A strong and competent public sector is the necessary backbone of anticorruption policies that target the provision of government services. Cross-country research supports the view that a well-functioning bureaucracy contributes to economic growth (Mauro 1995; Evans and Rauch 1999: 750–3; Rauch and Evans 2000). Furthermore, other public-sector goals, such as redistribution to the poor, equitable and impartial service delivery, public security, and effective procompetitive regulation, will not be effective unless the state is capable of administering complex public programs.
A personnel system based on patronage and political loyalty undermines the efficient delivery of services and leads to the unfair administration of tax and regulatory laws. If corruption and self-dealing are embedded in a government that is otherwise democratizing and promoting market competition, this can delegitimize political and economic reform. An apolitical civil service can smooth changes in political leadership by maintaining continuity in service delivery (Adamolekun 1993: 41–3). The goal is not to isolate public administration completely from politics – an impossible task in any event – but to find ways to mediate the relationship. The Weberian ideal is a professional civil service that is politically neutral, has security of tenure, is paid a decent salary, is recruited and promoted on merit, and does not have property or business interests that conflict with the fair performance of its duties (ibid.). Some reformers question aspects of this traditional model, but even they support the principle that civil servants should not be hired and fired for political reasons (Reid and Scott 1994; Scott 1996).
There are several interlocking ways in which the public administration can perform poorly, over and above the corrupt incentives created by particular rent-generating programs, discussed in previous chapters. The main sources of failure are the lack of professionalism in the civil service; vague, complex, and confusing legal rules; poor management of government finances; and the risk of corrupt hierarchies. Corruption and self-dealing are symptoms of these underlying roots of failure.
A first key to the functioning of the modern bureaucratic state is the separation of roles. Modern government officials do not own their offices and must distinguish between actions appropriate to their roles as public agents and their roles as family members, friends, and members of larger ethnic, religious, or other groups.