what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, December 11, 2009

my list of useful comparative papers on public management reform

Iain MacWhirter is one of the links I recommend in the sidebar – and yesterday’s post on the latest phase of the banker’s scam in the UK is a good example of his writing. Cold mist has been surrounding the house for the past few days – and the trees had a delicate glow of snow this morning. But usually the snow is deep by now.

Yesterday I was still collating what I consider are key references for my briefing note on public management reform efforts (in Europe) and beginning to give some thought to the sort of structure my note will need.
First, however, I need to reread the “seminal accounts” – which, despite the large number of academic titles on comparative work in this field, are fairly small in number since most academic overviews which purport to be comparative actually fall into one of two rather different categories. First there are the ad-hoc collections of case-studies illustrating the priorities of a particular country. The best of this are written around a common set of questions – but most leave it to the author to decide how he wants to write about an experience.
The second type is more comparative – but focussed on a particular tool or approach eg financial, performance management, personnel, agencies, decentralisation etc For example the 2008 book on Managing Performance – international comparisons by Brouckaert and Halligan. A weakness of these books for the practitioner is that they are written to gain points in the academic community – and have therefore to use whatever description they contain into a specialist discourse. Academic discourse is bad enough – but some of the recent post-modernist are evil!
It is for this reason that the most useful books from the practitioner point are those which have been specially commissioned for a customer in the state sector eg OECD or written by an international body. So far my list includes the following -

Public sector reform in Western Europe (1997) Overview paper by Toone and Raadschelder to a larger academic study
Why is it so difficult to reform public administration? Government of the future – getting from here to there (1999) Series of OECD Conference papers
Public Management Reform – a comparative analysis (2000); Academic book by Pollitt and Brouckaert
Performance or compliance – performance audit and public management in five countries (2002); Academic book by Chris Pollitt
International Public Administration Reform – implications for the Russian Federation (2003); Commissioned study by Nick Manning and Neil Parison of the World Bank
Evaluation in public sector reform – concepts and practice (2003); an academic book by Herbert Wollmann
Responses to country questionnaire (2005); national inputs to an OECD survey
International Comparison of UK’s public administration (2008); Report commissioned by National Audit Office
Commentary on international models of good government (2008); Report commissioned by National Audit Office

Perhaps the most useful are the Manning report and the second last paper.
The Manning report (about 400 pages) selects countries considered to have some common features with Russian which might make their experience interesting. These are - Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Korea, UK, USA on which there are individual chapters. The analysis sets up a typology of perceived problems and subsequent reform tools. Then at the results – suggesting that some countries have forces of resistance which make them “low traction” – for which certain tools only are relevant
The NAO paper is perhaps the most intriguing.It suggests that good public administration can be defined by sets of “values”,” outcomes” and “enablers”.
Good PAs are responsive, transparent, accountable, equitable and have a public service ethos.
These can be measured by high quality services, public confidence and trust, good policy advice, culture of seeking value for money and “stability and continuity”
“Enablers” are Culture of performance, Management; Appropriately skilled public Administration; Good leadership; Capacity for change. The report then identifies comparative indices on these outcomes and enablers to rank the UK system

The paintings are all by Atanas Mihov (1879-1974) one of my favourites for his use of colour. Born Stara Zagora. Graduated 1904 from Drawing School. Sofia where he studied under Vesin and Mrkvichka. One of the initiators of Bulgarian realistic painting.
1906-09 teacher in Silistra; 1910-12 Razgrad; 1918-23 Russe. War artist during Balkan War and First WW. Settled in Sofia 1923 where he worked in Knyazhevoo until 1932. I wish I cd find out more about him

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