Based on comparative research on the mechanisms and representations of petty corruption in West Africa, this article analyses the principal figures of administrative brokerage within the justice system, the customs and the local Senegalese fiscal services. Contractual, voluntary or informal staff mitigate the difficulties of access to bureaucratic institutions, while at the same time being used as a conduit for corrupt transactions. In the context of an opaque, under-equipped administration, barely-controlled and with disproportionate discretionary powers, these auxiliary staff contribute both to the daily functioning of the Senegalese post-adjustment state, and to its circumvention. Through an ethnography of the relationships between the public services and their users, this article describes the important operational logics of the local government, which lay the foundation for the practices of intermediation and brokerage. It also evokes the emergence of new forms of informal privatization and the progressive institutionalization of the ‘informal’ as a management mode of the state in everyday life.