International Review of Administrative Sciences

Sage Publications, Inc.
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Latest documents

  • Reuse of open data in Quebec: from economic development to government transparency

    Based on the history of open data in Quebec, this article discusses the reuse of these data by various actors within society, with the aim of securing desired economic, administrative and democratic benefits. Drawing on an analysis of government measures and community practices in the field of data reuse, the study shows that the benefits of open data appear to be inconclusive in terms of economic growth. On the other hand, their benefits seem promising from the point of view of government transparency in that it allows various civil society actors to monitor the integrity and performance of government activities. In the age of digital data and networks, the state must be seen not only as a platform conducive to innovation, but also as a rich field of study that is closely monitored by various actors driven by political and social goals. Points for practitioners Although the economic benefits of open data have been inconclusive so far, governments, at least in Quebec, must not stop investing in opening up their data. In terms of transparency, the results of the study suggest that the benefits of open data are sufficiently promising to continue releasing government data, if only to support the evaluation and planning activities of public programmes and services.

  • How do international bureaucrats affect policy outputs? Studying administrative influence strategies in international organizations

    The article investigates how international public administrations, as corporate actors, influence policymaking within international organizations. Starting from a conception of international organizations as political-administrative systems, we theorize the strategies international bureaucrats may use to affect international organizations’ policies and the conditions under which these strategies vary. Building on a most-likely case design, we use process tracing to study two cases of bureaucratic influence: the influence of the secretariat of the World Health Organization on the “Global action plan for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases”; and the influence of the International Labour Office on the “Resolution concerning decent work in global supply chains”. We use interview material gathered from international public administration staff and stakeholders to illustrate varying influence strategies and the conditions under which these strategies are used. The study shows how and when international public administrations exert policy influence, and offers new opportunities to extend the generalizability of public administration theories. Points for practitioners International bureaucrats influence the outcomes of multilateral negotiations by means of their technical expertise and strategic involvement in the decision-making process. Their influence is primarily geared toward achieving organizational goals. However, the perception of too much influence can threaten the implementation of a decision. Political leadership needs to find the right balance between encouraging entrepreneurial behavior and providing sufficient political steering. Civil servants themselves need a well-functioning political radar to sense how far they can push with their ambitions.

  • Delegating diplomacy: rhetoric across agents in the United Nations General Assembly

    When political principals send agents to international organizations, those agents are often assumed to speak in a single voice. Yet, various types of country representatives appear on the international stage, including permanent representatives as well as more overtly “political” government officials. We argue that permanent delegates at the United Nations face career incentives that align them with the bureaucracy, setting them apart from political delegates. To that end, they tend to speak more homogeneously than do other types of speakers, while also using relatively more technical, diplomatic rhetoric. In addition, career incentives will make them more reluctant to criticize the United Nations. In other words, permanent representatives speak more like bureaucratic agents than like political principals. We apply text analytics to study differences across agents’ rhetoric at the United Nations General Assembly. We demonstrate marked distinctions between the speech of different types of agents, contradictory to conventional assumptions, with implications for our understandings of the interplay between public administration and agency at international organizations. Points for practitioners Delegations to international organizations do not “speak with one voice.” This article illustrates that permanent representatives to the United Nations display more characteristics of bureaucratic culture than do other delegates from the same country. For practitioners, it is important to realize that the manner in which certain classes of international actors “conduct business” can differ markedly. These differences in tone—even among delegates from the same principal—can impact the process of negotiation and debate.

