Research / BFI Working PaperJul 14, 2022

The Real State: Inside The Congo’s Traffic Police Agency

Raul Sanchez de la Sierra, Kristof Titeca, Haoyang (Stan) Xie, Albert Malukisa Nkuku, Aimable A. Lameke

We analyze the organization of corruption in a state agency. The dual mandate of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s traffic police agency is to manage traffic and to enforce the traffic code. We first document that, in the capital’s branch, Kinshasa, traffic violation fines account for only 22% of the revenue of the branch. The remaining 78%, unofficial, comes from bribes paid by drivers, of which 63% is generated through a “quota scheme:” managers at police stations ask agents posted at street intersections to escort drivers to the stations, where the managers extract a bribe from the drivers. Experimentally decreasing the quota, hence mitigating its effect, we find that the quota scheme worsens the agency’s ability to fulfill its first mandate, while not improving its ability to fulfill the second. First, the quota causes 65% of all traffic jams and almost all accidents at the branch’s intersections. Second, we find evidence suggesting that it fuels false allegations against drivers—extortion—at a higher rate than it fuels true ones, consistent with the scheme not creating incentives to comply with the code. The findings emphasize that the manager’s demand for unofficial revenue is significant and creates profits and distortions beyond those that would be made possible via corruption by individual state officials.

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