Accounting for Corruption: Evaluating State Audit Agencies in Mexico
Osorio Zago, Francisco
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractCorruption is frequently reported as a very important issue throughout Mexico. International surveys suggest it is a salient issue for citizens throughout the country. In the past decade, numerous governors and mayors have faced accusations of embezzling millions into their own pockets. At the same time, the international community has promoted the creation and strengthening of a governmental organization responsible for identifying and preventing corruption. Supreme audit institutions (SAI) were created with the intention of accounting budgets and confirming the legality of governmental spending. SAIs have access to information on governmental spending and can identify errors that merit further scrutiny. This organization was supposed to facilitate the application of horizontal accountability. Why do supreme audit institutions vary in their performance? Scholars and the international community agree that autonomy and independence are necessary conditions for the objective and effective application of audits. Research on SAIs has consistently focused on identifying autonomy, a feature that is supposed to insulate an organization from politics. This dissertation argues that autonomy does not suffice as a measure of independence and that SAIs can be politicized through the appointment of partisan superior-auditors. Although autonomy provides the SAI with the ability to audit by providing it with decision-making discretion, that autonomy can be undermined by partisan auditors who are less willing to implement audits. The dissertation tests these theoretical expectations by focusing on subnational SAIs in Mexico. The Auditoria Superior del Estado exists in all 32 states and these vary along the dimensions of autonomy and politicization. It compiles data on municipal audits for every municipality in Mexico. It then identifies the partisan affiliations of each auditor and mayor during this period as well as creating a composite score of organizational autonomy. Through various linear probability models the dissertation finds that autonomy can provide an SAI with the ability to audit but the use of that autonomy is contingent on the superior-auditors partisan linkages. Independent auditors are more willing to audit at high levels of autonomy while partisan auditors tend to apply audits less frequently. In addition, partisan auditors may select their co-partisans for audits more frequently than municipalities of the opposition party, a finding that merits more attention in future research. The results suggest that research into SAIs need to consider autonomy and independence separately, highlighting the importance of identifying partisan linkages to positions that should be insulated from politics. The dissertation concludes with a discussion on how corruption has permeated the application of horizontal accountability in SAIs of Mexico.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Government and Public Policy