Corruption in Sweden : Exploring Danger Zones and Change

Abstract: In this dissertation I study corruption in the public sector in Sweden, a country which the literature regards as having few corruption problems. Sweden is therefore classified as a “least corrupt” case, and such countries are seldom studied in corruption research. My work is thus an effort to fill a gap in the literature. This research is also motivated by a conviction that such a case provides a fertile ground for studying danger zones for corruption. For example, this work allows me to explore how institutional and contextual changes impact on corruption and danger zones. Though the main focus of this work is on Sweden, I also have comparative ambitions. First, I locate Sweden in a cross-national context. I then study corruption in Sweden using a comparative methodology and with an eye to international comparisons. I apply a combined theoretical approach and a multi-method investigation based on several empirical sources and both quantitative and qualitative techniques. This research strategy enables me to capture a phenomenon (corruption) that is more difficult to identify in countries with relatively few obvious corruption scandals than it is in countries in which the phenomenon has traditionally been studied. Regarding danger zones for corruption, the results show that some of the zones identified in the international literature, such as public procurement, are also important in Sweden. For the Swedish case, my empirical research also identifies the types of corruption that occur, perceptions of danger zones and corruption, how corruption changes over time, and how corruption is fought. With regard to the latter, one conclusion is that ingrained (male) sub-cultures can be problematic and may need to be opened up using a combination of measures like promoting a more heterogeneous group of politicians, creating more transparent proceedings in decision groups and conducting more effective audits. The research also highlights the importance of adapting control measures to existing structures of delegation. For example, if delegation arrangements are changed to improve efficiency and cut costs, new accountability measures may be necessary. In general, delegation and control structures should be structured in such a way as to make the cost of shirking quite high. Finally, based on the results of this multi-method investigation, I conclude that one avenue for further corruption research is to connect our knowledge of danger zones to what we know about mechanisms effecting corrupt behaviour, and then to apply this to discussions of new models of the politics of management in multi-level governance.