Higher salaries worsened police corruption in Ghana, according to IGC-funded research

Rather than reducing police corruption, research funded by the International Growth Centre finds that raising police salaries actually increases levels of police bribery on Ghanaian roads.

As part of an ambitious policy reform experiment in 2010, Ghana doubled police salaries, in part, to reduce petty corruption on its highways.

However, after analysing the amount of bribes paid during more than 2100 long-haul truck trips on a road between Ghana and Burkina Faso between 2006 and 2014, IGC-funded researchers find that police officers actually demanded larger bribes after the salary increase, despite allowing more trucks to pass without taking bribes.

The value of bribes paid at each police checkpoint increased by over 25%. Overall, the amounts of bribes paid on the road increased by 23% due to the salary increase.

Researchers Jeremy D. Foltz and Kweku A. Opoku-Agyemang suggest that police officers may have had a higher sense of their own worth after the salary increase, and thus asked for more expensive bribes. Another possibility is that supervisors or families asked for more money from the officers after learning of the salary increase.

Foltz and Opoku-Agyemang did find, however, that police officers allowed more trucks to pass their checkpoints without taking bribes – from one-tenth (10%) to almost one-fifth (19%) of trucks. This finding may suggest that police officers are concerned about losing their jobs if they ask for more bribes.

Jeremy Foltz, a professor based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “These findings suggest that the fight against corruption in Ghana cannot be won by salary increases alone. We need to take a closer look at Ghana’s anti-corruption laws and their enforcement.”

A 2015 survey by Ghana’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) ranked the police service as the most corrupt state institution in the country.1

Notes:

A full academic paper on this research is available here: https://www.theigc.org/project/can-raising-police-salaries-reduce-petty-corruption-in-ghana/

1: For the full IEA press briefing on their Socio-economic and Governance Survey, please see this page.