Transparency and Anti-Corruption


1. Defining corruption

Corruption generally

Any discussion of corruption must start by clarifying what is exactly meant by the term “corruption”.  While there are many definitions of corruption, they are often variants of the following:

The United Nations has defined corruption in its Convention against Transnational Organized Crime as:

  • The promise, offering or giving to any public official, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage, for the official himself or herself or another person or entity, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her function; and

  • The solicitation or acceptance by a public official, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage, for the official himself or herself or another person or entity, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her function.

A shorter definition of corruption is “the misuse of (public) power for private gain".

Examples of corruption include:

  • Bribery which involves the promise, offer or giving of any benefit that improperly affects the actions or decisions of a public official.

  • Embezzlement which involves the theft of resources by persons entrusted with authority and control over anything of value.

  • Fraud which involves any behaviour designed to trick or fool another person or entity for one’s own or a third party’s benefit.

  • Extortion which involves forcing a person to pay money or other valuables in exchange for acting or failing to act. This coercion can be under threat of physical harm, violence or restraint.

  • Abuse of Discretion which involves using one’s vested authority to give undue preferential treatment to any group or individual or to discriminate against any group or individual for personal gain.

  • Exploiting a Conflict of Interest/ Insider Trading which involves engaging in transactions or acquiring a position or commercial interest that is incompatible with one’s official role and duties for the purpose of illegal enrichment (personal gain). For example, with the intent to profit from secret information, a public official buys land where a large development is scheduled to be built.

  • Receiving an unlawful gratuity, favour or illegal commission which occurs when a public official receives anything of value from others wishing to do business with the government. For example, five companies are bidding on a government contract… One of the firms informs the public official that they will pay 10 per cent of the contract price in exchange for being selected  as the winning contractor…if … [the public official] in fact assists them in winning the contract, [he] is guilty of receiving … [an unlawful gratuity, favour or commission].

  • Favouritism occurs when services or resources are assigned according to family ties, party affiliation, tribe, religion, sect and other preferential groupings. For example, a public servant provides extraordinary services, commissions, jobs and favours to political allies, family and friends. Members of the general public would not receive this special treatment.

  • Nepotism is a form of favouritism whereby an office holder with the right to make appointments, prefers to nominate his/her relatives for positions within the public administration. ….This sort of corruption undermines the stability and integrity of the government.

  • Illegal Contributions occurs when political parties or the government in power receives money in exchange for non-interference with the entity or group making the contribution.

  • The reader should be aware that since illegal acts are defined in specific countries’ statutes and regulations, they vary from country to country. While reference should always be made to the applicable local law, the above examples are forms of corruption commonly found to be illegal in many countries.