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Abstract: When a young, former mining executive with no previous elective office experience is elected Mayor of La Paz, Bolivia in 1985, he expects to attack notorious inefficiency and overstaffing aggressively. But, within weeks, Mayor Ronald MacLean finds that, although he faces some predictable antagonists, such as public sector unions resistant to personnel cutbacks, he also faces difficulty in even understanding the workings of the city government. MacLean ultimately realizes that the problems he faces are less those of inefficiency than a more potent antagonist: corruption. This case describes the efforts of Mayor MacLean to understand how and why corruption has taken root in the La Paz government and to devise a strategy to uproot it. The second part of the case specifically spells out approaches which stem from MacLean's belief that corruption is less a reflection of cultural or ethical problems than one of poorly-designed systems which provide the medium for corruption to take hold. MacLean's progress in combating corruption is described, as is its recurrence following MacLean's departure from office.
Learning Objective: The case is well suited to discussions of organizational change but is best suited to specific discussion of corruption in the developing world and the ways in which progress against it can be institutionalized and sustained.