As a countermeasure, yes; but must be complemented with other relevant policy options, for the simple reason that the motivations for corrupt practices are multifaceted, and reflect the diversity of individual and societal preference functions. Not only do we have anecdotal evidence to support the claim that better pay scales for civil servants conduce to lower levels of corruption, but empirical research also points to this effect, e.g. Rijckeghen /Weder, and Ackerman.

The consensus amongst experts in development economics (Kligaard, Ackerman) is that sustained economic development tends to suppress the incidence of bureaucratic corruption. This implies that as a country becomes economically richer, it acquires the ability to pay its civil servants salaries that are comparable to those in the private sector, and as a consequence the need to seek and accept bribes is minimized. This is the essence of the ‘fair-wage hypothesis’, and is especially relevant to poor countries in the Third World. The primary reason for bribe-seeking amongst low-level public servants in these countries is the inability of governments to pay a ‘living-wage’ to their employees. Take the case of Nigeria.

In the mid 1970s to the present, civil servants in Nigeria have been known to go for months without pay; some lucky enough to retire with benefits have gone without receiving their regular monthly pension payments for up to three years. This is not because the funds to make these payments have not been allocated and disbursed by the federal government, but instead, stems from the inhumane practice by division heads of the various ministries of depositing the funds in special accounts (Certificates of Deposits) in local banks, and when they mature they keep the interest payments for their personal use, and pay the civil servants from the original principal amount deposited. The payoff from this practice is generally in millions of the local currency. Thus, it is not uncommon then for police officers to solicit not only money but also food items from the same motorists they are supposed to regulate. The same observation is equally true for other government officials responsible for crucial social services who would either refuse to go to work during this period or go to work and extort their means of livelihood from members of the public who stood in need of their specialized services. In extreme instances, frustrated police officers would rent out their guns to local gangs who are more than happy to pay the officers much more than their regular pay (when they are paid), and to look the other way as they put their criminal enterprise into full effect.

Now this is the case where civil servants do not get their pay on a regular basis; the consequence on corruption is only a ‘few magnitudes’ removed from instances where, while being paid, the amount is paltry, and several times below comparable job skills in the private sector. In these instances, high pay scales for civil servants would be an efficient way to minimize low-level corrupt activities so rampant in developing countries, and seldom witnessed in advanced economies in the West. Pay reform, however, is not a ‘silver bullet’; other reform mechanisms would have to be implemented either simultaneously or sequentially for the desired effect on corruption to materialize.

The ‘shirking model’ a la Shapiro and Stiglitz supports the theory that higher pay tends to reduce corruption but cautions that in the mix of high bribe levels and low probability of apprehension with marginal punishment schemes, pay reforms for civil servants may not curb the incidence of corruption. Anecdotally, the thrust of this theory is readily observable in African countries; that African heads of states and their ministers now own much of the mansions and apartment buildings in fashionable districts of London, Paris, Miami attests to the fact that while these ministers, state governors and other high ranking officials are well-paid for their public services, they still manage to loot the public treasury.

The Becker-Stigler model of the effects of wages on corruption was applied by Tella and Schargrodsky in their study of the role of wages and auditing in Buenos Aires’ public hospitals. Their study showed that when the intensity of audits is high, wages have no noticeable effects on corruption, but such effect increases (negatively) in the relative absence of heightened scrutiny. Their study thus comports well with the Becker-Stigler hypothesis. Anecdotal evidence from Nigeria in 1975 also lends credence to this theory. Soon after General Murtala Mohammed took power in a coup in 1975, he embarked on a mission of zero tolerance for corruption. But to show his seriousness in this regard, he sold more than fifty rental properties he owned in his home state (Kano)when he was a general in the army. Once done, he ordered all civil servants to be on duty at exactly 8 A.M. every work day, required that salaries be paid promptly on the last day of each month, and retired those 55 years and older. Any civil servant caught taking bribe was subject to immediate dismissal, prosecution, and loss of illegally acquired wealth. The program worked, and was hailed by everyone but the civil servants as a success —- perceived and actual bribery dropped remarkably (police officers became afraid to ask for or accept bribes when offered), civil servants were in their offices ready to serve at exactly 8 A.M. everyday. But it did not last, for as soon as he was assassinated two years later, civil servants returned to business as usual, and tried to re-coup all they lost in the last two years. So there is strong evidence that the threat of punishment or the implementation of programs that crack down on corrupt practices have real effects on the incidence of corruption. But such programs work only temporarily, for with time, even the program becomes the vehicle for corruption as those charged with its execution become corrupted in the process. As one politician once observed in Nigeria, “If Jesus Christ had lived and preached in Nigeria, he would have been corrupted.”

So it may be concluded from the literature on bureaucratic corruption, and anecdotal evidence that pay reforms that increase compensations for civil servants tend to minimize corrupt practices amongst low level government employees, but such reforms may be ineffective at the upper ranks of civil servants unless when implemented in conjunction with high scrutiny; it may also be ineffective in countries with advanced economies since wages and salaries in the public sector are almost on par with those in the private sector for similar skills.