Can raising salaries reduce police corruption in Ghana?

Project Active from to State and Political Economy

This IGC research exploits one of the most ambitious civil service policy reforms in Africa to ask whether raising salaries for corrupt officials improves or worsens petty corruption outcomes in developing countries.

In one of the most ambitious public sector reform experiments in Africa, the Ghana government doubled its police officer salaries in 2010 in part to mitigate petty corruption on its roads, while leaving salaries for other officials unchanged.

  • Researchers demonstrate that raising salaries of corrupt officials can have the consequence of worsening petty corruption, in contrast to many cross-country and lab-based studies that have shown that higher salaries or payments reduce corruption.
  • Rather than decrease petty corruption, the salary policy significantly increased the police efforts to collect bribes, the value of bribes and the amounts given by truck drivers to policemen in total. The results show that raised salaries for Ghanaian police officers caused the police to increase the effort they put forth to get bribes by 19 percent, the value of bribes taken at each individual stop by between 25-28 percent, and increased the total amount taken on the road, even while they reduced the number of times they received a bribe.
  • Since the Ghanaian salary increase experiment took place without an equivalent increase in enforcement of anti-corruption laws, the results here suggest that fighting corruption cannot be done by salary policies alone.
  • Researchers used unique data on bribes paid from over 2,100 truck trips in West Africa and representing over 45,000 bribe opportunities.