Abuse of power

Abuse of power is where a person in public office or a position of trust misuses her/his power so as to benefit herself/himself or someone else. 

It may be called “abuse of office” or “misconduct in public office”.  In some countries, this type of conduct is treated as a fraud offence.

A person is in a position of trust if they are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the public or an organisation (e.g. a finance manager, procurement manager, project manager, supervisor).


  • A procurement official working for the public highways agency improperly ensures that the highways agency awards a contract to a construction company in which he has a secret ownership interest.
  • A public official in charge of running a project by-passes the normal employment procedures in order to appoint a family member or friend to a senior project management position (sometimes called “nepotism”).
  • A government minister hopes to benefit corruptly from a project by demanding bribes for the award of project contracts.  Consequently, he requires his staff to suppress a feasibility report which concludes that the project should not go ahead.

Avoiding abuse of power:

If you are a public official, or occupy a position of trust, always act honestly and objectively in the best interests of the public or your organisation.  Never act in your personal interest. 

Do not participate in or facilitate an abuse of power.  For example, if you are a contract manager of a supplier, and a public official awards a contract to that supplier without a competitive tender in breach of procurement regulations, you could be liable for facilitating the public official’s abuse of power if you allow the supplier to accept the improper award. 

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1st April 2024