This module is a resource for lecturers  


Key issues


Corruption is a complex phenomenon. An overview of the different forms and definitions of corruption, as well as its harmful effects across the globe, is available in Module 1 of the E4J University Module Series on Anti-Corruption. For present purposes, it should be noted that the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) refrains from providing one overarching definition of "corruption". Rather, it defines and classifies various acts of corruption as criminal offences, such as bribery and embezzlement (in both the public and private sectors); abuse of functions (i.e. when those performing public functions misuse their power to obtain a benefit); trading in influence; illicit enrichment; and money-laundering. With 186 States parties (as of December 2019), UNCAC is approaching universal adherence, and the different acts of corruption as defined by the Convention can be considered internationally accepted. Module 4 and Module 5 of the E4J University Module Series on Anti-Corruption include more detailed discussions on the causes and consequences of corruption in the public and private sectors, respectively, as well as the relevant anti-corruption responses and preventive measures.

Before we can respond to corruption offences, however, we must detect and investigate them. Detection and investigation of corruption ideally starts internally within organizations but can also involve external dimensions such as law enforcement approaches. For present purposes, detection refers to identifying, uncovering or exposing corruption. Detection can be attained through auditing and monitoring measures, but it can also be achieved when whistle-blowers, citizens, companies and journalists report about corruption. Investigation is understood in this Module as the gathering of evidence about the detected act of corruption, including its extent, nature, effects and parties, with the aim of deciding whether to take measures and which measures to take. Investigations can be carried out internally within the relevant organization or by law enforcement agencies and other external actors such as anti-corruption agencies, police or prosecutors. The consequences of an investigation could include undertaking enforcement measures (e.g. sanctions, criminal charges, disciplinary processes) or remedial/preventive measures (e.g. compensation or reforms that aim to reduce the likelihood of future corruption). Such measures, however, are beyond the scope of this Module. Prevention and enforcement measures in the public and private sectors are discussed, respectively in Module 4 and Module 5 of the E4J University Module Series on Anti-Corruption. A comprehensive overview of different national approaches to preventing and fighting corruption is provided in Module 13 of the E4J University Module Series on Anti-Corruption.

In addition to focusing on methods such as auditing and reporting, any discussion on detecting corruption should address a key factor that facilitates detection: transparency. While not itself a detection method, transparency facilitates efforts by responsible authorities to detect corruption as they might use data released by transparency measures to establish the existence of corruption. Thus, the Module starts by discussing the importance of transparency and measures for promoting transparency. The Module next explores the methods and mechanisms of detecting and reporting on corruption, paying special attention to whistle-blower systems and protections. Finally, the Module outlines how detected corruption is investigated and describes the different phases of the investigation process and the actors involved.


The following sections of the module provide an overview of:


Next: Transparency as a precondition
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