a behaviour that digresses from the formal public duties of an official for reasons of private benefit. J.S.Nye provides an example of a public office-centered definition:

"Corruption is behaviour, which deviates form the formal duties of a public role because of private regarding (personal, close family, private clique) pecuniary status gains; or violates rules against the exercise of certain types of private regarding influence. This includes such behavior as bribery (use of reward to pervert the judgment of a person of in a position of trust); nepotism (bestowal of patronage by reason of ascriptive relationship rather than merit); and misappropriation (illegal appropritation of public resources for private-regarding uses)."1

1. J.S. Nye, Political Corruption: a Cost Benefit analysis in A.J. Heidenheimer, M. Johnston and V.le Vine(ed.), Political: A hand book, 1989 P.966 as referred in "The Asia Foundation Working Paper Series,1998 P.10

(ii) The public office interest cantered corruption focuses on behaviour which has a negative impact on the welfare of the public. Such a behaviour, in the words of Carl Friedrich, is said to exist "whenever a power holder, who is charged with doing certain things is by monetary or other rewards not legally provided for, induced to take actions which favour whoever provides for the rewards and thereby does damage to the public and its interest."1

1. See id., at p. 10.

(iii) The market centered corruption points towards utilizing an economic methodology by individuals or groups to gain influence over the actions of the bureaucracy. Accordingly, for a civil servant who regards his office as a business, the office becomes the maximizing unit.1

1. Naphaniel Leff, "Economic Development through Corruption" in Heidenheimer, id at 389.

These three types of definitions have been used as a basis for analyzing political corruption in Heidenheimer's Political Corruption (1970). But the most functional definition adopted by various international organizations such as Transparency International and Asian Development Bank is the "misuse of public office for private profit or political gain" because, by and large, it covers all types of corruption/corrupt practices and abuses of public office. To combat corruption, the World Bank has identified specific abuses of public office for private gains, which are as follows:

"Public office is abused for private gain when an official accepts,

solicits or extorts a bribe. It is also abused when private agents actively offer bribes to circumvent public policies and processes for competitive advantage and profit. Public office can also be abused for personal benefit even if no bribery occurs, through patronage and nepotism, the theft of state assets or the diversion of state revenues1

1. World Bank, Helping countries combat corruption: the role of World Bank 1977.

Syed Hussein Alats has, while defining the term corruption "as the abuse of trust in the interest of private gain", identified transactive and extortive corruption, the former being an agreement between a donor and recipient pursued by them for mutual benefit and the latter entailing some form of coercion to avoid the infliction of harm on the donor.

He also identified other kinds of corruption, e.g., investive corruption involving the offer of benefit without an immediate link but in anticipation of a future gain in which favour may be required; nepotic corruption concerning favour to friends and relatives in appointment to public office; autogenic corruption taking place when a single individual earns profit from inside knowledge of a policy outcome; and supportive corruption referring to the protection or strengthening of existing corruption often through the use of intrigue or violence. 1

1. Syed Hussein Alatas, Corruption : its Nature, Causes and Consequences. Aldershopt; Brookfield, Vt., USA Avebury, 1990 pp.3-4. 13

The definitions, enumerations and discussions of various types/forms of corruption focus essentially on behaviour of officials in the public sector who unlawfully or improperly enrich themselves by the misuse of public power entrusted to them.



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