One specific definition of corruption has not been created so far and probably will not be. There are many reasons for this, from the customs and ethical-moral beliefs of society to the specific power relations between the various forces operating in society and influencing social life.
The international anti-corruption movement Transparency International (TI) has interpreted corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Such an approach is quite broad and allows for a more precise definition of the concept in narrower areas, including the private sector, while the "use of public office for private gain" offered by the World Bank takes a much narrower approach to corruption. "Public office" refers to the activities of persons directly involved in the concept as public authorities, thus excluding those operating in the private sector. This definition also restricts the concept of corruption because it can be unequivocally interpreted that the concept of corruption includes the personal benefit of an employee in the public sector for example an official, and not the personal benefit of third parties.
A similar approach prevails in Estonian law. The legal definition of a corrupt act is provided by § 5 of the Anti-corruption Act, according to which a corrupt use of official position is the making of a decision or performing of an act in the competence of an official by such official in violation of his or her official duties in the interests of the official or any third persons, participation therein or substantive directing thereof, if this brings about unequal or unjustified advantages for the official or the third person from the point of view of public interest.
"Grand" and "petty" corruption
In the case of grand corruption at the national level, the act of corruption is linked to senior and/or political positions, and the impact and damage of such corruption can be extremely large and extensive. This includes acts of corruption related to public procurement, large public transactions, activities of political parties, government agencies. Such corruption is called corruption by greed. The bidding is primarily done by private companies that want to gain or maintain any advantages outside fair and open competition. As a result of such corrupt acts, the biggest losers are citizens and society as a whole, because the desire for private gain of senior officials, people in leading positions in the country, often outweighs issues important to the state and society as a whole and restricts more economically viable transactions.
To a lesser extent, corruption is linked to specific business transactions and public officials. This is called corruption by need. This form of corruption is an abuse of one's position or authority in the provision of public services, the issuance of licenses and permits and as a result of which the average citizen suffers the most. Representatives of several organizations, such as mid-level government officials, doctors, employees of educational and children's institutions, etc. may be involved in corrupt acts. People may find themselves in the situation where they need to bribe representatives of organizations in order to interact with them and to obtain some services.
Harmful effects of corruption
Corruption has a detrimental effect on organizations/companies, societies and countries, but also on individuals. The effects and consequences of corruption can be direct or indirect, but either way in most cases they are serious as well as harmful.
- Consequences for companies - corruption increases transaction costs, bid prices, causes economic damage, increases costs for projects and can mean lost opportunities for companies. Corrupt practices harm fair competition, which is a prerequisite for appropriate prices, reasonable delivery times and quality as a result of market self-regulation.
- Consequence for individuals - corrupt activities by a representative of a company can lead to termination of employment contract and criminal charges. For the average citizen, the prices of services and products rise because competition in the market is distorted.
- Consequences for society - corruption is potentially dangerous for society as a whole, leading to a number of economic, political and social problems. Corruption reduces the functioning of society and as a result people lose trust in their leaders, in addition respect for and adherence to the law is reduced.
Corruption threatens democracy and human rights, undermines good governance and social justice as well as national competitiveness and economic development, and jeopardizes democratic institutions and the moral foundations of society.
Awareness of the need for morality and ethics in society is crucial to prevent such severe and far-reaching consequences.