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Public Policy and Administration


Olivia Yu


The prevalence of bribery in Ghana has increased significantly since the mid-2000s and has received considerable attention in both local and international media, as well as among empirical researchers. Although researchers have examined factors that influence the giving and acceptance of bribes in Ghana, limited theoretical research exists concerning the ways public officials in Ghana defend their corrupt behavior. The purpose of this study was to examine ways bribees in Ghana defend their illegal actions, using Sykes and Matza’s neutralization theory. Data were collected from telephone interviews with 11 Ghanaian public officials who have served sentences for bribery; their statements of defense were analyzed through qualitative content analysis to establish whether they used techniques of neutralization. The findings of this study indicate that public officials accused of accepting bribes apply all 5 techniques in Sykes and Matza’s neutralization theory to neutralize the guilt associated with their actions. The findings also indicate that participants believe that bribery has become part of the Ghanaian culture. Legislators, organizational leaders, and criminal justice administrators could use the findings of this study to enact appropriate laws to manage the issue of bribery in Ghana and to design effective and comprehensive ethics policies and programs to prevent its occurrence. Implications for positive social change include reducing the negative economic implications of bribery and improving trust in public officials.