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Overview of corruption and anti-corruption in infrastructure development

Roughly one-half of all fixed capital investment by governments is in the construction of public infrastructure – an essential component of economic growth and social development, especially in developing countries (Pyman 2021). Yet at the same time governments, citizens and funders are frequently dissatisfied with the outcomes of infrastructure projects as they often involve the waste or misallocation of precious state resources. Corruption can have serious consequences for infrastructure projects across three areas. First, corruption in infrastructure provision is likely to increase prices and inflate project costs. Secondly, corruption can cause delays in project completion and lead to poor quality infrastructure. Thirdly, corruption in infrastructure development is likely to distort the public spending structure, with a bias towards high value, high complexity investments into new infrastructure as opposed to spending on maintenance and operations.

16 April 2023
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Overview of corruption and anti-corruption in infrastructure development

Main points

  • Risk factors inherent to infrastructure projects that render them particularly susceptible to corruption include the fact that these projects are often large, long-term and complex, involving numerous actors. Moreover, corruption safeguards such as transparency in all phases of the project and contracting cycles as well as citizen participation are often neglected.
  • Each phase of the infrastructure development cycle entails specific risks, ranging from undue influence by politicians in project selection to insider trading during the disposal of assets.
  • Most countries have implemented mechanisms to reduce some of the more obvious entry points for corruption, such as by improving transparency and competitiveness during the procurement process. However, corruption may simply shift to other stages of the project cycle. For instance, if the contract award is difficult to influence, corrupt activity may centre on the project design and appraisal phase or through amendments to the contract during project implementation.
  • Hence, any strategy attempting to tackle corruption in infrastructure will need to approach the sector more holistically and address the fundamental corruption risk factors related to regulatory frameworks and institutional capacity as well as the lack of transparency and public participation.

Cite this publication

Adam, I. ; Fazekas, M. (2023) Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Helpdesk Answer 2023:9)

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Isabelle Adam
Mihály Fazekas

Mihály Fazekas is an associate professor at the Central European University, Department of Public Policy, with a focus on using Big Data methods to understand the quality of government globally. He is also the scientific director of an innovative think tank, the Government Transparency Institute (GTI). He has a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he pioneered Big Data methods to measure and understand high-level corruption in Central and Eastern Europe.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)