Safety net programs help provide opportunities and increase the quality of life for the poor in developing countries. Yet they are prime targets for corruption due their decentralized and complex nature, which often leads to inadequate oversight and mismanagement. Discretionary decision-making by officials provide countless opportunities to exploit these systems through favoritism in procurement and contracting, abuse of program resources, and the extortion of bribes. As a result of these corruptive practices, citizens do not receive the services to which they are entitled and public resources are squandered.
PTF supported 12 CSOs to implement 16 projects that have reduced corruption in two social safety net instruments – public food distribution schemes and public works programs. All of these projects were implemented in India, where pervasive corruption in social safety net programs has deprived citizens, especially the poor and most vulnerable, of their rights and entitlements frequently across the country. Activities undertaken through PTF support have included training programs covering social audits, public hearing techniques, community scorecards, and India’s Right-to-Information (RTI) law and its application. Most report success in raising citizen awareness, promoting collective action, reducing corruption, and improving program operations insure fuller access to entitlements.
Working Paper 5: Corruption in Public Food Distributions Systems and Working Paper 6: Controlling Corruption in Public Works Safety Nets review these experiences and make recommendations for future action.