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Activities: Working Group on Public Sector Quality

Fourth phase: 2005-2007
Activities in 2007

Meeting of the Working Group on Public Sector Quality

Place: 15th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Kyiv, Ukraine
Date:  May 17 – 19, 2007

Report of Working Group from the meeting at the 15th NISPAcee Annual Conference Kyiv, Ukraine 2007.

At the NISPAcee annual conference in Kyiv, the working group on public sector quality has continued discussing the topic of public management reforms in the CEE and CIS. The 12 country presentations summarized the research findings on how public administration reforms proceeded in the region in the last 15 years.

The presentations provided a fascinating review of changes in the government: sometimes radical and controversial, sometimes painful and irregular, sometimes pretentious and politicized, but always having broad impact on the society at large. As it is clear now, there is a great deal of variety in the scope, pace, and substance of these changes: Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine are still deciding on the structure of their political systems, while Lithuania and Hungary are fine-tuning their public management reforms.

Although the work is still in progress, some of the specific variables determining the pace and shape of the reforms in the region were identified, including, but not limited to EU enlargement, corruption, economic and financial crises, low trust in government, not very demanding citizens.


Activities in 2006

Meeting of the Working Group on Public Public Management Reforms in CEE and the CIS

Place:14th NISPAcee Conference 2006, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Date: May 11 – 13, 2006

Topic: "Public Administration and Public Policy in Emerging Europe and Eurasia:For Professionalism, Impartiality and Transparency"
Detailed information about WG meetings with the list of the presented

Third phase:  2003 - 2005

Activities in 2005

Meeting of the Working Group on Public Sector Quality


Place:13th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Moscow, Russia

Date: May 19 – 21, 2005

Meeting of the  "Working Group on Public Sector Quality” (2005)

Theme: Quality of Implementation

The objective of this sixth meeting of the working group was to address the factors that inhibit or promote successful implementation on both central and local levels of government in Central and Eastern Europe. The sessions were organized around two major issues:

  1. External factors influencing implementation, such as foreign advisors in CEE countries, New Public Management principles that are being transposed into transition countries, etc.
  2. Internal factors in capacity among civil servants on both central and local governments: ranging from the preparation for the implementation by utilizing the tool of impact assessment to performance in big governmental reforms and assessing the implementation of services.

In total, 14 papers were accepted, ranging from sectoral case studies in health to process issues of implementation. The sessions consisted of presentations, followed by a critique from a discussant and a discussion in a plenary session.

A subgroup on Impact assessment methodology has been formed as part of the WG on Public Sector Quality and as was set out in the plan. The subgroup included Katarina Staronova from Slovakia, Aare Kasemets from Estonia and Zsombor Kovacsy from Hungary. The members of the subgroup had been in touch via email and met in early February, 2005, to fine-tune precise methodology for the assessment of information contained in the explanatory memoranda on impact assessments in draft legislation. The methodology was also presented in the conference, specializing on impact assessments in Manchester, UK. Based on the methodology developed, pilot case studies had been conducted in three countries, Slovakia, Hungary and Estonia, and the results were presented at the Moscow conference, May 2005.

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Activities in 2004

Meeting of the Working Group on Public Sector Quality


Place:12th NISPAcee Annual Conference,, Vilnius, Lithuania

Date:May 13 – 15, 2004

Theme : Public sector quality in policy making: quality of policy analysis, research, expertise, and citizen consultation in decision-making and implementation
The objective of the fifth meeting of the NISPAcee Working Group on Public Sector Quality was to identify the level of professional and high quality public policy making inside and outside of EU countries, to look at the transparency and openness of the decision making to broad societal participation and, at the same time, whether the policy making addresses societal problems timely and with a minimum waste of available resources. The presentations of the papers covered two most important aspects of professional and high quality policy – making: a) participation of NGOs, businesses and citizens in the decision making in both state and self-governments in all stages of policy making from the design to implementation; b) evidence-based policy making, particularly impact assessment. The papers covered both indigenous research in the CEE countries as well as practical cases and the lessons learned from them. The panel discussions that followed the presentations highlighted the key issues arising from the papers, particularly the role of the (foreign) experts and advisors in the policy making process. There was an overall agreement that implementation stage of the policy making is a neglected aspect in CEE countries and therefore the next year’s meeting of the working group will focus on these issues.
List of the presented papers in Vilnius, Lithuania (with abstracts adn links to paper files)
From previous phases:

