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Unprincipled principals: co-opted bureaucrats and corruption in Ghana

Brierley, Sarah ORCID: 0000-0002-0902-6763 (2020) Unprincipled principals: co-opted bureaucrats and corruption in Ghana. American Journal of Political Science, 64 (2). 209 - 222. ISSN 0092-5853

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Identification Number: 10.1111/ajps.12495


In theory, granting politicians tools to oversee bureaucrats can reduce administrative malfeasance. In contrast, I argue that the political control of bureaucrats can increase corruption when politicians need money to fund election campaigns and face limited institutional constraints. In such contexts, politicians can leverage their discretionary powers to incentivize bureaucrats to extract rents from the state on politicians’ behalf. Using data from an original survey of bureaucrats (N=864) across 80 randomly sampled local governments in Ghana, I show that bureaucrats are more likely to facilitate politicians’ corrupt behavior when politicians are perceived to be empowered with higher levels of discretionary control. Using qualitative data and a list experiment to demonstrate the mechanism, I show that politicians enact corruption by threatening to transfer non-compliant officers. My findings provide new evidence on the sources of public administrative deficiencies in developing countries and qualify the presumption that greater political oversight improves governance.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: ©2020 Midwest Political Science Association
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2019 16:57
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2024 23:57

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