Accountability And Control – What Is Corruption

Accountability And Control

Corruption is a global phenomenon. It is found almost in every society in one or the other on since time immemorial. In ancient times, the judges received bribes in Egyptian and badno societies. In Rome, bribe was a common feature in elections to public offices. In France, judicial offices were sold during the fifteenth century. England was described a ‘sink-hole’ of corruption the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. In the nineteenth century also, corruption was so rampant in Britain that Gibbon described it as the most infallible symptom of constitutiona liberty.

In India, Kautilya in his Arthasastra has referred to forty different types of embezzlement and corrupt practices adopted by government servants. During Ashoka’s regime, corruption is said to have prevailed on a lower scale. In medieval society. scope for corruption was minimum because only few authorities existed for the collection of taxes. During the British rule, bribes were accepted not only by the Indian officials but by the highly-placed British officials too. Clive and Warren Hastings were found corrupt to an extent that they were tried by a parliamentary committee after their return to England. The expansion of the economic activities during the first and second world wars opened new vistas of corruption in the country. Wartime controls, restrictions and scarcities provided ample opportunities for bribery, corruption, and favouritism. After independence, though top political elite at the national level remained very honest for about one and a half decades but after the third and the fourth general elections, the new political elite lost peoples’ confidence of being honest. The government employees in all public concerns at all levels started accepting huge bribes even for small favours. Today, both at the central and the state levels, finding a minister with an honest image is a rarity.

In the 1970’s the 1980s, and the 1990s several union ministers and Chief Ministers were the toplevel politicians who were alleged of adopting corrupt practices during their political tenure. Since then, the Prime Minister, a large number of Chief Ministers, ministers and top level bureaucrats in almost all states have been accused of enriching themselves illegitimately and practicing nepotism. The licensing system of the government, the control regulations, and the expansion of the public sector spread corruption in all walks of life.

At present, India has been ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world by a nongovernment German organisation called “Transparency International’. (This organisation ranks countries for the honesty or corruption in their transactions according to the perceptions of businessmen dealing with those countries and of financial journalists periodically. The exact ranking of India has been changing every year).

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What Is Corruption?

It is very difficult to precisely define this term. In India the basic law which deals with it is the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947. It includes the following acts within its ambit:

  1. Criminal misconduct by public servant in the discharge of official duty which, among others may include habitual acceptance of illegal gratification for himself or for any other person misappropriation or conversion of property entrusted to him as a public servant or allowing another person to do so; acts of obtaining pecuniary advantage for himself or for any other person.
  2. Habitual taking of illegal gratification to influence a public servant.
  3. Possession of wealth disproportionate to the known source of income.
  4. Attempt to misappropriate property entrusted to him as a public servant or attempt to commit similar act of obtaining pecuniary advantage.

Definitions Of Corruption


Corruption is a general term covering misuse of authority as a result of considerations of person gain, which need not be monetary.


J.S. Nye defines corruption as behaviour which deviates from the formal duties of a public role because of private- regarding (personal, close family, private clique ) pecuniary or status gains; or violates rules against the exercise of certain types of private – regarding influence. This definition assumes that behaviour is corrupt only when it violates a formal standard or rule (as declared to be corrupt by law).

In the contemporary usage corruption means the betrayal of public trust for individual or group gain. This definition presupposes the existence of pubic officials with power to choose between two or more courses of action, and possession by the government of some power or wealth or source of wealth which the public officials can take or use to his private advantage.

On the basis of above definitions we can identified the following dimensions of corruption:

  1. It is deliberate or intentional exploitation of one’s position, status or resources.
  2. It may be done directly or indirectly.
  3. It is done for personal aggrandisement – whether it is material gain or enhancement of power or prestige or influence.
  4. It is done by violating legitimate or sanctioned or commonly accepted norms of behaviours.
  5. It is done against the interests of the community or other persons.

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