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Corruption in Romania: first steps towards a grounded theory of corruption - country report -. Dr Iuliana Precupeţu. Objectives of the study.

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corruption in romania first steps towards a grounded theory of corruption country report

Corruption in Romania: first steps towards a grounded theory of corruption- country report -

Dr Iuliana Precupeţu

objectives of the study
Objectives of the study
  • Understand perceptions towards corruption held by various groups which have important roles in targeting corruption: politics, media, civil society, economy, judiciary and police
  • Reconstruct the argumentative patterns in regard to corruption based on documents elaborated by each group

generate a substantive-level theory of corruption

  • Highlight content (definitions, characteristics) of the core category of the study: corruption
  • Explore the causal conditions that influence the phenomenon
  • Identify the actions or interactions that result from the central phenomenon
  • Delineate the consequences of the phenomenon

Grounded theory

  • The assumption of the empirical approach is that the “bottom-up“ definitions included within “everyday theories“ of corruption are contained in social patterns of perception that actors apply in their actions.
  • Consequently, they should be reconstructed from administrative and other official documents and statements of the target groups.

Case study as a research strategy

  • The case study was used as an inductive tool, in the attempt to shed light on the specificity of phenomenon and gain in depth understanding of aspects of corruption.
  • Selection of case studies: theoretical sampling.
  • Three instances of corruption have been analysed:

Case study 1

High level corruption: Overlapping economic and political interests.

Case study 2

Corruption typical for a transition country: The process of privatisation: using public positions against public interests.

Party funding

data collection
Data collection
  • Documents from the target groups’ field of activity related to corruption were collected.
  • The general logic that guided selection of material was to start with case studies and try to identify position of each group on the respective case. When this was not possible, the analysis was completed with investigating general material on corruption.

Constant comparative method of data analysis

  • Data collection in a grounded theory study is a “zigzag” process – out to the field to gather information, analyse the data, back to the field to gather more information, compare it to the emerging categories and so forth.
  • The data sources have been theoretically chosen - in theoretical sampling. The process stopped when categories became saturated, and no information could be added.
material analysed
Material analysed
  • Target group Politics: transcripts of parliamentary debates from the Parliament, party programs, declarations of politicians.
  • Target group Law: prosecutors’ investigation reports from the National Anticorruption Directorate in case 1, case 2 and verdict by the Bucharest Court of Appeal on case 1, the report of the Court of Accounts and verdicts by the Bucharest Court of Appeal on party funding. Press releases by the National Anticorruption Directorate, transcripts of interviews by the current Minister of Justice, the national strategy on corruption. Background documents were constituted by legislation in the field of corruption.
  • Target group Police: material on corruption elaborated by the Ministry of Administration and Interior was included in analysis by taking into consideration references to Police and their personnel: anticorruption strategy, reports, code of conduct, etc.
  • Target group Media: articles in newspapers and weekly magazines.
  • Target group Civil Society: manifesto, press releases, transcripts of interviews, appeals issued by the Coalition for a Clean Parliament and its continuation, Coalition for a Clean Governance during 2004, when the first coalition was set up, to the present.
  • Target group Economy: transcripts of seminars on the topic of corruption, press releases, content of web sites expressing the position towards corruption, protocols with other institutions stating common approach to corruption and setting up joint activities, minutes of meetings, anticorruption plans, codes of conduct.
qualitative content analysis
Qualitative content analysis
  • Empirical, methodological controlled analysis of texts within their context of communication, following content analytical rules and step by step models, without rash quantification (Mayring, 2000).
  • The procedure of open coding was employed.
  • The categories were developed inductively.
  • The chosen unit of analysis was the theme.
  • Data analysis for each case involved generating concepts through the process of coding which represents the operations by which data were broken down, conceptualised, and put back together in new ways (Strauss and Corbin, 1990).
  • Material was analysed by using computerised analysis software, Atlas-ti.
quality of material and difficulties
Quality of material and difficulties
  • The heterogeneity of material analysed.
  • The rapid change of situation in regard to anticorruption efforts in Romania.
  • Official documents analysed (like those of Ministry of Interior, or by business groups) were issued in the general framework of Romania’s aligning its policies to international efforts especially in regard to European integration.
  • As a result, it is difficult to assess what would represent national cultural specificity. Perhaps international comparative perspective can shed light on cultural aspects.
generating t heory
Generating theory







Fight against corruption

content of the core category definitions
Content of the core category: definitions


The ‘octopus’

The ‘dirty affair’

The ‘sickness’

‘Thick fabric no one can tear’

The ‘national sport’


Illegal conduct

Altered behaviour



Breach in basic social valuesDouble standards



content of the core category characteristics mechanisms
Content of the core category: characteristics/mechanisms


The all-encompassing corruption



Complex mechanism

The subjective agreement

The ‘local barons’

The snowball effect

Trivial subject

content of the core category characteristics mechanisms12
Content of the core category: characteristics/mechanisms

Perceptions on corruption turn into a mechanism that maintains the phenomenon.

The bribe was offered by the foreign company interested in privatisation of JIMTIM because they perceived this request as a normal instance in Romania:

“The Italians told me they knew they had to pay ‘spaga’ in order to buy such companies. Italians had the representation that in Romania is customary to give ‘spaga’ in such situations and I think they knew about these procedures from one of their friends (…) from whom they found out about the ‘principle of spaga’ in Romania” (Prosecutors’ investigation file, witness declaration, p4).

causes of corruption
Causes of corruption








systemic causes
Systemic causes


  • Inadequate structure
  • Deficient economic policy
  • Poor economic environment
  • Short term contextual factors
systemic causes15
Systemic causes


  • Incomplete reform
  • Imperfect fiscal system
  • Need for regulation
  • Low capacity of judicial system
systemic causes16
Systemic causes


  • Strenuous reform
  • Formal social dialogue
  • Electoral system
  • Deficient structure and functioning
  • Low quality of human resources
systemic causes17
Systemic causes


  • Stage of social development
  • Groups of interests
  • Flawed functioning of institutions
  • Limited press freedom
  • Disturbed basic relationships
  • Networks
  • Socialisation
  • Negative social capital
case study 1 overlapping political and economic positions
Case study 1: Overlapping political and economic positions



Ministry of Justice

Bucharest Court

‘closed personal relations’

councilor in GS of RG

‘good relations’


‘sponsor’ of the party in power

friend of major stockholder of SCRVA

major stockholder in two firms of juridical liquidation

business relations with NB


systemic causes19
Systemic causes


  • Cultural and historical heritage of Ottoman Empire

‘Our soul was perverted since Fanar on’

individual causes
Individual causes
  • Human nature
  • Impaired relationship of citizens to society
  • Rent seeking behaviour
  • Mentality
fight against corruption
Fight against corruption

Assessments of current fight

  • The ‘supreme necessity’
  • ‘Façade fight’
  • ‘Institutional zigzag’
what is the relationship of theory to reality and truth
What is the relationship of theory to reality and truth?
  • The substantive-level theory of corruption is an interpretation made from given perspectives researched by researchers
  • Its nature allows for endless elaboration and partial negation.
  • The theory is limited in time. Change at any level of the conditional matrix will affect the validity of theory and its relation to contemporary reality.
  • Conceptualising is an intellectual process that extends throughout the entire course of a given research project (Strauss and Corbin, 1990)