The Conflict of Realities: Corruption, Anti-corruption and Anti-anti-corruption

Mr. Timipere Allison

Since the start of modern anti-corruption and consequent evolution of the global anti-corruption industry, freeing states from the stranglehold of corruption has remained the Holy Grail. Two general recommendations mostly proffered for tackling the scourge are legal/institutional reforms and value reorientation. These recommendations derive from the characterisation of corruption in high-corruption countries as an outcome of structure-agency weakness and a defective value system. Despite legal and institutional reforms and value reorientation programmes, the evidence shows that corruption grows spectacularly in most countries. This study thus asks the question: Why have legal/institutional reforms and social norms correction efforts failed to stem corruption in most countries? The study explores the hypothesis that in the context of most developing countries, more than a lack of legal/institutional safeguards and a normative problem, corruption is an adaptive response to evolving circumstances, hence its persistence. The study applies a theoretical and descriptive method and explores three falsifiable scenarios. The first scenario examines how troubled states maintain political stability, the mechanics of it, and the role of corruption. The second considers the socioeconomic ecology that bureaucrats operate within and the implications on their capacity to uphold the law, integrity of institutions and resist corruption. The third interrogates governing elites-masses informal welfare exchanges in diswelfare states, and the effect on the scale and scope of corruption. The study claims that in all three scenarios, corruption may be pervasive. However, the participants may not regard corruption as a legal/institutional or values problem, but a necessary response to a prevailing and overwhelming reality. Anti-corruption measures, which often take off from an altogether different reality, are thus more likely to provoke ‘anti-anti-corruption’ retorts than earn legitimacy and support. The study concludes that the failure to align the reality of participants in corruption with that of anti-corruption policymakers may be counterproductive to anti-corruption efforts.