Many Sub-Saharan African countries lack the capacity to directly implement large public projects, and instead frequently employ private contractors to perform public sector responsibilities: at 14.5% of GDP, low-income countries have the highest share of public procurement in their economies (World Bank 2017). Relatedly, poor countries also often lack sufficient state capacity to effectively incentivize high quality public goods provision by private contractors, with limited capacity to implement sophisticated contract design, monitoring schemes, contract publication, or audits. This may result in widespread leakage of funds and collusion that redirects public funds towards private actors. However the extent of collusion, the costs this imposes on public service provision, and the specific policy mechanisms that could address these problems remain underexplored. This is a particularly relevant concern in the context of Kenya Power’s US$400 million Last Mile Connectivity Project, where evidence from budgets, invoices, and construction outcomes document extensive leakages. Researchers are exploring to what extent do independent monitoring of contractors, donor aid conditionality, and politicians’ electoral incentives each play in the technical construction and leakages from a nationwide infrastructure project. Results forthcoming.
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