Politicians, Publicly-Released Audits of Corruption, and Electoral Outcomes in Brazil

Last registered on October 21, 2016


Trial Information

General Information

Politicians, Publicly-Released Audits of Corruption, and Electoral Outcomes in Brazil
Initial registration date
October 21, 2016

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
October 21, 2016, 10:00 AM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Political corruption is considered a major impediment to economic development, and yet it remains pervasive throughout the world. This paper examines the extent to which government audits of public resources can reduce corruption by enhancing political and judiciary accountability. We do so in the context of Brazil's anti-corruption program, which randomly audits municipalities for their use of federal funds. We find that being audited in the past reduces future corruption by 8 percent, while also increasing the likelihood of experiencing a subsequent legal action by 20 percent. We interpret these reduced-form findings through a political agency model, which we structurally estimate. Based on our estimated model, the reduction in corruption comes mostly from the audits increasing the perceived threat of the non-electoral costs of engaging in corruption.

Registration Citation

, and Frederico Finan. 2016. "Politicians, Publicly-Released Audits of Corruption, and Electoral Outcomes in Brazil." AEA RCT Registry. October 21. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1599
Former Citation
, and Frederico Finan. 2016. "Politicians, Publicly-Released Audits of Corruption, and Electoral Outcomes in Brazil." AEA RCT Registry. October 21. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1599/history/11385
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Experimental Details


Approximately 10 to 15 CGU auditors are sent to the treatment municipality to examine accounts and documents and to inspect the existence and quality of public work construction and delivery of public services. Auditors also meet members of the local community, as well as municipal councils, order to get direct complaints about any malfeasance. These auditors receive extensive training prior to visiting the municipality. Each team of auditors is also accompanied by a supervisor. After approximately ten days of inspections, a detailed report describing all the irregularities found is submitted to the central CGU office in Brasilia. The reports are then sent to the Tribunal de Contas da Uniao (TCU), to public prosecutors, and to the municipal legislative branch. For each municipality audited, a summary of the main finding a summary of the main findings is posted on the Internet and disclosed to main media sources.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Political corruption, Vote share, Re-election rate
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Political corruption is defined as any irregularity associated with fraud in procurements, diversion of public funds, and over-invoicing. Vote share and re-election rate were measured for incumbent mayors.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Prior to the October 2004 municipal elections, the Federal government randomly audited 676 municipalities. This study focuses on a sub-set of 376 municipalities who were eligible for analysis because they had first term mayors who were eligible for re-election. For treatment municipalities, the results of the audit were released prior to the election. The remaining municipalities served as a comparison group, and did not have the results of the audit released until after the election. The randomized assignment provided an opportunity to observe whether voter-access to information about a politician' s corruption level prior to the election impacted the average vote share and re-election rate for incumbent mayors. Data about political outcomes and mayoral characteristics are drawn from the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE) which provides vote totals for each candidate by municipality.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Municipalities were selected for audit by a lottery, held on a monthly basis and drawn in conjunction with the national lotteries. To ensure a fair and transparent process, representatives of the press, political parties, and members of the civil society are all invited to witness the lottery. Treatment and control groups were random, and based on whether or not audit reports were released before or after the election in October 2004.
Randomization Unit
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
373 municipalities
Sample size: planned number of observations
373 observations. Although the treatment is clustered, data was collected at the municipality level, so the number of observations remains 373.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
168 treatment municipalities received corruption information prior to the election.
205 control municipalities received information after the election took place.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number


Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
October 01, 2004, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
July 31, 2005, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
373 municipalities
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
168 treatment municipalities 205 control municipalities
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

This paper uses publicly released audit reports to study the effects of disclosing
information about corruption practices on electoral accountability in Brazil.
Ferraz, CLaudio and Frederico Finan. "Exposing Corrupt Politicians: The Effects of Brazil's Publicly Released Audits on Electoral Outcomes." The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2008) 123 (2): 703-745

Reports & Other Materials