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The threat of social sanctions for norm violations creates pressures on officials and citizens to sustain corrupt practices.
As a response to the extortion, the government decides to issue clear guidelines clarifying that the law prohibits these kinds of conditional exchanges.
A code of conduct and integrity training are introduced to ensure that officials abide by basic principles of transparency, accountability, and integrity.
Further investigation reveals that beneficiaries have been told that to receive the assistance to which they are entitled, they should “show some gratitude” in return.
Based on reports indicating that public officials indeed demand such “gifts” as a condition of providing the cash assistance, journalists have started to label the administration of the system as “extortive.” The practice contradicts the programme’s intended purpose of providing a basic safety net – indeed, extracting precious foodstuffs would seem to exacerbate the poverty of the beneficiaries.
People engage in a certain practice because they believe (correctly or incorrectly) that it is common: that it is what other people in their community, organisation, or network do. When it comes to bribery, descriptive norms are captured in the explanation “I pay bribes because everybody does” (Köbis et al. The second aspect of social norms refers to the perceived acceptability of a given behaviour: whether it is considered right or wrong, a socially appropriate course of action or not (Bicchieri and Mercier 2014).
This might be captured in a statement like “Giving gifts to officials in exchange for services isn’t wrong because you are showing your gratitude for their help.” This is called an .
The practice has become so widespread that curbing the abuse is no longer simply a matter of disciplining a few deviant officials.
To make matters worse, an external audit reveals the exploitation of financial transfer processes within the programme, with municipal officials skimming cash intended for the beneficiaries.
One reason is that people simultaneously belong to multiple social networks in which different, and at times contradictory, norms prevail.
We introduce a framework that traces the four most relevant sources of social normative pressures that sustain corruption: sociability, kinship, horizontal, and vertical pressures.