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Politicians, Publicly-Released Audits of Corruption, and Electoral Outcomes in Brazil
Initial registration date
October 21, 2016
October 21, 2016 10:00 AM EDT
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio)
Additional Trial Information
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.
Ferraz, Claudio and Frederico Finan. 2016. "Politicians, Publicly-Released Audits of Corruption, and Electoral Outcomes in Brazil." AEA RCT Registry. October 21.
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 (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 (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
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
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.
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Sample size: planned number of 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)
Post Trial Information
Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
October 01, 2004, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Data Collection Completion Date
July 31, 2005, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
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
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
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