Pay Ghanaian Police higher salaries and there will be less corruption? Yeah right!

I came across an interesting paper on the impact of higher salaries on corruption – “Does Raising Police Salaries Lower Petty Corruption? A Policy Experiment on West African Highways by Jeremy Foltz and Kweku Opoku-Agyemang. Ghana Road Network

The research focused on West Africa’s highways where the police were given higher salaries in the hope that this would lead to the end of corruption, inefficiency and bribery by the Ghanian police. However what actually transpired was that it actually energised police efforts to collect bribes rather than decrease petty corruption.

The data was collected using lorry drivers on the roads of Ghana and Burkina Faso. Drivers with all the correct papers were asked to record how many times they were stopped and how much money they paid to police and customs officials along the route – see map. On examining the data of 2,100 long-haul journeys they found that raised salaries for Ghanaian police officers and caused them to increase the effort they put forth to get bribes by 19%, the value of bribes taken at each individual stop by between 25-28%, and increases the total amount taken on the road, even while the reduce the number of times they receive a bribe. Therefore Higher Salary = Greater Corruption.

Economic theory suggests that the opposite should have happened for the following reasons:

  • Corruption involves risk and if you earn a larger salary the loss is much greater
  • Officials are thought to have income targets and they will only behave in corrupt manner to make up for the difference.

Why are the officials more corrupt when they get a pay rise?

  • The researchers suggest that corrupt superiors or greedy family members demanded more money from the officers.
  • Getting a pay rise might have boosted the self-importance of the police and therefore they felt they could demand more money at checkpoints etc.
  • The risk of getting caught is very low

The Economist makes a good point by saying “in Ghana some are astonished that anybody could have believed that higher pay would have made cops less greedy. That is just not human nature.”



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