Klitgaard, Robert, "Controlling Corruption", Berkeley, Los Angeles, London,
University of California Press, 1988, pp xvi + 220.
A standard text, stronger on description than prescription, now a little dated.
1 Klitgaard claims that corruption is a political issue, as seen in the Indian elections
in 1984 (Rajiv Gandhi after his mother's assassination), and the Mexican Presidential
elections in 1982 (page 2). There are cultural differences over what constitutes
corruption for example traditions in Burma and private property in communist countries
but, "Over a wide range of corrupt activities, there is little argument that they are socially
harmful" (p 3, 4). The history goes back to China 2,300 years ago and Abdul Rahman
Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century who blamed corruption on "a passion for luxurious
living within the ruling group" - reference to Syed H Alatas - and to Plato's "The Laws"
with their instruction to "do no service for a present" (7).
2. In seeking to reduce corruption, Klitgaard suggests the optimal level is not zero
(24 - 27) because of the social and financial costs involved. Under two chapters focused
on the Philippines Kiltgaard develops general ideas. There are benefits (30 - 34) from
corruption: economic benefits from creating a market, political benefits from buying
stability and harmony, management benefits (bribes substitute for higher wages, give
managers funds to use when faced with a crippling bureaucracy). More generally,
Klitgaard argues that "if the prevailing system is bad, then corruption may be good" p
33). But corruption reduces efficiency (incentive for officials to go slow to get larger
bribe), equity (often at expense of poor) and may cause political discontent and
instability (pp 46, 47). Also page 34, quoted from Huntington (1979, p 321) "In terms of
economic growth the only worse thing than a society with a rigid, overcentralised,
dishonest bureaucracy is one with a rigid overcentralised honest bureaucracy". A table
gives the costs of corruption (46). Measures taken by Plana in the Philippines Bureau of
Internal Control, 1975 - 80, had three features: establish performance evaluations so
career success depends on how well tax is collected; collect information about
corruption; and punish corrupt high officials quickly.
3. Klitgaard attaches some blame to traditional cultures. He quotes Greenberg,
1970, (62) "Mexicans treat one another as persons with the result that formalised codes
of behaviour carry little weight". But (63) he describes the idea that African gift-giving
leads to bribery as a Western view challenged by Africans. He blames corruption on
capitalism (63) but also on socialism (65) with markets seen as correctives. Social
conditions are given as causes (66) by reference to Huntington (1979, pp 313 - 324). So
are growth, modernisation, changing values, new sources of wealth and power, absence
of class divisions, stratification with its norms and sanctions, people who enter politics to
make money because there few other “economic” opportunities, and less developed
political parties. Competition and accountability are seen as checks on corruption.
There is more corruption when agents have monopoly power, discretion and low
accountability (74). Klitgaard quotes Plato "The Laws" (78), "The servants of the
nations are to render their service without taking any presents ... The disobedient shall,
if convicted, die without ceremony" and refers to Macaulay's description of corruption
(80, 81) in India in 1765 (?) with presents and private trade which he defeated within 18
months by strict rules and better pay.
4. US Government views on vulnerability to corruption (84, 85) include asking if
people should have to prove innocence when their wealth is above levels justified by
their salary. The aims include efforts to reduce discretion, rotate agents, to redefine
objectives, mission, and product, and to change attitudes. On pages 94,95 measures to
control corruption are considered.
5. Hong Kong’s ICAC (98 - 121) is described as the "most famous and powerful
anti-corruption agency in the developing world". The police were very corrupt in the
1960s and 70s with drugs, gambling, prostitution, and traffic bribes. This was blamed on
the local culture, and an expectation that Chinese civil servants would supplement
salaries with "surtax" or "contributions", also Confucianism with its particularism and
gift-giving. The Governor's announcement in October 1973 about an ICAC is given.
Staff were recruited, several from UK ("selected from outside"), and paid well.
Klitgaard mentions the Commissioner's power to dismiss "without cause assigned",
ICAC’s access to information on bank accounts, the surveillance of life-style and a
budget of US$2m in 1974 rising to US$12m in 1982. By February 1977 over 260 police
officers had been arrested for corruption and the police no longer dared to solicit bribes
undauntedly. By 1981 it was said that the "dark days of vicious corruption [are] no
longer with us". Unexplained wealth as an offence is seen as rights issue. Klitgaard
mentions (118) committees that help keep the ICAC clean.
6. The Singapore Customs and Excise Department is found comparable to Hong
Kong’s ICAC in methods used (Cha 5). Cha 6 (134 - 155) covers corruption when
cultures clash with reference to the US army in Korea and collusion indicators in
bidding (141-142). Chapter 7 covers implementation strategies. In Chapter 8,
Klitgaard argues that there is not enough research. In the nature of things, it is difficult
to get material. Moral issues make researchers shy away. Klitgaard’s aim is to identify
what kinds of corruption are harmful to whom. There are implications for (204)
development administration and for (207) development studies.
7 This is an interesting book, with good ideas and useful references. There is a
realistic warning on page 68 against those who give bad advice about tackling corruption
in developing countries, and a list of actions that can be started anywhere. But the book
offers much less on prescription than description. Some of the description would be
more useful if it was more analytic: the ICAC nearly collapsed in its early years over a
police revolt requiring a hasty offer of an amnesty; the operations in Singapore and Hong
Kong have intriguing differences in scale, cost, secrecy, etc, from which lessons might