Accountability after Structural Disaggregation: Comparing Agency Accountability Arrangements

 

With Marieke van Genugten and Sandra van Thiel

 

Published in Public Administration

 

New accountability instruments – performance indicators, audits, and financial incentives – are expected to replace traditional accountability instruments in NPM reforms. We test this expectation by looking at the accountability arrangements of semi-autonomous agencies as a typical example of NPM reforms. Our findings are based on survey data on 342 agencies in six countries. We identify four types of accountability arrangements in semi-autonomous agencies, in line with the four trajectories of public management reform identified by Pollitt and Bouckaert (2004). Accountability relations between agencies and ministries are determined by country-specific administrative regimes, types of agency, and to a lesser extent, agencies' policy fields. We identify new avenues for theory and research into the effects of reforms on accountability in the public sector, and on semi-autonomous agencies in particular.

Agencification and Public Sector Performance:
A Systematic Comparison in 20 Countries

 

With Sandra van Thiel

 

Published in Public Management Review (download full text)

The increased establishment of semi-autonomous agencies in most countries from the 1980s on has been justified by claims of expected improvement in public sector performance. Empirical research to test these claims has been scarce, based on single cases and showing mixed results. This study tests these claims at the macro level in twenty countries using a range of indicators and variables. Overall, we find a negative effect of agencification on both public sector output and efficiency. This refutes the economic claims about agencification.

Resisting Governmental Control:
How Semi-Autonomous Agencies Use Strategic Resources to Challenge State Coordination

 

With Sandra van Thiel and François Lafarge

 

Published in International Review of Administrative Sciences (download full text)

Institutional pressure caused by public sector reform leads to strategic reactions from semi-autonomous agencies. Agencies in the Netherlands and France only complied with a selection of imposed reforms. Other rules were manipulated, not complied with, or compromises were made. The degree of compliance with reforms is not only dependent on structural aspects, but also on resources and power distributions between the actors. A comparison is made between the introduction of the Dutch Kaderwet ZBO and the French Révision Générale des Politiques Publiques. These agency reforms are contested between ministries, rather than between agency and parent ministry alone. Parent ministries tend to side with their agencies in both countries. In the Netherlands, power-related issues were most debated, whereas in France money-related issues caused most disagreement.

Publications

A selection of my recent publications is included below. Please click the links to access the full articles.

Government 2.0: Key Challenges to Its Realization

 

With Albert Meijer, Bert-Jaap Koops, Willem Pieterson, and Sanne ten Tije

 

Published in Electronic Journal of e-Government

 

Government 2.0 is often presented as a means to reinforce the relation between state and citizens in an information age. The promise of Government 2.0 is impressive but its potential has not or hardly been realized yet in practice. This paper uses insights from various disciplines to understand Government 2.0 as an institutional transformation. It focuses on three key issues - leadership in government, incentives for citizens and mutual trust - and our analysis shows that Government 2.0 efforts are too often guided by overly optimistic and simplified ideas about these issues. Our discussion suggests that there are no easy, one-size-fits-all ways to address challenges of leadership, citizen incentives and trust: a contextual approach and hard work is needed to tackle these challenges. Realizing Government 2.0 means looking beyond the technology and understanding its potential in a specific situation.

Great Expectations of Public Service Delegation
A Systematic Review

 

Published in Public Management Review (download full text)

Politicians use a variety of expectations to justify the delegation of public services to public, semi-public or private organizations. This paper reveals expectations of delegation, as well as its correlates. Empirical evidence is drawn from a systematic review of 250 peer-reviewed articles published in leading public administration journals between 2000 and 2012. This study identifies a discourse with three main categories of justifications: scientists and practitioners expect economic, political, and organizational benefits. The effects associated with delegation are not in line with these expectations. Delegation has inconsistent correlations to outcomes when governments maintain a role in service delivery. Complete privatization is associated with negative outcomes. These results have important implications for the study and practice of delegation.

Autonomous Agencies, Happy Citizens?
Challenging the Satisfaction Claim
 

Published in Governance

 

Is the delegation of public services to semi-autonomous agencies associated with increased citizen satisfaction? This article assesses three theoretical routes that might link the two: responsiveness, credible commitment, and blame deflection. The study draws on data from the European Social Survey and an expert survey about delegation of tax and police services to semi-autonomous agencies in 15 countries. No supporting evidence was found for the responsiveness and credible commitment theories. Yet semi-autonomous agencies sometimes can absorb or deflect blame for bad performance. In the tax case, dissatisfied service users blame the agency, rather than the government. The presence of an agency worked as a scapegoat for dissatisfied service users and resulted in less dissatisfaction with the government in countries where tax services were delegated.

Targets for Honesty:
How Performance Indicators Shape Integrity in Dutch Higher Education
 

met Agnes Akkerman en René Torenvlied

Published in Public Administration

 

Universities across the world have recently experienced a number of serious cases of academic misconduct. In the public and academic debates, one dominant explanation exists for the fraudulent behavior of university staff. Academic misconduct is considered to be the logical behavioral consequence of output-oriented management practices, based on performance incentives. This article puts this explanation to the test. Based on our analysis of a data set of employees in Dutch higher education (N = 4,775) from 2010 and 2012, we argue that performance indicators have a positive impact on higher education professionals' perception of integrity in their work environment.

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s.p.overman [at] uu.nl

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