Macro-level & Meta-Studies

Corruption in the Public Sector (CorPuS)

Weißmüller, K.S. & Zuber, A. (2022). ‘Micro-Foundations of Administrative Corruption in the Public Sector: Findings from a Systematic Literature Review.’ Under Review.

Public sector corruption is one of the most pressing unresolved issues of our time. This study examines the psychological and contextual mechanisms that allow individuals to psychologically rationalize their engagement in administrative corruption. Conducting a systematic literature review of 88 studies, this study synthesizes 227 cases of empirical evidence on the relationships between micro, meso, and macro-level factors with different shades of corrupt behavior in the public sector. Four distinct clusters of factors are identified, which effectively affect public sector agents’ corruptibility: political influence, institutional characteristics, co-worker behavior, and individual characteristics. Mapping the status quo of the discourse, this study reveals that public sector corruption is a multi-layered and dynamic phenomenon based on various processes of moral justification beyond greed: relationships, social obligations, and culturally reinforced norms (mis-)guide behavior in the context of socially varying psychological reference points of accountability and legitimacy that lead to essential moral value conflicts.

Keywords: Public Sector Corruption; Administrative Corruption: Micro-foundations; Rule Breaking; Institutional Deviance; Behavioral Public Administration; Systematic Literature Review

Weißmüller, K.S. (2022). ‘Fighting Public Sector Corruption Bottom-up or Top-down? Insights from a Systematic Literature Review on the Effectiveness of Anticorruption Strategies.’ Under Review.

Public sector corruption is an unresolved issue in public administrations worldwide and the challenges of implementing anticorruption strategies effectively are not understood well enough yet. This study reviews broad empirical evidence on the effectiveness of public sector anticorruption strategies across disciplines and countries to synthesize which strategies generalize and which are merely context specific. The main objective is to clarify the conceptual foundations of anticorruption and provide practical guidelines for designing effective prevention strategies. Based on a set of 2,580 studies, this systematic review and meta-synthesis of 118 studies on public sector anticorruption derives four clusters of strategies (top-down/bottom-up; internal/external) and assesses their effectiveness in relation to the locus of agency to inform strategy and policy design. While internal top-down strategies and external grass-root initiatives are most likely to achieve the desired effect, this study also highlights large blind spots in the current theoretical understanding of public sector anticorruption and derives pathways for future research.

Keywords: anticorruption strategies, public sector corruption, effectiveness, grass root agency, public sector reform, systematic literature review