Public sector corruption

Public sector corruption refers to the misuse of public power or position with an expectation of undue private gain or advantage (for self or others). It may include:

  • bribery
  • embezzlement
  • fraud
  • extortion
  • trading in influence
  • perverting the course of justice
  • exchanging goods for money or information.

Corrupt conduct can occur directly through the improper or unlawful actions of public sector officials, or through the actions of individuals operating in the private sector who attempt to inappropriately influence the functions of government.

Organised crime groups try to corrupt public officials to gain access to public funds, information, protection and other services to facilitate criminal activities. These officials are likely to be from law enforcement agencies, border agencies, and agencies that issue identification documents.

Corruption has a serious impact on government, industry and national security. It prejudices the rule of law and distorts markets. It can inhibit foreign investment and international credit ratings and damages Australia’s reputation as a safe reliable economy in which to invest and trade. It can also harm cooperation and relations with foreign governments and law enforcement agencies.

Corruption of public sector officials has substantial multiplier effects and benefits for organised crime. There may be significant links between corruption in the public sector and organised crime groups that, by their very nature, remain hidden. The key challenge in identifying and investigating corruption is that corrupt conduct occurs in secret, between consenting parties who are frequently skilled at deception.