Government corruption has been defined as the abuse of public power for private gain. Such abuse has a long history. For example, the Bible includes a law prohibiting bribery in judicial cases, showing that the practice was already well-known over 3,500 years ago. (Exodus 23:8) Of course, corruption involves more than just accepting bribes. Corrupt public officials sometimes appropriate goods, take advantage of services to which they are not entitled, or even steal funds outright. They may also use their position to favor their friends and relatives unfairly.
While corruption can exist in any human organization, it seems that corruption in government is the worst. The 2013 Global Corruption Barometer, published by Transparency International, reported that people worldwide have the perception that the five most corrupt institutions are political parties, the police, public officials, the legislature, and the judiciary. Consider just some reports that highlight the problem.
AFRICA: In 2013, some 22,000 public officials in South Africa were charged with misconduct for corrupt activities.
AMERICAS: In 2012, in Brazil, 25 people were convicted of using public funds to buy political support. Among those convicted was the former president’s chief of staff, the second most powerful man in the country.
ASIA: In Seoul, South Korea, 502 people died in a department-store collapse in 1995. Investigators found that city officials had been bribed to allow contractors to use substandard concrete and to violate safety rules.
EUROPE: “The extent of the problem [corruption in Europe] is breathtaking,” according to European Commission Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. She added that “the political commitment to really root out corruption seems to be missing.”
Government corruption has deep roots. Professor Susan Rose-Ackerman, an expert on the subject of anticorruption, wrote that reform would require “fundamental changes in the way government does business.” While the situation might seem to be hopeless, the Bible shows that even greater changes are not only possible but also certain to happen.