  • Unintended consequences in implementing public sector accounting reforms in emerging economies: evidence from Egypt, Nepal and Sri Lanka

    This study investigates the implementation of public sector accounting reforms in Egypt, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Data for the article are derived through document analysis and semi-structured interviews with public administrators, government accountants and members of professional accountancy bodies. The article brings out the factors that have either individually or collectively stifled the diffusion trajectory of public sector accounting reforms in Egypt, Nepal and Sri Lanka at the implementation phase, including the bundling process, pro-innovation biases, informal and interpersonal networks, a boundary-spanning process, organisational communication, power disparity, and dominance. As a result, public sector accounting reforms have resulted in resistance, internal conflicts and unintended consequences, including the fabrication of results, in all three countries without any evidence of yielding better results for public sector governance and accountability. Points for practitioners Public sector accounting practitioners should realise the importance of considering the specific contexts of emerging economies, including the power structures, communication channels, informal networks and communication flows, prior to the diffusion of reforms. When such contextual elements are de-emphasised, reforms would tend to encounter delay and resistance, ongoing reforms in Egypt, Nepal and Sri Lanka serving as examples. Also, instead of delegating power to professional accountants and expert groups, they can be employed as boundary spanners to facilitate communication with government accountants about the technical complexities of public sector accounting reforms. This may help establish an efficient communication network and strengthen interpersonal and informal networks, enabling reforms to pass through the diffusion trajectory without being stifled at the implementation phase.

  • Not decided in the kitchen! Technocracy and the regulatory-welfare politics of India’s Direct Benefits Transfer reform

    Public policies designed to advance governance reform without the corresponding legal frameworks that secure democratic values can exacerbate the power imbalance between the government and the policies’ targets. This article discusses India’s post-liberalization changes through the governance paradigms of New Public Management and technocracy. Using the case of Direct Benefits Transfer reform, it traces the emergence of technocracy as a governance paradigm. It discusses the implications of technocracy’s complementarity with contemporary populism for the restructuring of social citizenship. It makes a case for a neo-Weberian transformation through a renewed commitment to a legal approach to public administration in order to reinforce the public’s faith in the role of the administrative state as an instrument of emancipation and social progress. Points for practitioners Public administration, especially in non-Western contexts, is characterized by the prioritization of managerial innovations in government over the establishment of legal frameworks. In that context, this article illustrates two central points for practitioners: • The powers of delegated legislation should be exercised transparently and by establishing a clear relationship to the formally stated policy objectives. • The operations of the administrative state should be structured in order to advance the goals of both distributive and procedural justice.

  • Public–private partnerships: procedural over results-driven accountability

    The article examines to what extent Dutch and Spanish officials make trade-offs between process and result accountability during the design, management and adaptation of contracts for public–private partnerships. The countries’ distinct administrative traditions (legalistic versus managerial-oriented, respectively) are expected to be influential. Analysing contracts, policy documents and interviews with 89 Dutch and Spanish project members, the article shows that Dutch administrators focus on outcome accountability, following the tenets of relational governance, whereas Spanish officials opt for process accountability in line with the contractual governance framework in non-clinical services, and for result accountability for clinical services in hospitals. Points for practitioners • Procedural and results-based accountability are not necessarily alternatives. High legalistic countries may emphasize process accountability but results-based accountability is needed to realize the potential from the private-sector operator delivering public services. • Long-term contracts require that the procurer first sets the results to be achieved and then work out the more suitable accountability mechanisms. • Results-based accountability requires competencies that are not easily found in the public sector of legalistic countries and this is key for properly giving account of the contract.

  • Interconnected bureaucracies? Comparing online and offline networks during global climate negotiations

    Measuring the influence of international public administrations has traditionally been conducted with ‘offline’ data, using interviews, surveys or official documents. However, an emerging strand of the literature argues that influence can also be observed ‘online’, with data based on online social networks, such as Twitter. Our contribution aims at bringing these two strands closer together. We triangulate offline data from a large-N survey with online data from Twitter to examine to what extent they provide distinct theoretical and methodological insights into the role of international public administrations in global governance. As a case study, we use the policy area of global climate governance, an issue area where the influence of international public administrations has raised increasing scholarly interest. Our findings show that international public administrations occupy potentially influential positions in both ‘offline’ and ‘online’ networks. They are more often central actors in the survey network than in Twitter network, but in both networks, they constitute the primary source of issue-specific information. Points for practitioners First, online social networks provide practitioners with opportunities to connect and interact with other political actors and help shape public discourse through communication. Second, online social networks provide important forums for societal actors who aim to protect global public goods. Third, online social networks offer actors the opportunity to shape values and norms, and to persuade persons or organizations beyond one’s own circle. Therefore, it is particularly important that online communication strategies are carefully designed and implemented in view of their potential power.

