“Quiet Corruption” – African Development Indicators 2010

    “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Louis Brandeis said in 1914, referring to the benefits of openness and transparency in tackling corruption in the public sector. Today, thanks to the efforts of Transparency International and other organizations, there is considerable “sunlight” on well known types of corruption—public officials demanding and taking bribes for privileged access to contracts or exemptions from regulations. On average, Africa scores poorly on these indicators, with some exceptions—Botswana, Cape Verde, and Mauritius have consistently done well, and Liberia has made great strides. This year’s Africa Development Indicators essay sheds light on a different type of corruption—what the authors call “quiet corruption”—when public servants fail to deliver services or inputs that have been paid for by the government. The most prominent examples are absentee teachers in public schools and absentee doctors in primary clinics. Others include drugs being stolen from public clinics and sold in the private market as well as subsidized fertilizer being diluted before it reaches farmers.

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