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What impact does corruption have on development, and what’s the best way to stamp it out? Some in the media would have you believe that large amounts of public money are being pocketed by corrupt officials, and that the only way to stop it is to cut foreign aid budgets. Meanwhile, aid agencies and others argue that foreign aid is necessary to save lives. How do we square these? 

In a new book called Results, Not ReceiptsCounting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption, CGD senior fellow Charles Kenny offers a way to strengthen the case for aid and reduce corruption at the same time: focus on outcomes, rather than inputs. 

“If you get a road built to quality . . . and you’ve ended up with a price that seems right for the cost of building that road, there’s no money left over there to fuel corruption,” Kenny explains in this week’s podcast. On the other hand, he says, if you don’t monitor the outcome of your project, it becomes very easy for contractors to cut corners. 

Focusing on outcomes also helps donors and agencies demonstrate impact. “When you focus very heavily on receipts, all you have to show your voter is a bunch of paper,” Kenny tells me. “I want to see the healthy kid, I want to see the kid who’s been educated. . . . If we can deliver that, I think we make the case for aid much stronger.”