Country comparative studies on the institutional organization of governments

This deliverable presents research on the institutional organization of governments and how these affect both horizontal, vertical and societal accountability. Horizontal accountability refers to when government bodies hold other government bodies to account, vertical accountability refers to when citizens hold government accountable through elections, and societal accountability refers to when citizens and civil society associations seek to hold government accountable via other channels than elections. The central question addressed in this research project is thus which concrete institutional arrangements and mechanisms explain why some governments act in the public interest, while others act to benefit themselves, often at the public expense. With a few exceptions, all of the texts presented here have been published as later versions, many in top political science journals (see table of context for details). The main findings in brief are:

  • Citizens are ’ often assumed in policy spheres to be willing and able to mobilize against corruption. This willingness to take action depend on the type of corruption concerned, as well as its pervasiveness and visibility. Paradoxically, citizens may be less inclined to become politically involved where corruption is both more prevalent, and governments are comparatively more transparent (i.e. corruption is more visible). Moreover, citizens are less likely to engage in anti-corruption efforts when the type of corruption that exists is of the sort that favors the privileged and yields special advantages (greed corruption), but more likely when corruption is used to gain access to fair treatment (need corruption) (Section 1).
  • A large scale country level survey of public administration experts in 130 countries was employed to develop conceptual precision around and to map empirically two key instruments of horizontal accountability: government audit and government transparency. Both of these prove to be strongly related to the prevalence of corruption in a state. More specifically, the aspects shown to matter most are the professionalism of supreme audit offices, and the ability of the public to track government revenues. In depth analyses of anti-corruption approaches in South Eastern Europe reveal little evidence of advancement, as anti-corruption agencies lack autonomy and are subject to political capture (Section 2).
  • Along similar lines, the autonomy of government bureaucracies is show to matter for how citizens and civil society associations engage with and seek to hold government accountable. When the civil service lacks autonomy and is highly politicized, access to government resources and services may also become politicized, and political parties are more inclined to use public resources for partisan ends (e.g. patronage and clientelism), an association born out empirically. For citizens, such a system incentivizes the cultivation of close ties to politicians and parties in order to increase access to public goods, which may induce citizens to abstain from using formal accountability mechanisms (Section 3).
  • Meritocracy in public bureaucracies – that is, the extent to which bureaucrats are selected and promoted according to their merits and talents rather than appointed politically by incumbents – also has direct and wide-ranging implications for horizontal accountability and corruption. An autonomous bureaucracy enhances power sharing in the state while a politicized bureaucracy erodes the division of power in a way that grants politicians more unchecked power. When politicians have extensive control over civil servants’ careers, transaction costs are lower for collusive and rent-seeking behavior that involves politicians and high-level bureaucrats. Empirically, political control of the bureaucracy is strongly associated with a range of corruption indicators at both the national and regional level, and especially with respect to corruption in procurement processes. An autonomous bureaucracy is also associated with the generation and publication of reliable government statistics, which in the longer term is necessary for better policy making (Section 4).
  • WP11 researchers also examined the effects of government corruption. Using newly collected data at the regional level in Europe, lower corruption is associated with the establishment of small and medium businesses, as well as the ability of regions in Europe to attract structural funds. Moreover, analyses show that higher levels of education are associated with higher levels of social trust across 24 European countries. Interestingly, however, in lower QoG countries the relationship is non-existent. In contexts with higher levels of corruption and more favorability to certain groups, the educated may see the injustice and react accordingly, meaning they have the same low trust as others. In high QoG countries, in contrast, more education brings an understanding and appreciation of the impartiality of government institutions (Section 5).
  • The research presented in section 6 introduces, evaluates and compares several new indicators of corruption for European regions. The data reveal tremendous variation both between but also within European countries, both with respect to corruption in the form of bribe-paying, but also in whether public sector employment is meritocratic or, in contrast, based on connections (personal, political or familial). The data also allow for an examination of widely used perception-based indicators of corrupt (the World Bank’s control of corruption indicator, or Transparency International Corruption Perception Indicator), and the finding is that citizens’ experiences strongly corroborate these established measures (Section 6).
  • The proportion of women in elected office has long been known to correlate with levels of corruption in a country. The research presented in Section 7 demonstrates that the same pattern exists at the regional level in Europe. The proportion of women at higher levels of the civil services is not, however, associated with corruption in a country. The findings suggest that women are not less susceptible to corruption. Data from the citizen level indicates that in countries with more extensive welfare programs, women are more critical of corruption than their male counterparts, but that a gender gap does not exist in countries with more limited welfare programs. As welfare programs are known to further women’s interests, this finding suggests that the gender-corruption association may be a function of women politicians’ desire to develop well-functioning welfare programs (Section 7).

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