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A troubled relationship: corruption and reform of the public sector in development

Fitzsimons, Vincent G. (2008): A troubled relationship: corruption and reform of the public sector in development.

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Corruption is an issue of increasing visibility in the academic and policy literature on governance and public policy. Whilst it is often talked about, there appears to be some lack of clarity on both its nature and the nature of its determinants. This has led to some increase in the effort to combat it (in light of its significant costs for society) and it is questionable how effective these attempts have been to date.

Corruption has a complex relationship with public sector reform. Reform is often executed which has as one of its objectives the control of corruption, but reform itself may be a cause of corruption according to some evidence from recent rounds of economic and public sector reform.

The nature of the relationship is complicated by the fundamental nature of public sector reform. This is often ‘dual’ in nature, combining both destructive and constructive phases that redistribute the relative power of internal and external interest groups, create grievances, and present new opportunities for incumbents when compared to the pre-reform position.

This paper presents an analysis of some of the data on corruption in relation to public sector reform, and attempts to clarify the nature of the corruption phenomenon in order to answer the question whether corruption can categorically be said to be a problem of public sector reform, or a consequence of it.

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