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Grey corruption issues in the public sector

Tim Prenzler (Department of Law, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sunshine Coast, Australia)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 26 June 2020

Issue publication date: 22 July 2021




This paper aims to identify key learnings around the concept of “grey corruption” by systematically reviewing the extant literature. The concept is addressed in terms of areas of alleged misconduct often considered “minor” or “borderline” in relation to “black corruption”. Common examples include favourable treatment of friends and relatives by public officials, receipt of gifts, excessive expenditures and pork barrelling, influence peddling through donations and lies and false promises. The focus of this study is on definitions, extent, public perspectives, explanations and evidence of promising prevention strategies.


Relevant sources were sought using systematic keyword searches of major criminological and political databases, a media database and relevant government and non-government websites, up to the end of December 2019.


The main findings were that there is no single accepted definition of grey corruption but that the concept remains useful, practice is often extensive, it is generally at odds with public opinion, opportunity is a key factor in its incidence and prevention requires the enactment and enforcement of clear principles.

Research limitations/implications

Media-reported cases were too numerous to analyse in detail for the present study.

Practical implications

Efforts to improve integrity in government need to take account of the concept. Rules require clarification and communication. Enforcement needs improvement. More experiments are needed in prevention.

Social implications

This paper captures a range of integrity issues of importance to the public but often downgraded or dismissed by politicians.


This paper is unique in reporting the results of a systematic search of the international literature on the topic.



Prenzler, T. (2021), "Grey corruption issues in the public sector", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 7 No. 2, pp. 137-149.



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