  • Administrative convergence in the United Nations system? Patterns of administrative reform in four United Nations organizations over time

    This article asks how and why United Nations organizations reform their administrative structure and processes over time. It explores whether we can observe a convergence towards a coherent administrative model in the United Nations system. Like in most nation states, reform discussions according to models like New Public Management or post-New Public Management have permeated international public administrations. Against this background, the question of administrative convergence discussed for national administrative systems also arises for United Nations international public administrations. On the one hand, similar challenges, common reform ‘fashions’ and an increasing exchange within the United Nations system make convergence likely. Yet, on the other hand, distinct tasks, administrative styles and path dependencies might support divergent reform trajectories. This question of convergence is addressed by measuring the frequency, direction and rationales for reforms, using a sample of four international public administrations from the United Nations’ specialized agencies (the Food and Agriculture Organization, International Labour Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank). We find that convergence depends on the area of reform (human resources or organizational matters are more harmonized than others) and time (some international public administrations are faster or earlier than others). Points for practitioners This article identifies different drivers of reforms, as well as several supporting conditions, and obstacles to reform in international public administration, which is useful for understanding and planning change management. It highlights the issues policymakers should consider when implementing reform measures, especially institutional context, administrative styles and relevant actor constellations. Among other things, it shows that: the establishment of coordination bodies clearly leads to more homogeneous administrative practices; executive heads have a decisive role in the shaping of administrative reforms and have a specific interest to foster coordination and control in public organizations; and autonomy enables organizations to pursue reform policies apt to their individual challenges.

  • Policy recommendations of international bureaucracies: the importance of country-specificity

    Many international bureaucracies give policy advice to national administrative units. Why is the advice given by some international bureaucracies more influential than the recommendations of others? We argue that targeting advice to member states through national embeddedness and country-tailored research increases the influence of policy advice. Subsequently, we test how these characteristics shape the relative influence of 15 international bureaucracies’ advice in four financial policy areas through a global survey of national administrations from more than 80 countries. Our findings support arguments that global blueprints need to be adapted and translated to become meaningful for country-level work. Points for practitioners National administrations are advised by an increasing number of international bureaucracies, and they cannot listen to all of this advice. Whereas some international bureaucracies give ‘one-size-fits-all’ recommendations to rather diverse countries, others cater their recommendations to the national audience. Investigating financial policy recommendations, we find that national embeddedness and country-tailored advice render international bureaucracies more influential.

  • Staff recruitment and geographical representation in international organizations

    What explains geographical representation in the professional staff of intergovernmental organizations (IOs)? We address this question from an organizational perspective by considering IO recruitment processes. In the United Nations (UN) system, recruitment processes are designed to ensure bureaucratic merit, with experience and education being the relevant merit criteria. We develop and test a supply-side theory, postulating that differences in countries’ supply of well-educated and highly experienced candidates can explain geographical representation. Drawing on staff data from 34 IOs and supply data from 174 member states, and controlling for endogeneity and alternative explanations, we find no such relationship for education. However, countries with a high supply of candidates with relevant working and regional experiences have significantly higher representation values. These findings offer a complementary narrative as to why some countries are more strongly represented in the international professional staff than others. Findings also unveil the nature of bureaucratic merit in the UN, which seems to emphasize local knowledge and working experience over formal (Western) education. Points for practitioners What explains member states’ representation in the staff bodies of organizations in the UN system? Previous work has shown that member state power is a good predictor. But what about bureaucratic merit? The paper demonstrates that representation patterns can also be explained when measuring states’ supply of candidates with relevant working and regional experience. Supply of educated candidates plays no significant role. Bureaucratic merit in the UN seems to emphasize local knowledge and working experience over formal (Western) education.

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