To know is to act? Revisiting the impact of government transparency on corruption

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Transparency is expected to reduce corruption by enabling the public to uncover it and thus hold officials accountable. This assumes citizens care about corruption and have mechanisms for enacting accountability. Yet, paradoxically, transparency has been prescribed as a cure against corruption precisely in contexts where such mechanisms are weak. This article integrates research from different disciplines to better understand when and how transparency reduces corruption. It finds that citizens do react to information about corruption even in countries with weak institutions and wide-spread corruption, especially if the information is widely shared, corruption is a salient issue, and there are some expectations of sanctions for malfeasance. Furthermore, even partial compliance with transparency policies can make a difference. More research should explore when and why bureaucrats comply with accountability pressures from above and below, how expectations about sanctions are formed and lead to ‘indignation rather than resignation,’ as well what the systemic effects of transparency policies are and how they evolve over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-367
Number of pages13
JournalPublic Administration and Development
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • access to information
  • accountability
  • corruption
  • disclosure
  • transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Public Administration


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