Second phase:  2001 - 2003


Activities in 2003

Meeting of the Working Group on Public Sector Quality

Place:11th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Bucharest, Romania

Date:April 10-12, 2003

Theme: Measuring the Quality of Life and the Quantity of Governance Processes

The objective of the fourth meeting of the NISPAcee Working Group on Public Sector Quality was to identify new approaches towards quality measurement which go beyond improving the quality of service delivery. From a wider governance perspective, an excellent public agency needs to be more than an excellent service provider. In particular, a public agency must also be excellent in the way in which it discharges its political, social and environmental responsibilities with its external stakeholders.

In particular, public governance involves the following dimensions and the authors were asked to reflect them in their papers:

  • Public governance assumes a multiple stakeholder scenario where collective problems related to quality of life issues can no longer be solved only by public authorities but require the co-operation of other players (citizens, business, voluntary sector, media, etc.) – and in which it will sometimes be the case that practices such as mediation, arbitration and self-regulation may be even more effective than public action.
  • Public governancedeals with formal rules (constitutions, laws, regulations) and informal rules (codes of ethics, customs, traditions) but assumes that negotiation between stakeholders seeking to use their power can alter the importance of these rules.
  • Public governance no longer focuses only on market structures as steering mechanisms, as in conventional "New Public Management” approaches, but also considers hierarchical authority and co-operative networks as facilitating structures in appropriate circumstances.
  • Public governance does not reason only in terms of the logic of ends and means, or inputs and outputs, but recognises that the characteristics of the key processes in society (transparency, integrity, honesty, etc.) are likely to be valuable in themselves.
  • Public governance is inherently political, concerned as it is with the interplay of stakeholders seeking to exercise power over each other in order to further their own interests – and therefore cannot be left to managerialist or professional decision-making elites.

Activitivities in 2002


Meeting of the Working Group on Public Sector Quality


Place:10th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Cracow, Poland

Date:April 25-27, 2002

The NISPAcee Working Group on "Better Quality Administration for the Public” chose "Improving the Quality of Public Services” as the overall theme for its third meeting at the 10th NISPAcee Conference in Krakow. In particular, group looked at - how quality is put into practice, how quality is measured and how citizens and other stakeholders may be involved in quality.
Highlights of the programme included:
  1. Keynote speeches which provided a conceptual framework and gave an overview on recent developments in each of the subtopics;
  2. Interactive group work which asked participants to identify good practices to improve the quality of public services in their country; and
  3. A panel with distinguished speakers from CEE countries who discussed the progress made in improving the quality of public services but also problems which still have to be overcome.
Overall, 20 papers were submitted after going through a two-stage review process.

 Conclusions from the meeting:

The growth of interest in the quality of public governance is not going to go away. However, as yet only small steps have been made in extending our understanding of how to improve the quality of public governance more successfully and what the implications for government will be in the future.
 A number of the authors and panellists suggested possible ways forward. Among these proposed solutions, the most common were:


  • education and training of civil society, so that the associations in civil society and the NGOs that lie between public and voluntary sectors can function more effectively and efficiently
  • improving government performance, so that the quality of corporate governance within public sector organisations is improved, and the contributions that national, regional and local governments make to enhancement of the quality of life of citizens are made more reliable and responsive to citizens’ needs and wants
  • decentralising power and decision-making to lower levels of stakeholders (not only governments), so that more of those affected by decisions are likely to know about them and to participate in them (although this ‘solution’ was regarded a high degree of suspicion by some authors and discussants in the Working Group, often on grounds that the quality of public governance was often worse at lower levels in many governments and in many other stakeholder organizations, such as NGOs, businesses, etc.)

