Power and Corruption Risk: A Brief History and a Long Future


  • Charles Sampford


This article commences with definitions of corruption and integrity and relates them to each other and to power, its use and abuse. It then discusses how, as power evolves and grows, the opportunities for the abuse of that power to (i.e., corruption) grow too. Those opportunities deliver a history of corruption from ancient abuses of priestly, gubernatorial, and military power to modern state capture. The creation of power provides opportunities for abuse and the risk that those opportunities will be exploited in all countries, including Australia. Anti-corruption measures provide a form of insurance against that risk. The paper examines the development of anti-corruption measures from the execution of those caught out, to anti-corruption agencies, to national integrity systems, and to international collaboration to develop such systems. However, those who pursue power to abuse it for their own ends do not stand still. They collaborate in ‘national corruption systems’ and emerging global corruption systems. The paper argues that the remedy lies in the development of global integrity systems while strengthening our own integrity systems to build integrity and combat corruption at home and contribute to those goals abroad. The article concludes with a glossary of governance terms and relates them to integrity and corruption.



A Articles/Books/Reports

Acar, Muhittin and Uger Emek, ‘Building a clean government in Turkey’ (2008) 49(3)

Crime Law and Social Change 185–203

Anechiarico, Frank, ‘Protecting integrity at the local level’ (2010) 53(1) Crime, Law and Social Change 79

Behnke, Nathalie and Jeroen Maesschalck, ‘Integrity Systems at Work: Theoretical andEmpirical Foundations’ (2006) 30(3/4) Pub Administration Quarterly 263

Charmain Lord Nolan, Standards in Public Life: First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (London: HMSO, 1995)

Doig, Alan and Stephanie McIvor, 'The National Integrity System: Assessing corruption and reform' (2003) 23 Public Administration and Development 317

Huberts, Leo, Jeroen Maesschalck, and Carole Jurkiewicz, Ethics and Integrity of Governance (Edward Elgar, 2008)

Langseth, Petter, Rick Stapenhurst, and Jeremy Pope, ‘The Role of National Integrity Systems in Fighting Corruption’ (1997) 23(1/2) Commonwealth Law Bulletin 499

Neilsen, Richard, 'Corruption networks and Implications for Ethical Corruption Reform' (2003) 42 Journal of Business Ethics 125

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Ethics in the Public Sector: Current Issues and Practices (1996)

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ‘PUMA Draft Checklist’ in Symposium on Ethics in the Public Sector: Challenges and Opportunities for OECD Countries (1997)

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ‘Survey of Anti-Corruption Mechanisms in OECD Countries’ in Symposium on Ethics in the Public Sector:Challenges and Opportunities for OECD Countries (1997)

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Council Recommendations on Improving Ethical Conduct in the Public Service —Background note (1998)

Pope, Jeremy, Confronting Corruption: The elements of a National Integrity System (Transparency International, 2000)

Sampford, Charles, ‘From Deep North to Global Governance Exemplar: Fitzgerald’s Impact on the International Anti-corruption Movement’ (2009) 18(3) Griffith Law Review 559

Sampford, Charles, Carmel Connors and Noel Preston, Encouraging Ethics and Challenging Corruption: Public Sector Ethics in Theory and Practice (Federation Press, 1st Edition, 2002)

Sampford, Charles, 'Law, Institutions and the Public Private Divide' (1992) 20 Federal Law Review 185

B Legislation/Treaties

Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (Cth)

C Other

Sampford, Charles, ‘Global transparency: Fighting corruption for a sustainable future: From National Integrity Systems to Global Integrity Systems’ (Conference Paper, 13 IACC, Athens, November 2008)

Transparency International, What is Corruption? (Web Page) <https://www.transparency.org/en/what-is-corruption>