Carson & Mota Prado: Brazilian Anti-Corruption Legislation and its Enforcement – Potential Lessons for Institutional Design

From the Introduction:

Over the past few decades corruption has emerged as a major issue in the global development discourse as policymakers and academics have increasingly focused on the political economy factors that promote or hinder inclusive, sustainable growth. No longer dismissed as innocuous grease speeding the wheels of inefficient bureaucracies (Huntington, 1968), corruption is now recognized widely as a force that undermines economic expansion and equality, accountable and transparent governance, and social cohesion (Bardhan, 1999; Gray and Kaufman, 1998; Mauro, 1995). While earlier investigations into the causes of corruption focused on societal and cultural factors, more recently, the rational actor model and new institutional economics have emphasized the role of institutional incentives on corrupt behaviors (Rose-Ackerman,
1999), suggesting they may be curtailed or fostered through institutional arrangements and reforms.

Building on this framework, we investigate Brazil’s struggle against corruption and the
institutional lessons revealed therein. Since returning to a democratic system in 1985, enacting a new constitution in 1988, and holding direct elections in 1989, Brazil has been plagued by corruption scandals. While the country outperforms many of its regional and developmental peers on various corruption-related indicators, corruption remains a problem in many areas of public life, most notably in regional and state governments, political parties, and parliament, as well as public procurement at all levels of government (Melo, 2013). In addition, many of the metrics capturing corruption have remained relatively stable since the transition to democracy in the late 1980s, and persistent and repeated scandals reveal continued and widespread corruption in various public institutions (Carson and Prado, 2014).

In this paper, we examine those reforms and institutions that have, anecdotally and empirically, proven potent in combating corruption in Brazil. Specifically, there has been significant progress associated with the systems of oversight and investigation (Speck, 2011; Arantes, 2011) but very little progress associated with punishment (Avritzer, 2011; Filgueiras, 2011; Taylor, 2009). Highlighting the interrelationships among state accountability institutions in these arenas, we argue that the duplication of oversight and investigative functions among various governmental entities has strengthened their collective impact. After reviewing the literature condemning the inefficiencies conventionally associated with institutional multiplicity, we examine the theoretical and empirical advantages of functional overlaps in the context of corruption, in which public power is used to secure private benefits. We then explore the instances of
institutional multiplicity in Brazil’s systems of corruption oversight (National Audit Court, Office of Comptroller General, media, civil society) and investigation (Public Ministry, Federal Police Department, Comptroller General). We contrast the successes achieved in oversight and investigation by these competing institutions with the obstacles encountered at the punishment stage of enforcement in which a single institution – the judiciary – has authority.

We conclude by arguing that our analysis of the Brazilian experience reveals the advantages in pursuing alternative institutional avenues through institutional multiplicity, in developing strategies to reduce corruption across contexts. We emphasize how functional institutional overlaps allow for compensation, collaboration and competition among various governmental entities and have bolstered anti-corruption efforts in Brazil. We argue that the country’s experience suggests that institutional multiplicity provides unique advantages in combatting a complex governance challenge like corruption.


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