Document Type

Brief

Category

Integrity in Brief

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

The United States has a decentralized system of anti-corruption oversight unique in the world. Instead of a national anti-corruption agency, like most countries, the federal government has a profusion of institutions including the Government Accountability Office in the legislative branch, the Office of Government Ethics in the executive branch, and more than 70 inspectors general responsible for monitoring a specific department or program.

At the state level, the oversight landscape is even more variegated. Some states, cities, and counties have multiple agencies while others have one or none at all. Some watchdog agencies have large staffs with sweeping investigative powers, while others are volunteer boards that meet rarely and lack means of enforcement. Each jurisdiction’s institutions have evolved largely in isolation, in response to local political pressures and other factors, with few efforts at harmonization or coordination due to America’s strong traditions of federalism. Fighting corruption in America tends to be seen as a local concern, with the important exception of the prosecutors and federal agents under the U.S. Department of Justice.

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