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The nature of corruption

The starting point of anti-corruption system design is to consider how corruption occurs and who benefits.

For instance, efforts to infiltrate public sector agencies and to corrupt public officials—including police and other law enforcement staff—are methods used by criminal groups to hide or facilitate illicit enterprises.

If serious or systemic corruption were to occur in law enforcement, it would undermine the effectiveness of legitimate measures that are designed to protect the Australian economy, businesses and individuals from the threat of serious and organised crime.

For this reason, corruption in law enforcement is a concern of the Australian Government, and of ACLEI.

ACLEI describes the relationship between willing or vulnerable law enforcement agency staff members (on the one hand) who cooperate with, or facilitate, the illicit activities of criminal groups (on the other) as the corruption handshake.

Fighting serious and organised crime places agencies with law enforcement functions at the forefront of the risk of corruption. Law enforcement also necessarily entails activities with high corruption risk, such as:

  • dealing direct with criminals, such as informers (and the attendant risk that improper associations may arise)
  • discretion over the investigation, charging and arrest of individuals (with the risk of perverting the course of justice)
  • holding or having access to law enforcement information data sources (with the risk of compromise to legitimate operations), and
  • seizing and handling property, firearms and illicit drugs (with the risk of theft or tainting of evidence).

Law enforcement corruption is particularly insidious, since officers are familiar with counter-detection methods.

You can find more information on the meaning of corruption and its impact on our Factsheets page.


Key insight: How does corruption occur in your environment? Who benefits?