A good buy: promoting probity in police procurement

Julie Ayling

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Corruption is a complicated concept that covers a wide array of possible situations and behaviours. Transparency International (TI) defines corruption as ‘the abuse of entrusted power for private gain’.3 The abuse of power by public officials may involve either a lawful or illegal exercise of authority. The personal gain may be received or merely promised. In relation to procurement, the clearest example of corruption is probably the acceptance of a bribe to ensure that a certain party’s tender is successful. Fraud, embezzlement, nepotism and cronyism are other forms of corruption are relevant in this context. What matters is not so much the nature of the act itself but rather the motivation or ‘spirit of corruption’ (Kleinig, 1996: 166) with which it is committed. The ends sought may be organisationally approved (Newburn, 1999) and even achieved. As Kleinig suggests, ‘our assessment of moral worth must take our reasons into account. There is more to morality than an optimisation of outcomes’ (1996: 251). Kleinig posits a wider definition of corruption (1996: 166) that includes, alongside motivations of personal benefit, corruption for organisational or divisional advantage, generally known as ‘noble cause corruption’ (Westmarland, 2004; Miller and Blackler, 2005). Noble cause corruption might occur during procurement where there is a perception among staff that the regulatory regime causes inefficiencies for the organisation. Staff may choose to adopt unauthorised and perhaps unethical ways to circumvent the process in order to simplify or hasten the procurement process. Australian police officers interviewed by this author in 2005 commented that the bureaucratic nature of the procurement rules and the laboriousness of the implementation process often inhibited project progress. The section in which these officers worked was later found to have regularly exhibited an ‘apparent disregard for proper procurement and contract management processes’, including multiple breaches of applicable procurement guidelines (Ombudsman Victoria, 2009: 7). Apparently, very little personal gain was obtained through these breaches. However, one reason noble cause corruption is of concern is because it can be a ‘slippery slope’ to personal corruption (Miller and Blackler, 2005), or at least provide a cover for it (Werner, 1983).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Policing, Ethics and Professional Standards
    Editors MacVean, Allyson; Spindler, Peter; Solf, Charlotte
    Place of PublicationAbingdon, UK and New York, USA
    ISBN (Print)9780415630757
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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