Infrastructure for Whom? Corruption Risks in Infrastructure Provision Across Europe

Mihály Fazekas, Bence Tóth: Infrastructure for Whom? Corruption Risks in Infrastructure Provision Across Europe. In: The Governance of Infrastructure. Ed.: Wegrich K, Kostka G, Hammerschmid G. Hertie School of Governance, 9 March 2017. URL:

Infrastructure provision from roads to sanitation involves large amounts of public funds in highly complex projects comprehensible only to a few. Hence, it is hardly a surprise that all across Europe, but especially in high corruption risk countries, it is a primary target of corrupt elites. This is amply evidenced by countless scandals and trials, perception surveys and increasingly ‘objective’ data on corruption risks. Central- and Eastern European and Mediterranean countries procure infrastructure development at about 2-3 higher corruption risk than Western European countries. Corruption in infrastructure provision can compromise public goals in at least three direct ways: 1) distorting spending structure and project design; 2) inflating prices; and 3) contributing to delayed and low quality provision, in extreme cases non-completion. The first two of these are analysed in detail in this chapter in order to provide a state of the art assessment of problem hotspots and to put forward promising policy responses. Findings indicate that corruption steers infrastructure spending towards high value as opposed to small value investment projects. It also inflates prices by 30-50% on average with largest excesses in high corruption risk regions. As corruption in infrastructure is decoupled to a considerable extent from the general corruption environment, targeted interventions are needed. Based on findings, it is recommended that infrastructure is monitored using improved open datasets and state-of-the-art analytical tools, spending is closely linked to user demand, and a tailor-made implementation regime is applied to exceptionally large EU funded projects. Source data and risk scores are released to further inform policy decisions and scholarly research.