Afghanistan has struggled for decades with insecurity and a corrupt and ineffective government. Strengthening state institutions and guaranteeing service delivery are widely viewed as critical for creating peace, stability, and growth. To do so, it is essential that government employees’ salaries are not lost to corruption. However, in the absence of an adequate monitoring system, considerable resources might be lost on ghost employees – fake employees added to the payroll so that others can capture their salary – and absentee employees – real employees who habitually stay away from work for no good reasons but are still paid a full salary.
Education is an especially important sector for future growth, but Afghanistan is experiencing difficulties in generating effective state capacity and providing high-quality public education. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction estimates 40% of the $410.2 million USD Ministry of Education (MoE) annual wage bill is spent on absent or non-existent teachers.
A potential low cost solution is the introduction of a local monitoring mechanism, where teachers report to the MoE central offices about the attendance of colleagues at their school. However, since the content of the teachers’ reports will ultimately be unverifiable, misreporting is a real possibility. With monetary incentives for reporting on colleague absenteeism, teachers might be induced to provide malicious reports indicating an honest teacher as often absent. Similarly, fearing possible retaliation from corrupt colleagues, teachers might be unwilling to report on actual absentee teachers. For this system to function, it is essential that teachers are willing to provide complete and accurate reports.
This research project will evaluate the feasibility of such a monitoring mechanism. A sample of ~2,000 teachers will receive phone calls and will be asked to report on the behaviour of colleagues at their school. Teachers receiving these phone calls will be randomised in different treatment groups. Comparing these will allow study of how incentives and forms of protection against retaliation influence teachers’ willingness to acts as monitors.
The results of this pilot project will inform the government of Afghanistan on the likelihood of success of such a monitoring system, and on the type of incentives and protections to be offered to monitors in order to assure their cooperation.