When street-level implementation meets systemic corruption

Anat Gofen*, Oliver Meza, Elizabeth Pérez Chiqués

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


To better understand street-level bureaucracy in developing countries, this study focuses on street-level implementation as embedded within systemic corruption, which is well-documented in the developing world. Analysis focuses on a large city in Guanajuato, which exhibits among the highest corruption rates in Mexico. To allow for a broad perspective, the analysis applies a sequential exploratory mixed-method research design and draws on in-depth interviews with varied stakeholders (N = 17) and a representative survey of street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) (N = 594). Findings indicate that organizational corruption (ORG-C) and street-level corruption (SL-C) are two distinct, yet related phenomena. Additionally, SLBs' perceptions about the level of corruption both among superiors and among colleagues are associated with their tolerance towards inappropriate street-level interactions with citizens. By shifting attention to street-level implementation as embedded within a corrupt environment, this study provides new theoretical and practical insights about street-level implementation in developing countries and about the unique challenges of fighting systemic corruption. Policy impact statement: Common anticorruption policies often reflect an assumption that higher-level ORG-C and SL-C are separate, isolated phenomena, thus overlooking the implications of systemic corruption environments for street-level implementation in general, and for SL-C in particular. By uncovering that the willingness for street-level divergence among SLBs is influenced by their perception of corruption established by municipal administration as well as by colleagues, this study emphasizes that fighting corruption should account for the interrelationships between corruption at different organizational levels.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)72-84
Number of pages13
JournalPublic Administration and Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • corruption
  • developing countries
  • local government
  • street-level bureaucrats


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