Information, oversight, and compliance: A field experiment on horizontal accountability in Brazil


Does the provision of information about local bureaucracies to the politicians who oversee them decrease irregularities and improve bureaucratic effectiveness? Information interventions are appealing because of their solid microeconomic foundations and their relatively low costs. However, recent experimental studies of information campaigns aimed at fostering vertical ac- countability (between voters and politicians) have found mixed results. Providing information to politicians directly could be more powerful, given politicians? direct responsibility for allo- cating and managing resources. Information may be particularly effective when provided by auditing institutions, given politicians? susceptibility to sanctions by these horizontal account- ability actors. I partnered with the audit court of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte to experimentally study the effects of informing local politicians (both in government and in the opposition) about irregularities and performance in the bureaucracies they oversee. Outcomes are measured using administrative payroll data, a face-to-face survey of bureaucrats, and an online survey of politicians. Preliminary results suggest the treatment reduced the share of workers hired under temporary contracts, increased knowledge about rules among politicians, and changed politicians? sense of accountability pressure from the state audit court.

Working paper

Presented at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (Natal, Brazil, 2019), the State Audit Court of Rio Grande do Norte (Natal, Brazil, 2019), the 2019 Latin American Studies Association Congress (LASA, Boston), and the 2019 Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting (MPSA, Chicago)

Guillermo Toral
Guillermo Toral
Assistant Professor of Political Science