This paper presents a novel theory of corruption in public procurement. It considers an agency setting of contract execution where the principal is a politician who can commit to a contract auditing policy. It is found that a benevolent politician, by choosing a sufficiently strict auditing, deters the contracting firm from padding costs, conversely, a selfish politician chooses a relatively lax auditing in order to create an incentive for cost-padding, and engages in corruption with the firm in case of detection. If the cost of auditing is high enough, even a benevolent politician might prefer to allow cost-padding.
Corruption in procurement Cost-padding Selfish politician Endogenous auditing Procurement contracts Principal-agent model