Publicity can be a powerful deterrent to corruption

Ritva Reinikka, Jakob Svensson , Mon, 07/02/2007

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The Millennium Development Goals call for universal primary school enrolment but still the available literature on schooling provides little guidance on what governments in developing countries should prioritize to raise educational attainment. Innovations in governance of social services may yield the highest return since social services delivery in developing countries is often plagued by inefficiencies and corruption. The authors of DP6363 exploit an unusual policy experiment to answer what may be the most effective way to increase primary school enrolment and student learning and conclude that publicity might be a way to solve the problem of corruption and diversion of funds in the provision of local services.

The authors study a newspaper campaign in Uganda, which aimed at reducing capture of public funds by providing schools with information to monitor local officials’ handling of a large education program. Survey evidence showed that on average only 20% of the funds for primary schools’ expenditure reached the schools in the mid-1990s, most schools received nothing and the bulk of the grants was captured by local government officials in charge of the distribution. Traditionally, anticorruption programs target the problem through building legal and financial institution for control, however in poor countries these prove to be weak and among the most corrupt. For this reason, the Ugandan government decided to begin publicizing information on amount and timing of disbursement of the school grants.

The authors find that public access to information can indeed be a powerful deterrent to capture of funds at the local level. Head teachers in schools closer to a newspaper outlet were found to be more knowledgeable of the rules governing the grant program and the timing of releases by the central government. These schools also managed to claim a significantly larger part of their entitlement after the newspaper campaign was initiated. Furthermore, the reduction in capture had a positive effect on both enrolment and student learning.

Publicity cannot solve all the problems of corruption and diversion of funds in the provision of local services. However a conclusion that can be drawn from the Uganda experiment is that since traditional approaches to improve governance have produced weak results in most developing countries, experimentation and evaluation of new tools to enhance accountability should become a part in the research agenda on improving the outcomes of social services.

DP6363 The Returns from Reducing Corruption: Evidence from Education in Uganda

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URL:  http://www.cepr.org/pubs/new-dps/dplist.asp?dpno=6363.asp

Topics:  Development

Tags:  education, Corruption, Newspaper campaign

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