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Defying institutional failure: learning from the experiences of anti-corruption agencies in four Asian countries

Abstract

This article compares the effectiveness of the anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) in four Asian countries: the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) in Singapore, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong, the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) in Thailand, and the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC). The CPIB and ICAC are more effective than the NCCC and KICAC because of the political will of the governments in Singapore and Hong Kong and the more favourable policy contexts of these two city-states. The lack of political will in curbing corruption in Thailand and South Korea is reflected in the fact that the NCCC and KICAC are not as well staffed or funded than the CPIB and ICAC. Moreover, the KICAC is the weakest of the four ACAs as it does not have the power to investigate corruption cases. The policy contexts of Thailand and South Korea are less favourable because of their larger populations and land area, and lower GDP per capita. To avoid institutional failure, ACAs must be supported by their governments in terms of the provision of adequate personnel and budget. They must also be able to investigate all cases of corruption without any political interference. The example of the KICAC shows the futility of establishing an ACA without the ability to investigate corruption cases.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The availability of data and published research in English on the four ACAs is uneven as more studies have been published on the CPIB and ICAC than the NCCC and KICAC. Moreover, the annual reports of the NCCC and KICAC are only available on the Thai and Korean websites of both ACAs.

  2. 2.

    The NCCC was renamed the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) on 15 July 2008, and the KICAC was merged with the Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to form the Anti-Corruption Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) on 29 February 2008. However, this analysis compares the effectiveness of the CPIB, ICAC, NCCC, and KICAC.

  3. 3.

    Larry N. Gerton [14: 23] has defined a triggering mechanism as “a critical event (or set of events) that converts a routine problem into a widely shared, negative public response.”

  4. 4.

    Survey data on the public perception of the effectiveness of the KICAC and NCCC are not available. The KICAC conducted an annual integrity assessment of government agencies to evaluate their involvement in anti-corruption activities but it had not commissioned a survey on the public perception of its effectiveness [29:135–142]. The national survey on the perceptions of 4,013 heads of households on public sector corruption in Thailand in October-December 1999 had, inter alia, focused on the effectiveness of the CCC and other institutions as the NCCC was only formed in November 1999 [46: 66].

  5. 5.

    The NCCC had charged Thaksin for concealing assets amounting to 4.5 billion baht during 1997–98 by registering these assets in the names of his housekeeper, maid, driver, security guard, and business colleagues [45: 1–2].

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Correspondence to Jon S.T. Quah.

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Quah, J.S. Defying institutional failure: learning from the experiences of anti-corruption agencies in four Asian countries. Crime Law Soc Change 53, 23–54 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-009-9213-1

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Keywords

  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Incumbent Government
  • Institutional Failure
  • Independent Commission Against Corruption
  • Corruption Control