Corruption Control and Regulatory Innovation in the Developed World

Thematic Issue on “Corruption Control in the Developed World”, edited by Fabrizio Di Mascio & Simona Piattoni, Politics & Governance, Volume 8, Number 2, 2020.

Since the early 1990s, protests around the globe against corrupt officials have stimulated academic research on the topic of corruption. The discrepancy between the high interest in corruption and the low capacity to curb it reveals that the phenomenon is broader and more diversified than the conventional literature and policy recommendations would lead us to think. Whilst previous work on causes and consequences of corruption has helped us to understand broad patterns of corrupt practice, and where it is most deeply embedded, it has been less helpful for identifying what can be done.

The articles presented in this thematic issue move forward the debate on more targeted interventions for corruption control. All in all, findings support the claim that policies should be supported by clearer conceptualization of corruption types, their meanings and functions within specific institutional contexts and policy dynamics.

Regulatory and institutional innovation has been a distinctive feature of corruption control policy in the last few decades. While anticorruption agencies have been widely adopted, there is a limited amount of scholarship on such agencies. An emerging literature has explored the impact of organizational factors and leadership on the effectiveness of anticorruption agencies. These studies revealed that agencies’ effectiveness is not crucially shaped by their statutory independence, but rather by the reputational management of their leaders. This finding calls for wider inquiry into drivers of agency autonomy and performance.

It would also be worth to re-consider the relationship between corruption and regulation. Dunlop and Radaelli have reviewed the more frequent claims about regulation and corruption: deregulation hinders corruption; it is the quality of regulation that hinders corruption; specific anti-corruption heavy regulatory frameworks raise the cost of applying for public procurement and funding, while regulatory complexity resulting from the layering of anticorruption measures makes paradoxically non-compliance harder to detect. Radaelli and Dunlop suggest to re-cast this debate by focusing on the combination of policy instruments that affect rulemaking (judicial review, regulatory impact assessment, freedom of information acts, etc.). This opens a new area of inquiry that would benefit from work on data that is needed to examine variations in patterns of rulemaking.

Finally, it is often argued that more of the responsibility for anticorruption should be delegated to local communities, civil society actors and ordinary people, whose mobilization against corruption might take advantage of digital technologies. Future research should focus on gathering more evidence on organizational and individual determinants of the decision to report wrongdoing and fight corruption. This would help understand how dissatisfaction with corruption can be channeled to bring about change.