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Investigating the causal complexity of corruption in project-based organizations: a scenario analysis of bidding activity in the Chinese construction sector

Zhixiu Wang (School of Management and Economics, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China)
Junying Liu (School of Management and Economics, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China)
Xinya Guan (School of Management and Economics, Tianjin University, Tianjin, China)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 1 September 2021

Issue publication date: 7 December 2022

257

Abstract

Purpose

Although the global construction industry has made great contributions to economic development, industry corruption is a challenge for governments all over the world. This paper aims to investigate the causal complexity of organizational corruption by exploring the configuration effect of multiple induced conditions of corruption in the construction sector.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is focused on bribery, a specific form of corrupt behavior through a scenario-based survey role-playing game in which participants encounter bribery. A total of 400 Chinese construction sector participants were randomly recruited to complete this survey.

Findings

Compared with studies that have identified a number of factors associated with corruption in the construction sector, this study found asymmetry and complexity in the causality of organizational corruption. That is, when a variable causing corruption changes from one condition to its opposite – for example, from fierce to mild competition – the degree of corruption is not necessarily reduced as one may expect.

Practical implications

Anti-corruption measures should not rely solely on the net effects of discrete conditions and the interactions between multiple factors should not be ignored. In other words, anti-corruption strategies should not be implemented in isolation of their context, and pairing control measures with configurations is critical in controlling corruption. Finally, multiple configuration paths should be reconsidered when considering the degree of corruption reduction.

Originality/value

This study proposes a comprehensive analysis framework for addressing organizational corruption in the construction sector by investigating configuration effects of multiple induced conditions and offers a useful method for addressing corruption.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the National Office for Philosophy and Social Sciences (Grant Numbers 20BGL131), National Natural Science Fund of China (Grant Numbers 7197020558), and Tianjin University Independent Innovation Fund Project-Social Influence (Grant Numbers 2020XSZ-0026).

Citation

Wang, Z., Liu, J. and Guan, X. (2022), "Investigating the causal complexity of corruption in project-based organizations: a scenario analysis of bidding activity in the Chinese construction sector", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 29 No. 10, pp. 3893-3916. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-10-2020-0841

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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