Panel Paper: Effects of Normalized Corruption in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico

Friday, July 20, 2018
Building 3, Room 213 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elizabeth H. Perez-Chiques, State University of New York at Albany

Although in place for more than 100 years, Puerto Rico’s merit-based civil-service system still does not function to uphold merit as officially intended. Patronage--the disbursement of public resources or benefits in exchange for political support--is a normal and routine part of governing in Puerto Rico. What are the mechanisms that keep patronage in place? Why is the law so ineffective at rooting them out? And what reforms might work better? Through a mixed-method strategy—including 24 in-depth interviews with public employees, participant observation, and analysis of political discrimination and public corruption cases—this research aims to understand: how patronage relates to the formal merit-based system, how public bureaucrats experience and understand patronage, and the effects of the informal patronage system on government bureaucracy, public policy, and, ultimately, social outcomes. Job patronage is often at the core of political corruption and is considered a pre-condition for other forms of systemic corruption, with the potential for enormous social, political, and economic repercussions. This paper focuses on two recent government failures that were facilitated by the informal patronage system--(1) a grand-scale corruption case involving multiple government agencies, and (2) the administrative and political order of erasing thousands of child abuse referrals pending investigation prior to the 2012 general elections. This paper addresses the wider effects of patronage on policy and the effects of the politicization of the official functions of bureaucrats.

This paper is well suited to panels on bureaucracy, corruption, ethics, and interpretive methods.