Making bureaucracies responsive

Requiring responsive public authorities
Promoting responsive public services
As criticism of bureaucracy has mounted in both developed and developing countries, administrative reform has increasingly been seen as an issue of accountability. This has both external and internal dimensions.

Political responsibility for the conduct of public business, especially the spending of public money, is at the heart of external accountability. In many countries it needs strengthening by, for example, prompter publication of accounts and increased power and staff for auditing agencies. However, there is little point in establishing the principle of accountability if political leaders do not enforce it. Enforcement is clearly much less likely in countries where the political process does not extend far beyond the state apparatus itself. Elsewhere, a clear political commitment, even if mainly symbolic, can have salutary effects.

One way to strengthen accountability, and also to give managers a dispassionate view of particular agencies, competence and problems, is to develop performance (or "value for money") auditing of government bodies. Since monitoring is costly, it needs to be done selectively and in collaboration with the bodies concerned (while taking care to avoid being "captured" by them). There may also be opportunities to improve performance by making the bureaucracy accountable to its "users". External pressures must be complemented by internal accountability-officials being individually accountable to their superiors. This can seldom be done, however, without managerial responsibilities being decentralized to the appropriate operational level. Most large private companies give managers specific responsibilities and the budgets and staff to go with them-and then judge them on their results. Public bureaucracies, by contrast, have been slow to give their managers similar freedom-just as governments have been reluctant to increase the autonomy of public enterprises.

The various approaches to management-saving reform, whether rationalizing the policy framework, improving coordination, or decentralization, need to be supported by corresponding changes in the way public employees regard their work. In many countries, that means improving the accountability of individual employees and of the bureaucracy at large.
Type Classification:
F: Exceptional strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions