Civil servants are often seen as key actors responsible for systemic corruption in developing countries. Yet, there is a dearth of empirical studies on what public officials think of bribery and corruption. Owing to the limitations of enrolling in-service bureaucrats into research on the sensitive topic of bribery, the study tries to understand the perceptions of future bureaucrats.
The study is a novel attempt to analyse how the select candidates aspiring to join the highly competitive elite civil services in India respond to experimental bribery situations. What deters potential bribe-takers from accepting bribes, and what do they think about corruption in public life?
Methods and approach
The study employs mixed-methods research to answer these questions. Bribery experimental games were administered to examine the impact of varying degrees of “punishment,” “monitoring,” and “public loss” and their relation to the varying “bribery amount.” In addition, focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with these participants to explore the dynamics of corruption.
The findings suggest that high public loss and high severity of punishment were able to deter bribery even when the amount of the bribe was high. On the other hand, the impact of a high level of monitoring was only effective in cases where the bribe amount was low. FGDs revealed that social acceptance of corruption, and the low rate of convictions in corruption cases, are the main reasons for continuing corruption in the public sphere.
The study suggests that in India and other countries in which corruption is systemic and socially accepted, it is imperative to move anti-corruption policies away from their present fixation with strict monitoring to strict punishment. Monitoring alone without severe punishment is not sufficient. Corruption cases ought to have swift trials and better rate of conviction. It is equally important to inculcate the values of social good and integrity in public life