Coordinating government action

Coordinating government agencies
Coordinating public sector programmes
All governments need to coordinate the activities of their different departments to avoid duplication and confusion. But to save rather than waste managerial resources, coordination needs to take place at the right level-to provide incentives for officials and agencies to cooperate and to ensure that it generates useful information for decisionmaking. This much has become clear as a result of stabilization and adjustment programs in many countries. Governments found that they lacked the means of monitoring foreign debt and of controlling budgets. Although they have responded in different ways, all have been concerned with coordinating their policy changes.
Although coordinating committees have been valuable in emergencies, they are rarely a long-term solution to management problems. All too often, top-level "coordination", is merely part of the pathology of over-centralization. Decisions are routinely referred up the hierarchy, and ministers are absurdly over-stretched "coordinating" everything in their portfolios or negotiating over details with their cabinet colleagues.

Where effective coordination cannot be assured, the need for it may be reduced by simplifying development programmes and shedding or postponing their least manageable components. Otherwise, collaboration may be improved by joint project planning and the negotiation of contracts between agencies, and by strengthening financial control so that funds are released only when agencies deliver on previous commitments.

Counter Claim:
Coordination can degenerate into mere "bureau-shuffling": the tendency to put groups of ministries under a number of vice-prime ministries has not noticeably improved their performance, and has sometimes produced further conflicts and coordination difficulties. The failure of planning is partly a consequence of expecting planning agencies to act as coordinating "overlords" of economic policy even though crucial information, political influence, and operational responsibilities remained with ministries that had nothing to gain and much to lose from cooperation. Such a coordinating role is possible only if planning agencies influence budget allocations.

If government feels a strong need to coordinate, it could well be a sign that other things in its structure and activities have gone wrong. Perhaps it is trying to do too much. Its decisions may have been inefficiently over-centralized. Departments may be jealously guarding their "territory". Or officials may not be responding to the requirements of policy and of their clients. Whatever the reason, governments have to decide whether elaborate coordination will improve their effectiveness or simply postpone other kinds of improvements in, for example, cabinet decisionmaking, policy analysis, and budgetary control.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions