Corruption and anti-corruption: a folklore problem?

  • Nicholas Bautista-BeauchesneEmail author


The Charbonneau Inquiry in Quebec, Canada, uncovered a complex nexus of collusion and corruption in the awarding of public works construction contracts. The aim of this article is to better illustrate and understand how corruption was perceived and collectively understood in the public works sector prior to the revelations of the Charbonneau Inquiry. This article argues that a ‘folklore’ of corruption was prevalent through which civil servants perceived the criminal phenomenon. This is achieved through a narrative analysis of two witness testimonies of civil engineers, who recounted their implication in the corrupt and collusive nexus in the city of Montreal during the commission’s hearings. This article makes a case for the importance of narratives in the study of corruption.


Corruption folklore Anti-corruption prevention Perceptions Narrative stories 



The author would like to thank Dr. Étienne Charbonneau and Dr. David Talbot for their helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper, as well as the École Nationale d’Administration Publique for financial support. The author would also like to thank the constructive comments of the two anonymous reviewers. All shortcomings belong to the author.


  1. 1.
    Abbink, K. (2004). Staff rotation as an anti-corruption policy: An experimental study. European Journal of Political Economy, 20, 887–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ashforth, B. E., & Anand, V. (2003). The normalization of corruption in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 25, 1–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Atkinson, M. M. (2011). Discrepancies in perceptions of corruption, or why is Canada so corrupt? Political Science Quarterly, 126(3), 445–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Blais, A., et al. (2017). Partisanship, information and perceptions of government corruption. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 29(1), 95–110.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Borins, S. F. (2012). Making narrative count: A Narratological approach to public management innovation. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 22(1), 143–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Castillo, D. (2018). State, monopoly and bribery. Market reforms and corruption in a Swedish state-owned Enterprise. Economics and Sociology, 11(2), 64–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Commission d'Enquête sur l'Octroi et la Gestion des Contrats Publics dans l'Industrie de la Construction (CEIC). (2015). Rapport final. Montréal, Québec. Online. Accessed 25 Apr 2017.
  8. 8.
    Dodge, J., Sonia, M. O., & Foldy, E. G. (2005). Integrating rigor and relevance in public administration scholarship: The contribution of narrative inquiry. Public Administration Review, 65(3), 286–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Gans-Morse, J., Borges, M., Makarin, A., Mannah-Blankson, T., Nickow, A., & Zhang, D. (2018). Reducing bureaucratic corruption: Interdisciplinary perspectives on what works. World Development, 105, 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Gioia, D. A., Corley, K. G., & Hamilton, A. L. (2013). Seeking qualitative rigor in inductive research: Notes on the Gioia methodology. Organizational Research Methods, 16(1), 15–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gorta, A. (1998). Minimising corruption: Applying lessons from the crime prevention literature. Crime, Law & Social Change, 30(1), 67–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Granovetter, M. (2007). The social construction of corruption. In V. Nee & R. Swedberg (Eds.), On Capitalism. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Graycar, A., & Sidebottom, A. (2012). Corruption and control: a corruption reduction approach. Journal of Financial Crime 19(4), 384–399.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Groenendijk, N. (1997). A principal-agent model of corruption. Crime, Law and Social Change, 27(3), 207–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Gupta, A. (2005). Narratives of corruption anthropological and fictional accounts of the Indian state. Ethnography, 6(1), 5–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Hauser, C. (Forthcoming). Fighting against corruption: Does anti-corruption training make any difference? Journal of Business Ethics.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Heywood, P. M. (2015). Measuring Corruption, Perspectives, Critiques and Limits. in. Heywood, P. M. (ed). Routledge Handbook of Political Corruption. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 137–153.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hsu, C. L. (2001). Political narratives and the production of legitimacy: The case of corruption in post-Mao China. Qualitative Sociology, 24(1), 25–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Hudon, P.-A., & Garzón, C. (2016). Corruption in public procurement: Entrepreneurial coalition building. Crime, Law and Social Change, 66(3), 291–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Jain, A. K. (2001a). Corruption: A review. Journal of Economic Survey, 15(1), 71–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Jain, A. K. (2001b). The political economy of corruption. New York: NY: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Johnston, M. (2001). The definitions debate. Old conflicts in new guises. In A. K. Jain (Ed.), The political economy of corruption (pp. 11–31). New York: NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Klitgaard, R. (1988). Controlling corruption. Los Angeles: CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Manion, M. (2004). Corruption by design. Building clean government in mainland China and Hong Kong. Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Mungiu-Pippidi, A. (2015). The quest for good governance. How societies develop control of corruption. Cambridge, U. K.: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Myrdal, G. (1968). Asian Drama. An inquiry into the poverty of nations (Vol. 2). Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Myrdal, G. (2011). Corruption as a hindrance to modernization in South Asia. Political Corruption: Concepts and Contexts. In A. J. Heidenheimer & M. Johnston (Eds.), Transaction (pp. 265–275). Publishers.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Olken, B. A. (2009). Corruption perceptions vs. corruption reality. Journal of Public Economics, 93(7–8), 950–964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ospina, S. M., & Dodge, J. (2005). It’s about time: Catching method up to meaning—The usefulness of narrative inquiry in public administration research. Public Administration Review, 65(2), 143–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Osse, A. (1997). Corruption prevention: A course for police officers fighting organised crime. Crime, Law & Social Change, 28(1), 53–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Patton, M.Q. (2015). Designing qualitative studies. In. Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. Thousand oaks, LA: Sage, 4th éd., pp. 244–326.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Peiffer, C., & Alvarez, L. (2016). Who will be the ‘principled-principals’? Perceptions of corruption and willingness to engage in anticorruption activism. Governance, 29(3), 351–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Perera-Mubarak, K. N. (2012). Reading ‘stories’ of corruption: Practices and perceptions of everyday corruption in post-tsunami Sri Lanka. Political Geography, 31(6), 368–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Persson, A., Rothstein, B., & Teorell, J. (2013). Why anticorruption reforms fail - systemic corruption as a collective action problem. Governance, 26(3), 449–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Reeves-Latour, M., & Morselli, C. (2017a). Bid-rigging networks and state-corporate crime in the construction industry. Social Networks, 1–13.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Reeves-Latour, M., & Morselli, C. (2017b). Fighting corruption in a time of crisis: Lessons from a radical regulatory shift experience. Law & Social Change: Crime.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Rose-Ackerman, S. (1999). Corruption and government: Causes, consequences and reform. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Rothstein, B. (2011). Anti-corruption: The indirect 'Big Bang' approach. Review of International Political Economy, 18(2), 228–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Saint-Martin, D. (2015). Systemic corruption in an advanced welfare state: Lessons from the Québec Charbonneau inquiry. Osgoode Hall Law Journal, 53, 1), 1–1),30.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Scott, I. (2013). Institutional design and corruption prevention in Hong Kong. Journal of Contemporary China, 22(79), 77–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Scott, I., & Gong, T. (2015). Evidence-based policy-making for corruption prevention in Hong Kong: A bottom-up approach. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, 37(2), 87–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Tänzler, D., Maras, K., & Giannakopoulous, A. (2012). The social construction of corruption in Europe. New York: NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Thomas, D. R. (2006). A general inductive approach for analyzing qualitative evaluation data. American Journal of Evaluation, 27(2), 237–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Tracy, S. J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(10), 837–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.École Nationale d’Administration PubliqueMontréalCanada

Personalised recommendations