Corruption – Meaning, Types. Cause and Effect


  • Like that of several other socio-economic offences, corruption stands out as an offence which affects the community as a whole. It is not just an offence between the perpetrator of a traditional crime like murder, theft or rape and an innocent victim. In fact and reality the bribe-giver and the bribe-taker are equally guilty. Although, corruption undoubtedly affects the morality of the people in general, but its overwhelming impact is on the economic health of a nation and accordingly corruption will have to be classified as an ‘economic offence’.
  • It is difficult to apportion the blame for corruption as between officers at the highest level and their subordinates. It is true that economic deprivation in the middle and lower class officials in the past may have led to a large number of corrupt practices but this, in itself, does not absolve the superiors whose lust for higher and higher standard of living .is never satiated. Then again, corruption like sacrifices, starts at the top and percolates down to the bottom.
  • One more distinguishing feature of the offence of corruption is that the victim as also the beneficiary of the offence are equally interested in maintaining utmost secrecy about their transactions. This aggravates the difficulty on the part of the enforcement staff in obtaining vital evidence which will help the prosecutor to secure conviction in deserving cases.


  • Corruption is an offence like that of many other offences punishable

under the criminal law of our country. Basically, therefore, it is the

sociologists and the criminologists who can delve deep into causes of

corruption. For that matter, the causes of crime, in general, equally applied

to the offence of corruption. However, it can perhaps be suggested that

certain special socio-economic and political factors do accentuate the

tendency to commit these offences which could be bracketed together

under the title of corruption. The aforesaid factors can be summarised in

the following works.

  • The aftermath of the second World War accompanied by scarcities,

controls and the flush of easy money was perhaps one of the factors

responsible for corruption. The second factor was the fall in real income of

the various categories of public servants.

the main factors responsible for increasing corruption in the developing countries are :

  • Little loyalty to the community as a whole, whether on the local or the national level. This, according to Myrdal, implies stronger loyalty to less inclusive groups family, cast, ethnic religious or linguistic community.
  • The state of transition from colonial to self government.
  • Wide discretionary powers and low level of real wages.
  • Cumulative effects working within the system of corruption itself.
  • Administrative delays and read-tapism is another major cause of

corruption and this has led to the dishonest practice of giving speed


  • Rapid industrialization and consequent urbanization has changed

our values in such a way as to enhance the importf oece of status through

possession of money.

  • The emergence of a class of white-collar criminals indulging in tax

evasion, under-invoicing, over-invoicing of export and import, substandard

 performance of contracts, hording, profiteering and blackmarketing etc.

have afforded unprecendented opportunities for corruption to public servants.

  • In an economy of expending money circulation, moral and ethical

values have considerably slackened resulting again in corruption.

Misplaced sympathy for corruption public servants is another factor

for encouraging corruption.

  • It is also said that existing anti-corruption law agencies are totally

inadequate to prevent higher-level corruption.

  • Inadequate financial resources by way of monthly salary resulting in

economic deprivation coupled with the increase of consumerism and

commercialism in the environment is another factor for corruption.

  • Social obligation towards the members of one’s family, the

customary practice of giving dowry for a daughter’s marriage and

the hankering for social status have been responsible for corruption

to a certain extent.


  • A colloquial word associated with corruption is that of ‘Bribery’ and

hence, it becomes appropriate to clarify the meaning of the latter. Although

the words ‘bribery’ and ‘corruption’ seem to have been used

synonymously in the past but the former seems to have narrower


  •  It comprehends all “improper or selfish exercise of

power and influence attached to a public office or to the special position

one occupies in public life”. This is obviously a comprehensive meaning

of corruption and it is in this sense that the word ‘corruption’ has been

used in this work.

Types Of Corruption

Systemic corruption

  • As opposed to exploiting occasional opportunities, endemic or systemic corruption is when corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system, when it is embedded in a wider situation that helps sustain it.

Sporadic (individual) corruption

  • Sporadic corruption is the opposite of systemtic corruption. Sporadic corruption occurs irregularly and therefore it does not threaten the mechanisms of control nor the economy as such. It is not crippling, but it can seriously undermine morale and sap the economy of resources.

Political (Grand) corruption

  • Political corruption is any transaction between private and public sector actors through which collective goods are illegitimately converted into private-regarding payoffs. Political corruption is often used synonymously with “grand” or high level corruption, distinguished from bureaucratic or petty corruption because it involves political decision-makers. Political or grand corruption takes place at the high levels of the political system, when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce the laws in the name of the people, are using this authority to sustain their power, status and wealth.

Grand corruption

  • High level or “grand” corruption takes place at the policy formulation end of politics. It refers not so much to the amount of money involved as to the level in which it takes place: grand corruption is at the top levels of the public sphere, where policies and rules are formulated in the first place. Usually (but not always) synonymous to political corruption.

Petty corruption

  • Small scale, bureaucratic or petty corruption is the everyday corruption that takes place at the implementation end of politics, where the public officials meet the public. Petty corruption is bribery in connection with the implementation of existing laws, rules and regulations, and thus different from “grand” or political corruption.

Legal and Moral Corruption

  • Corruption is derived from the Latin verb rumpere, to break. According to this approach, corruption is where the law is clearly broken. This requires that all laws must be precisely stated, leaving no doubts about their meaning and no discretion to the public officials.
  • The legal approach provides a neutral and static method of adjudicating potentially emotive and perception determined concepts of corruption.  An understanding of corruption from law perspective serves to underline a deterioration of self-regulated behaviour and a dependence on the legal approach to determine right from wrong.
  • Legislating for behaviour warrants focus upon the legality of an action and not the morality of that same action. Morality is increasingly being legislated for in the absence of and a loss of faith in self regulated behaviour.

Effects of corruption

The impact of corruption on developing countries cannot be overemphasized. The results are

often disastrous. The eleven year civil conflict in Sierra Leone, for instance was largely

attributed to pervasive corruption in all spheres of governance. The occurrence of corruption in

large scale reflects in many areas of development and is intrinsically linked with under

development. Poor conditions of service as is the case in many developing countries open the

door to bribery.

One of the greatest impacts of corruption normally arises out of the choices and priorities of

governments. This occurs when the real development priorities of a country are often neglected

in favour of those that generate the greatest personal gains for the decision makers. Here, it is

clearly evident that many projects have become white elephants and easy route for personal



Corruption facilitates environmental destruction. Corrupt countries may formally have legislation

to protect the environment; it cannot be enforced if officials can easily be bribed. The same

applies to social rights worker protection, unionization prevention, and child labor. Violation of

these laws rights enables corrupt countries to gain illegitimate economic advantage in the

international market.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen in India has observed that “there is no such

thing as an a political food problem.” While drought and other naturally occurring events may

trigger famine conditions, it is government action or inaction that determines its severity, and

often even whether or not a famine will occur. Governments with strong tendencies towards

kleptocracy can undermine food security even when harvests are good.


 Corruption undermines economic development by generating considerable distortions and

inefficiency. In the private sector, corruption increases the cost of business through the price of

illicit payments themselves, the management cost of negotiating with officials, and the risk of

breached agreements or detection. Although some claim corruption reduces costs by cutting

bureaucracy, the availability of bribes can also induce officials to contrive new rules and delays.

Corruption also generates economic distortions in the public sector by diverting public

investment into capital projects where bribes and kickbacks are more plentiful. Officials may

increase the technical complexity of public sector projects to conceal or pave the way for such

dealings, thus further distorting investment. Corruption also lowers compliance with

construction, environmental, or other regulations, reduces the quality of government services and

infrastructure, and increases budgetary pressures on government.

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