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Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title “Eyes On, Hands Off”: A Field Experiment on Political Oversight, Local Bureaucracy, and Public Service Provision
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
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 with some degree of party competition. Offering
the tools to political opponents did not have a differential effect. In contrast to scholars
who argue that insulating technocrats allows them to do their jobs more effectively with less
corruption, these findings imply that politicians engage in pro-social political oversight even
in the context of an electoral autocracy, as long as a modicum of party competition exists, thus
opening up the potential to improve service delivery in the longer term.

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