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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Rethinking Transparency: Corruption in Local Public Office in India


Governments and NGOs have invested heavily in fighting corruption by designing anti- poverty programs that maximize transparency and accountability. We analyze whether corruption is still widespread in the context of one such program, a massive make-work scheme in India where every job spell is posted publicly online. Linking millions of administrative job records to local election outcomes, we measure how many jobs they self-deal. In the year after the election, winners of close elections receive 3 times as many workdays as losers and typical villagers, a sum equal to two-thirds their official stipend. We find that corruption persists because of a gap between de jure and actual transparency. Only when citizens have tools to access information in a timely manner does corruption eventually vanish.

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