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In explaining corruption, political science and political economy have usually looked at an array of «remote factors» related to the political market and the institutional setting. So far, however, such literature has produced contradictory evidence. We reason that a better understanding can instead follow from a focus on manipulable factors that are «proximate» to a causal mechanism.
Corruption mainly occurs in the administrative dimension of the rule-making and delivery, and depends on the complaisance of public managers: therefore, in our hypothesis, it can be explained by the hindering capacity of administrative accountability designs - that is, by differences in agencies’ «accountees» and obligations to answer. We also consider that realistic explanations are provided by «ecologies» of obligations, and that many ecologies can equally obtain - or fail.
To test our expectations, we present an original dataset of devices for administrative accountability, and analyse the association of device configurations with the Perception of Corruption Index in 17 EU countries by using fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis. We find that our model can account for differences between «clean» and «corrupt» cases, while identifying consistent alternative paths that account for positive and negative subpopulations.
Alessia Damonte is senior lecturer in political science at the Università degli Studi di Milano - where she teaches "Models of Governance" and "Qualitative Comparative Analysis". Her research interests focus on effective governance designs, and on suitable comparative strategies for assessing them. Among her published works, "Toward a better fiscal governance?" (World Political Science Review 2014), "Controlling bureaucracies with fire alarms" (Journal of European Public Policies 2014, with C. Dunlop and C. Radaelli), "Policy tools for green growth in the EU15" (Environmental Politics 2013).
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