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The Dynamic Effects of Information on Political Corruption: Theory and Evidence from Puerto Rico

22 aprile 2013
Ex Boccherini - Piazza S. Ponziano 6 (Conference Room )
Does the disclosure of information about corrupt activities induce a sustained reduction in corruption? We use longitudinal data on publicly released audits of municipal governments in Puerto Rico to answer this question. We find that corruption is considerably lower in municipalities audited before an election. However, these municipalities do not exhibit decreased levels of corruption in subsequent audits. In spite of this, mayors in municipalities audited preceding the previous election have higher re-election rates, suggesting that audits enable voters to select more competent politicians. We present a political agency model that rationalizes the observed short-term and dynamic effects of information on corruption and re-election rates. Voters use the information from audits to select competent but opportunistic politicians who go on to engage in rent-seeking in future periods. We conclude that audit programs must be timely, sustained, and long-term commitments in order to be effective.
Schwabe, Rainer