During the past three decades, a large number of countries have introduced reforms to decentralize public decision making. Such reforms have proved controversial. Critics of these reforms argue that decentralized provision of infrastructure enhances vulnerability to corruption. Proponents of these reforms counter that corruption arises from lack of people empowerment and decentralization by bringing decision making closer to people shines sunlight on government operations and empowers people to hold government to account and thereby offers potential for combating corruption in the long run. They further state that decentralized provision of infrastructure holds a great promise in upgrading infrastructure to underserviced especially rural areas with local self-government. In theory such decentralization is also expected to improve integrity of such operations especially in the event of local financing. These debates, nevertheless, remain unsettled as empirical evidence on the impact of decentralization on infrastructure provision is scant or non-existent. Empirical work is hampered by a lack of reliable data on the incidence of corruption. This paper presents conceptual underpinnings of the impact of decentralized provision of infrastructure on the incidence of corruption and synthesizes scant available empirical evidence to make a case for further empirical research to document the real world experiences to update our current state of knowledge on this subject. Much work lies ahead to limit our wide zone of ignorance in this area.
Shah, Anwar, "Decentralized Provision of Public Infrastructure and Corruption" (2014). International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series. 14.