In 2014, the performance management model seemed to be well established in India’s central government. Today, everything has changed. “India has no formal system for government performance management,” Prajapati Trivedi writes in commentary for Governance, “and all performance reviews are done in the office of the Prime Minister in the old-fashioned way.” Trivedi explains the “spectacular rise . . . and speedy demise” of performance management. The story “offers valuable lessons for future reformers” in other democracies. Trivedi received ASPA’s International Public Administration Award at its March conference. Free access to the commentary.
Reformers in many developed countries relied on the creation of semi-autonomous agencies as a strategy for improving citizen satisfaction with government. Did agencification actually produce the expected result? Sjors Overman draws on data from fifteen European countries and suggests that it can, although for unexpected reasons. In the domain of tax services, “semi-autonomous authorities absorb some of the blame for bad performance for the government . . . The presence of an agency worked as a scapegoat for dissatisfied services users, and resulted in less dissatisfaction with the government.” Read the article.
“Budget support” is a form of aid whereby a donor provides direct financial support to a recipient government’s budget. It could also be used as a tool for punishing governments that fail to fight corruption, respect human rights, or meet other good governance norms. But how often is this tool used for such purposes? Nadia Molenaers, Anna Gagiano and Lodewijk Smets describe a new database that covers all budget support suspensions between 1999 and 2014. A preliminary analysis shows that forty percent of suspensions fall in the “democracy and human rights” category. The data set can be downloaded by researchers. Read the research note.
In a new article for Governance, Katherine Bersch, Sérgio Praça, and Matthew Taylor respond to calls for better measures of state capacity and bureaucratic autonomy at the subnational level. Their new measures are “objective and independent of outcome.” And they allow exploration of the causes of corruption within Brazil. “Low capacity and autonomy are associated with higher corruption,” they find. Single-party dominance also increases corruption through its negative effects on agency capacity. Read the article.
Britain’s “Next Steps” program was supposed to redefine the bargain between ministers and senior public service executives, granting more autonomy in exchange for more direct accountability. But it hasn’t always worked out that way, Thomas Elston explains. We need to distinguish explicit and tacit aspects of the “public service bargain,” and recognize that these two aspects move “in and out of alignment with each other.” In the UK justice sector, oversight of agencies is “far more hierarchical and contract based.” But the appearance of independence allows politicians to make more intricate calculations about credit-claiming or blame-avoiding for agency activities. Read the article.
Why do voters support corrupt politicians? In the current issue of Governance, Eric Chang and Nicholas Kerr examine voter attitudes and behavior in eighteen sub-Saharan African countries. They distinguish between outsiders and two kinds of insiders: those who belong to patronage networks, and those who share partisan or ethnic affilations with incumbents. “Patronage insiders” recognize higher levels of corruption but tolerate it, while “identity insiders” are simply less aware of political corruption. Read the article.
Transparency’s rise as an administrative norm over the past few decades has seemed unstoppable. But what will happen in the era of Trump? Mark Fenster explores this question in a new commentary for Governance. He distinguishes between two conceptions of transparency — technocratic and populist. Trump seems likely to resist the first conception while embracing the second. Transparency advocates, who have grown accustomed to thinking about openness in technocratic terms, will have to develop new ways of talking about the subject. They should “deploy the moral and populist understanding of transparency” that is preferred by Trump himself, to defend the laws and regulations that have been put in place to assure openness. Free access to the commentary.