First phase:  1999-2001
(WG on Better Quality Administration for the Public)

Activities in 2001
Meeting of the Working Group on Public Sector Quality

Place: The 9th NISPAcee Annual Conference in Riga, Latvia

Date:  May 10 - 12, 2001

The Working Group held its second plenary meeting during this conference. The meeting was attended by over 30 participants drawn mainly from the CEE/NIS region. There were 15 paper presentations and one case study, covering experiences from a wide range of countries, including:  the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine. The main topics discussed were: basic concepts of quality management in public administration; introduction to the Common Assessment Framework (CAF); use of ICTs in raising the quality of public administrations; the application of total quality management (TQM) approaches in a CEE context; quality customer service; feedback and consultation with citizens on service delivery; ethics and training of civil servants.

The last session of the Working Group meeting was dedicated to the review of a draft set of policy recommendations for decision-makers in CEE and NIS countries and to setting the course for future work.
Working group decided to publish and disseminate the findings of the group through a specialised publication: "Building Better Quality Administration for the Public: Case Studies from Central and Eastern Europe”, edited by Joanne Caddy and Mirko Vintar
Activities in 2000
Meeting of the Working Group on Public Sector Quality
Place: The 8th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Budapest, Hungary
Date:  April 13-15, 2000

Discussion of draft case studies presented by Working Group members at session held during the 8th NISPAcee Annual Conference.
The 12 papers submitted to the Working Group covered a wide range of countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia) and provided a solid set of empirical case studies on which to base discussions. Rather than discuss each paper in turn, each working session was dedicated to a key theme on which all participants focused their interventions and comments. The sessions dealt with: basic concepts, legislative and institutional factors, methods and approaches, best practices and, finally, on developing a model for analysing policies and practices for raising the quality of administration for the public in countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the NIS. Highlights of the plenary meeting included:
  • Defining quality: the group agreed that a broader definition of quality was needed than that of the traditional perspective on "performance" in public administration - one incorporating both objective and subjective evaluations of quality (e.g. the citizen's perception of the quality of services provided).
  • Factors affecting quality: the key role played by legal frameworks (e.g. laws on access to information and statutory rights of appeal in administrative decision-making), formal institutional structures (e.g. the establishment of one-stop shops, internal audit units) was recognised and informal institutional factors (e.g. attitudes of civil servants towards applying new legislation)
  • Achieving quality: a host of different practical approaches to achieving better quality administration were reviewed, ranging from quality management systems (e.g. total quality management, ISO standards) to the use of client surveys, citizen charters, quality awards and public panels.

The last working session was devoted to planning next steps in the Working Group's joint efforts, starting with the publication of the year's results in the NISPAcee Conference Proceedings. It was also decided to establish sub-groups to concentrate on the three key themes identified during the meeting in Budapest, namely: basic concepts; legal and institutional factors; and methods and approaches.

Activities in 1999

Establishment of the  Working Group  on Better Quality Administration for the Public

Place: The 7th NISPAcee Annual Conference, Sofia, Bulgaria
Date:  March 25-27, 1999

This Working Group was established at the 7th NISPAcee Annual Conference in Sofia on "Improving Relations between the Administration and the Public".

WG conducted policy-relevant empirical research on improving the quality of public administration in Central and Eastern Europe and the NIS. The core research problem for the Working Group in 1999 was how to improve the quality of service provided by the public administration. This question was explored with the use of analytical case studies drawn from the national and local level providing in-depth information on the preconditions, operations, and relative success of individual reform initiatives. This information  provided the basis for highlighting best practice in the region and developing policy recommendations for raising the quality of public administration.

The Working Group is supported by a grant from The Local Government and Public Service Reform Initiative Open Society Institute, Budapest, Hungary