Diffuse Responsibility Undermines Public Oversight: A Field Experiment at Bwindi National Park, Uganda
57 Pages Posted: 6 May 2019
Date Written: March 22, 2019
Bureaucratic corruption persists in many settings because responsibility for public projects is diffuse, as is responsibility for oversight. We hypothesized that the dissemination of citizen monitoring in ways that give individual authorities specific knowledge of mismanagement would improve the delivery of public projects by activating specific responsibility to correct problems. Working with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, we implemented a field experiment that involved citizen monitoring of a national park revenue-sharing program and the delivery of reports about the implementation status of community projects to the highest-ranking administrative official responsible for oversight. Counter to our expectations, we did not find evidence that the dissemination of reports improved the delivery of revenue-sharing projects. Follow-up interviews found that the targeted officials did not use the information and perhaps even actively disregarded reports to avoid specific responsibility. However, the treatment also provided information to citizens about what they should expect, which instigated several public claims for accountability that officials could not ignore, prompting more aggressive oversight. Based on this alternative channel, we conclude that anti-corruption initiatives based on citizen monitoring need to make specific responsibility unavoidable for relevant officials, but that the strategies for promoting specific responsibility need further consideration.
Keywords: Corruption, Bureaucracy, Conservation, Accountability, Parks
JEL Classification: H53, H77, H83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation