Accepted paper:

'Alors que c'est de notoriété qu'à la Direction de la Paie il y a des magouilles...' Administrative aspects of payroll management and wage payment in the DRC


Stylianos Moshonas (University of Antwerp)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses wage payment management in the DRC. Pace narratives of neopatrimonialism, it shows the importance of formal rules and regulations in the highly technical work undertaken by the payroll directorate, and argues their interplay with informal practices should be studied seriously.

Paper long abstract:

The Congolese administration is often depicted as a basket case of administrative corruption and malpractice. Surprisingly, however, not much has been written from an empirical perspective on the underlying practices of bureaucratic governance. Building on research conducted in 2010-2011 and in 2016-2017 in the central government dynamics surrounding payroll management, wage payment and ongoing HR reforms, this paper aims to help fill this gap, while challenging dominant interpretations of the Congolese 'state' which too frequently reduce its modus operandi to neopatrimonialism. The focus of this contribution will be two ministries active in the administrative segment of the expenditure chain with regards to remuneration: the ministry of civil service and the ministry of budget, and especially the payroll department in the latter. If the existence of corrupt practices is widely acknowledged - not least by civil servants themselves -, an in-depth look at how state personnel and civil servants undertake highly technical tasks under difficult working conditions at the payroll department suggests it would be misleading to dismiss official rules and formal procedures: indeed, these are pragmatically approached, often abided by, sometimes circumvented, and almost always (strategically) invoked - albeit in a context of profound legal and regulatory pluralism, surrounded by uncertainty, political interference, and donor influence. As such, it is argued, recourse to informal and practical rules is an inevitable necessity, in a context where the civil service is best understood as a conflictual arena, for the analysis of which over-determining concepts such as neopatrimonialism are singularly ill-suited.

panel P202
Taking rules seriously: Between formality and informality in African bureaucracies