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Corruption as a Problem in Public Administration

Introduction

Corruption in public administration is one of the many problems that lead to inequalities and injustice in modern society. There exist numerous definitions that attempt to present the concepts of this term. For example, Cordis and Milyo (2016) admit that “it may be defined as the misuse of public office for private gain or more broadly as an abuse of public trust” (p. 129). Park and Kim (2019) also state that the term refers to actions of public officials to further their own or others’ interests in exchange for benefits. The two definitions indicate that corruption is an example of misconduct, meaning that it is necessary to take specific steps to address the issue.

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Numerous scholarly articles analyze the question of how it is possible to combat corruption in public administration. The studies by Ionescu (2016), Kossow et al. (2017), Irfan (2017), Nam (2018), Park and Kim (2019), and Basyal et al. (2018) assess the effectiveness of the Internet and e-governance in combating corruption. Simultaneously, Meyer-Sahling and Mikkelsen (2020) consider how the use of disciplinary codes and codes of ethics is helpful in this case. Furthermore, Mungiu-Pippidi and Dadašov (2017) draw attention to a set of anti-corruption measures, including financial disclosure, conflict of interest regulation, restrictive rules on party finance, and others. This scientific evidence demonstrates that many researchers make efforts to find ways to eliminate corruption in public administration.

The information above shapes the paper’s purpose that manifests itself in analyzing the current ways to address corruption in public administration and finding the most effective option. This objective has resulted in a hypothesis that e-governance and the use of the Internet can decrease the prevalence of corruption in a public sphere. In an attempt to prove this thought, an approach of literature review has been undertaken. This research will have practical implications because its results will show what specific measures are necessary to combat corruption activities. The remaining paper will present background information on the issue, a detailed presentation of its importance, a discussion of possible solutions, and the recommendation for the solution choice.

Background of the Issue

The issue of corruption has a long history because it was familiar to people of different epochs. For example, Terence, the Latin playwright, admitted that the more laws the republic had, the higher the corruption rate there was (Mungiu-Pippidi & Dadašov, 2017). As for the modern era, different factors can be prerequisites of corruption. According to Park and Kim (2019), they are the presence or absence of punishment for corruptive acts, level of democracy, sector pay, individual education level, and others. In addition to that, the decision of whether to engage in corruption depends on what public officials’ colleagues think of the issue (Gorsira et al., 2018). This information makes it possible to conclude that corruption is in human nature.

The problem is of universal scope because both developed and developing nations suffer from corruption. Thus, Irfan (2017) analyzes the ways to combat this issue in Sri Lanka, while the study by Mungiu-Pippidi and Dadašov (2017) assesses the prevalence of corruptive behaviors in all world countries. Figure 1 by Mungiu-Pippidi and Dadašov (2017) stipulates that “the more restrictions a country has on political financing, the more corrupt it is” (p. 392). This fact supports Terence’s idea that has been described above.

Terence’s idea

As has been mentioned above, addressing corruption in public administration is a popular topic of scholarly articles. Numerous studies acknowledge this issue and offer possible solutions to it. Most of these scientific works have successfully investigated the problem because they have identified a connection between the implementation of preventive measures and corruption rates. However, there is a significant gap in this research body. It refers to the fact that all the articles analyze the effectiveness of separate measures, and no study has attempted to compare all the existing options and find the most suitable solution. That is why the given work tries to address this gap and offer an effective solution to the problem under consideration.

Importance of the Issue

Even though it has been mentioned that corruption is a universal problem, the issue of to what extent various countries suffer from it remains unclear. Thus, the given section is going to present this information. On the one hand, Irfan (2017) presents an increasing volume of corruptive cases in Sri Lanka, while Meyer-Sahling and Mikkelsen (2020) consider the growing burden of this issue in Poland. Thus, these two articles prove that developing countries are subject to corruption. On the other hand, developed nations also fail to feel protected from the problem, and the situation in the United States supports this claim. Figure 2 by Cordis and Milyo (2016) reveals the number of confirmed corruption cases in the US over a 40-year period. Despite a significant improvement in the 1990s, the figure demonstrates an evident upward tendency of corruption in the United States. The figure represents the number of corruptive cases made by various agencies. The inconsistency between the results is an interesting anomaly, but its nature is not within the scope of this research.

