Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Understanding “corruption” in regulatory agencies: The case of food inspection in Saudi Arabia

Al-Mutairi, Saad; Connerton, Ian; Dingwall, Robert

Understanding “corruption” in regulatory agencies: The case of food inspection in Saudi Arabia Thumbnail


Saad Al-Mutairi

Profile Image

Northern Foods Professor of Food Safety

Robert Dingwall


Corruption is a relatively neglected topic in studies of regulatory agencies. The label is applied to a wide range of deviations from behavioral standards ultimately derived from Weber's account of the ideals of Prussian bureaucracy. This paper draws on a study of the work of Saudi Food Inspectors to argue that it is unhelpful to reduce a complex phenomenon to simple allegations of malpractice that can be managed by disciplinary sanctions. Our data show that irregular behavior by street‐level agents may be deeply embedded in the expectations that members of a society have of one another. It is less a matter of personal gain than of maintaining one's recognition as a fellow citizen. Such behavior is not easily changed through sanctions directed at individual inspectors. Our study does not exclude the possibility that irregular behavior can be motivated by personal gain, and properly managed by criminal or similar penalties. However, it does propose that research should be more sensitive to the contexts within which irregular behavior occurs rather than treating “corruption” as a uniform and homogenous phenomenon.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 5, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 26, 2019
Publication Date Dec 1, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 25, 2019
Publicly Available Date Mar 27, 2021
Journal Regulation & Governance
Print ISSN 1748-5983
Electronic ISSN 1748-5991
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 4
Pages 507-519
Keywords Sociology and Political Science; Law; Public Administration
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Al‐Mutairi, S. , Connerton, I. and Dingwall, R. (2019), Understanding “corruption” in regulatory agencies: The case of food inspection in Saudi Arabia. Regulation & Governance, 13: 507-519. doi:10.1111/rego.12247, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


You might also like

Downloadable Citations