Research Summary
Methods of Preventing Corruption: A Review and Analysis of Select Approaches


Corruption can encompass a variety of different criminal acts with varying degrees of severity. While there exists no universal definition of corruption, the most commonly used definition considers it to be “the abuse of public or private office for personal gain” (Transparency International, 2021, para 1). Corruption in both the public and private sectors can, among other things, lead to increases in business costs, disguise or facilitate criminal activity, lead to the misallocation of public resources, influence policy outcomes, weaken public confidence in government, reduce economic development, and generate profits for organized crime.

Based on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Transparency International has typically determined Canada to have relatively low levels of corruption. However, notwithstanding Canada’s favourable ranking on the CPI, the country has experienced a relatively consistent drop in its score over the past two decades, indicating increased perceptions of corruption. Given Canada’s declining score on the CPI, coupled with the vast number of social and economic impacts of corruption, devising and implementing measures to prevent corruption has become an increasingly important topic.

This report seeks to review and describe methods commonly used to prevent corruption both within Canada and globally. Specifically, the purpose of this review is to provide a comprehensive summary of methods commonly used to prevent corruption in both the private and public sectors and where possible, provide insight on which preventative methods have empirical value and demonstrated effectiveness.


This report presents a broad review of publicly available empirical literature, drawing on a variety of sources from both the academic and grey literature as well as governmental and organizational reports. While literature specific to the Canadian context is prioritized and underscored, international literature is also included.

Google Scholar was used as the primary search engine in collecting articles for this review. Furthermore, the search of the literature was constrained to English language articles that were published between January 2000-February 2022. Screening of references (i.e., snowballing) as well as reverse snowballing using the google scholar “Cited by” function was also completed. Following the search and an initial screening of abstracts, 193 articles were deemed to meet the criteria. Upon further analysis of the 193 sources, 47 were excluded due to their lack of relevance for the current study and an additional 16 were deemed unnecessary to incorporate into the final review. Studies excluded for the latter reasoning were solely non-empirical studies that were not required for contextualization purposes. A final number of 130 articles were incorporated into the final draft.


Four main approaches to preventing corruption are highlighted. Namely, these include: (1) value-based approaches; (2) compliance-based approaches; (3) risk management approaches; and (4) awareness and participation-based approaches. Within these four approaches, 18 specific corruption prevention methods were examined and assessed.

Findings demonstrate that (1) the tone at the top principle; (2) ethics training programs; (3) top-down auditing; (4) merit-based recruitment; (5) E-government; and (6) freedom of the press all show signs of empirical effectiveness.

The literature demonstrates mixed results regarding (1) intrinsic motivations; (2) extrinsic motivations; (3) bottom-up monitoring; (4) public awareness campaigns; and (5) freedom of information laws. The four-eyes principle was the only method found to be ineffective.

Finally, (1) penalties and punishments; (2) due diligence; (3) asset disclosure; (4) position rotation; (5) whistleblowing procedures; and (6) changing organizational culture were found to have insufficient evidence for any conclusion to be made.

Discussion and Conclusion

Corruption can take place across different sectors,  have different degrees of severity, and include a variety of acts. As a result, there is no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to preventing corruption, and specific organizations will have to tailor their prevention strategies in order to accommodate their unique needs and risks. The methods of preventing corruption reviewed throughout the report have applicability to various forms of corruption and can help to provide a starting point for the development of more tailored and specific approaches.

Findings of this literature review point towards the conclusion that organizations should seek to develop compliance programs and anti-corruption strategies that (1) involve multiple evidence-based methods; and (2) tailor prevention methods to meet the specific needs and context of the organization.

Limitations and Future Research

Due to limitations in available literature, this review does not examine the specific degree to which each prevention method can reduce corruption. Rather, this report is intended to broadly detail the existing empirical support (or lack thereof) for each specific approach. Furthermore, many of the prevention methods offered in this review have only shown effectiveness in preventing certain forms of corruption. Therefore, given the broad definition of corruption and its the various subcategories, one should not attempt to generalize the effectiveness of different methods cross-contextually. Lastly, this review conceptualized the above methods of prevention quite broadly. As such, it should be acknowledged that each of the methods examined have a number of nuances that could impact their effectiveness.

Several avenues for future research are proposed, including but not limited to (1) examining the interacting effects produced by combining multiple prevention methods; (2) more rigorous empirical examination; and (3) the possible impacts of different contextual factors on prevention methods.


Sauve, B., Woodley, J., Jones, N. J., & Akhtari, S. (2022). Methods of preventing corruption: A review and analysis of select approaches (2023-R010). Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada.

Additional Sources:

Transparency International. (2021). What is corruption?.

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Research Summaries are produced for the Crime Prevention Branch, Public Safety Canada. The summary herein reflects interpretations of the report authors' findings and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Public Safety Canada.

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