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the results is an interesting anomaly

Irrespective of a country where corruption cases occur and its economic status, the phenomenon under consideration is destructive and leads to adverse consequences. Firstly, Park and Kim (2019) admit that this phenomenon results in lower private investment, which decreases the economic growth of a nation. Secondly, corruption leads to government inefficiencies concerning procurement processes (Park & Kim, 2019). It means that government activity becomes unfair, which makes it challenging to achieve positive outcomes for the nation. Thirdly, the two examples above result in the fact that people do not trust the government. Finally, Park and Kim (2019) explain that the presence of corruption in public administration makes people want to break the rules, which can lead to social unrest. The information above is an evident sign that specific and compelling measures are necessary to address corruption and relieve nations from its adverse consequences.

Discussion of Possible Solutions

Since the details above have demonstrated that corruption in public administration is a universal issue that implies many adverse consequences, there is no doubt that specific measures to address the problem are required. Now, there is an array of available solutions, and it is necessary to review their specifics. That is why the following information will present a synthesis of possible options, which is essential to identify whether it is reasonable to use any of them.

Disciplinary Codes and Codes of Ethics

Since corruption is an example of misconduct, this behavior should imply a punishment. In some cases, appropriate sanctions that are predetermined by disciplinary codes can be useful in preventing corruption. According to Meyer-Sahling and Mikkelsen (2020), these documents determine punitive measures that should be applied to public officials who have committed wrongdoing. They are said to work because the implied punishment can be an effective stimulus for individuals to avoid engaging in corruption. However, numerous scientific studies demonstrate that disciplinary codes may not suffice to address the issue under analysis successfully. Thus, Meyer-Sahling and Mikkelsen (2020) considered the impact of these documents on Polish public officials and failed to identify significant statistical evidence that would reveal the benefits of disciplinary codes. It is so because a desire to obtain corruption benefits is higher than the fear of being punished. Thus, the researchers conclude that this solution cannot make a difference when used in isolation.

Codes of ethics are also documents that contribute to the creation of an ethical and productive environment in the workplace, but they address the issue from a different side. As opposed to disciplinary codes, codes of ethics explain corporate values and behavioral standards. These documents are used to increase officials’ morale with the help of motivation and ethical principles (Meyer-Sahling & Mikkelsen, 2020). In other words, codes of ethics are present to remind civil servants about the sinful nature of corruption, which tends to minimize this behavior. However, Meyer-Sahling and Mikkelsen (2020) explain that this measure is unlikely to result in significant benefits. It means that emphasizing values is not sufficient to make individuals refrain from following corruptive behaviors.

Conflict of Interest Regulations and Financial Disclosure

It can be necessary to address public officials’ scope of responsibility to fight corruption. It refers to the necessity to minimize the occurrence of conflict of interest situations. According to Mungiu-Pippidi and Dadašov (2017), these cases occur when a public servant is in a position when their decision can lead to personal benefits. It means that appropriate restrictions are necessary to “prohibit public officials from participating in any number of activities that might be seen to compromise their impartiality” (Mungiu-Pippidi & Dadašov, 2017, p. 393). That is why there exist numerous provisions that regulate public officials’ behavior in the spheres of owning a private firm, accepting gifts, holding government contracts, and others. This measure’s effect is insignificant because public servants can overcome these regulations by involving third parties in their corruptive actions.

At the same time, financial disclosure regulations are another possible solution. Mungiu-Pippidi and Dadašov (2017) explain that this measure obliges public servants to “disclose their income, assets and financial interests to prevent or detect any private gains they might eventually make” (p. 394). The rationale behind this claim is that individuals will refrain from engaging in corruptive activities because they will not be able to explain the origins of their richness. However, it is also impossible to mention that this solution has the potential to result in significant benefits. It relates to the fact that individuals can find ways of overcoming the regulations under consideration. For example, it is a typical case when a corrupt official discloses their financial statement, and it does not have any suspicious information. It is so because this public servant’s relatives possess objects of luxury. This information denotes that the measures above are insufficient to reduce the incidence of corruption in public administration.

The Use of E-Government

E-government is another possible solution to the issue under consideration. This term denotes that public officials use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to cope with routine activities. Since modern Internet capabilities are almost limitless, it is not a surprise that e-government is quite accessible now. Park and Kim (2019) indicate that the use of e-government leads to improved effectiveness, efficiency, and quality of government operations. That is why this strategy has the potential to address corruption in public administration.

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Numerous examples can demonstrate how e-government can make a difference when it comes to public corruption. Firstly, e-government initiatives result in an online service application system (Park & Kim, 2019). It means that public officials do not have direct contact with applicants, which eliminates the environment that could promote corruptive actions. Secondly, procurement procedures can experience significant changes with the help of e-government. It relates to the introduction of an e-procurement system that can help monitor whether officials’ actions in the procurement sphere are just and fair (Park & Kim, 2019). Thirdly, e-government initiatives lead to the creation of an open government that is an effective measure to fight corruption. It is so because this phenomenon discloses government information regarding decision-making procedures, policy implementation, evaluation processes, and others (Park & Kim, 2019). This information denotes that e-government addresses various manifestations of public corruption to eliminate this behavior.

