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To serve the community or oneself - the public servant's dilemma

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  • Barr, Abigail
  • Lindelow, Magnus
  • Serneels, Pieter

Abstract

Embezzlement of resources is hampering public service delivery throughout the developing world. Research on this issue is hindered by problems of measurement. To overcome these problems, the authors use an economic experiment to investigate the determinants of corrupt behavior. They focus on three aspects of behavior: 1) Embezzling by public servants. 2) Monitoring effort by designated monitors. 3) Voting by community members when provided with an opportunity to select a monitor. The experiment allows the authors to study the effect of wages, effort observance, rules for monitor assignment, and professional norms. Their experimental subjects are Ethiopian nursing students. The authors find that service providers who earn more embezzle less, although the effect is small. Embezzlement is also lower when observance (associated with the risk of being caught and sanctioned) is high, and when service providers face an elected, rather than a randomly selected monitor. Monitors put more effort into monitoring when they face reelection, and when the public servant receives a higher wage. Communities reelect monitors who put more effort into exposing embezzlement. Framing-whereby players are referred to as"health workers"and"community members"rather than by abstract labels-affects neither mean embezzlement nor mean monitoring effort, but significantly increases the variance in both. This suggests that different types of experimental subjects respond differently to the framing, possibly because they adhere to different norms.

Suggested Citation

  • Barr, Abigail & Lindelow, Magnus & Serneels, Pieter, 2004. "To serve the community or oneself - the public servant's dilemma," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3187, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3187
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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Armantier & Amadou Boly, 2008. "Can Corruption Be Studied in the Lab? Comparing a Field and a Lab Experiment," CIRANO Working Papers 2008s-26, CIRANO.
    2. Elke Renner, 2004. "Wie lässt sich Korruption wirksam bekämpfen?: Empirische Befunde aus der experimentellen Wirtschaftsforschung," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 73(2), pages 292-300.
    3. Juan Camilo Cárdenas, 2009. "Experiments in Environment and Development," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 157-182, September.
    4. Abigail Barr & Magnus Lindelow, 2005. "Intrinsic motivations on the development frontline: Do they exist? Do they endure?," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-033, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Patricia Crifo & Jean-Louis Rullière, 2004. "Incentives and Anonymity Principle: Crowding Out Toward Users," CESifo Working Paper Series 1316, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Libor Dušek & Andreas Ortman & Lubomír Lízal, 2005. "Understanding Corruption and Corruptibility Through Experiments," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2005(2), pages 147-162.
    7. David Zetland, 2010. "Save the poor, shoot some bankers," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 145(3), pages 331-337, December.
    8. Vivi Alatas & Lisa Cameron & Ananish Chaudhuri & Nisvan Erkal & Lata Gangadharan, 2009. "Subject pool effects in a corruption experiment: A comparison of Indonesian public servants and Indonesian students," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(1), pages 113-132, March.
    9. Klaus Abbink & Matthew Ellman, 2004. "The donor problem," Economics Working Papers 796, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jan 2005.
    10. Petra Stykow, 2004. "Der Fall Russland: Korruption als Kollateralschaden der Transformation?," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 73(2), pages 247-262.
    11. Chandler, Clare I.R. & Chonya, Semkini & Mtei, Frank & Reyburn, Hugh & Whitty, Christopher J.M., 2009. "Motivation, money and respect: A mixed-method study of Tanzanian non-physician clinicians," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(11), pages 2078-2088, June.
    12. World Bank, 2007. "Ethiopia : Urban Labor Markets, Challenges and Prospects, Volume 1. Synthesis Report," World Bank Other Operational Studies 8011, The World Bank.
    13. L. Cameron & A. Chaudhuri & N. Erkal & L. Gangadharan, 2005. "Do Attitudes Towards Corruption Differ Across Cultures? Experimental Evidence from Australia, India, Indonesia andSingapore," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 943, The University of Melbourne.
    14. Juan Camilo Cárdenas & Rajiv Sethi, 2007. "Attitudes and attributes: a field experiment with public officials and transfer recipients In Colombia," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 006881, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.

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