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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Does political oversight of the bureaucracy increase accountability? Field experimental evidence from an electoral autocracy
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL http://piaraffler.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Raffler_JMP.pdf
How can consistently poor service delivery by governments in developing countries be improved?
While a growing literature focuses on strengthening the accountability of politicians
to voters, little research considers how politicians’ control over the bureaucracy influences service
provision. In collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Finance, I conducted a field
experiment involving 2,800 government officials across 260 local governments. The objective
of the intervention was to empower local politicians to exercise closer oversight over the local
bureaucracy through the dissemination of highly disaggregated budgetary information and
trainings about their mandate and rights. In a second treatment arm, these tools were also
offered to politicians’ opponents in an attempt to stimulate political competition. I find that
the intervention increased local politicians’ monitoring effort and the frequency with which
they seek to improve service delivery, but only in areas where the political leadership is not
aligned with the central government. Offering the tools to political opponents did not have a
differential effect. In contrast to scholars who argue that insulating bureaucrats allows them to
do their jobs more effectively with less corruption, these findings imply that increased oversight
by local politicians has the potential to serve as counterbalancing force in the context of
a captured bureaucracy.

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