An array of scientific evidence can prove the effectiveness of e-government. For example, Park and Kim (2019) insist on the fact that this option leads to significantly decreased public corruption rates. Simultaneously, Ionecsu (2016) explains that volumes of corruptive activities reduce substantially in developing countries because of e-government. Irfan (2017) also adds that Sri Lanka experiences a reduced corruption rate because e-government initiatives have been implemented in the country. The two previous examples make it possible to conclude that the effect of e-government is of a limited scope since it is only positive for developing countries. This idea is supported by Basyal et al. (2018), who did not find any evidence that “e-government has a positive impact on corruption reduction” (p. 134). That is why it is necessary to identify whether this opposing point of view is accurate.

Further research reveals that e-government leads to the desired outcomes if additional conditions are present. On the one hand, the analysis of 154 countries has shown that e-governance is the most effective in countries with a stable and organized society (Kossow & Kukutschka, 2017). It means that this way of addressing corruption is useful in those countries that do not suffer from other social issues. On the other hand, Nam (2018) mentions that “national cultures characterized as having unequal power distribution and uncertainty avoidance have a decreased anti-corruption effect of e-government” (p. 273). This fact also demonstrates that e-government can result in essential benefits in those nations that do not have significant social problems.

Recommendation for the Solution

Corruption is a significant problem in the modern world because it affects various life spheres. This phenomenon results in the fact that people with power misconduct or make wrongful decisions to obtain personal benefits. Corruption consequences imply reduced private investment, government inefficiencies, economic problems, social unrest, and others. That is why it is necessary to choose the most suitable solution to improve the situation.

According to the information above, it is possible to mention that e-government is a suitable option to address corruption in public administration. Firstly, it is so because many scientific articles prove the effectiveness of the given solutions under various conditions. Secondly, it has been shown that this strategy addresses the issue from multiple sides, which can contribute to better outcomes. However, these details do not mean that e-government is an error-free option to eliminate corruption or at least minimize its rates. Some scientific works also suggest that this strategy does not have the potential to reduce corruption. Such arguments are refuted by the fact that e-government results in benefits under particular conditions. It refers to the fact that a developed and organized society is a factor that can maximize the positive outcomes of using e-government to fight corruption. The final thought is that e-government can be sufficient to eliminate corruption from public administration when society is ready for this improvement.

References

Basyal, D. K., Poudyal, N., & Seo, J.-W. (2018). Does e-government reduce corruption? Evidence from a heterogeneous panel data model. Transforming Government: People, Process, and Policy, 12(2), 134-154.

Cordis, A. S., & Milyo, J. (2016). Measuring public corruption in the United States: Evidence from administrative records of federal prosecutions. Public Integrity, 18(2), 127-148.

Gorsira, M., Denkers, A., & Huisman, W. (2018). Both sides of the coin: Motives for corruption among public officials and business employees. Journal of Business Ethics, 151, 179-194.

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Ionescu, L. (2016). E-government and social media as effective tools in controlling corruption in public administration. Economics, Management, and Financial Markets, (1), 66-72.

Irfan, M. I. M. (2017). The role of e-governance in administrative efficiency and combating corruption: Case of Sri Lanka. Global Journal of Management and Business Research, 17(2-G). Web.

Kossow, N., & Kukutschka, R. M. B. (2017). Civil society and online connectivity: Controlling corruption on the net? Crime, Law, and Social Change, 68(4), 459-476.

Meyer-Sahling, J.-H., & Mikkelsen, K. S. (2020). Codes of ethics, disciplinary codes, and the effectiveness of anti-corruption frameworks: Evidence from a survey of civil servants in Poland. Review of Public Personnel Administration. 

Mungiu-Pippidi, A., & Dadašov, R. (2017). When do anticorruption laws matter? The evidence on public integrity enabling contexts. Crime, Law, and Social Change, 68(4), 387-402.

Nam, T. (2018). Examining the anti-corruption effect of e-government and the moderating effect of national culture: A cross-country study. Government Information Quarterly, 35(2), 273-282.

Park, C. H., & Kim, K. (2019). E-government as an anti-corruption tool: Panel data analysis across countries. International Review of Administrative Sciences. 

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