European Association for Public Administration Accreditation

II. Working Group on Public Sector Quality

Elke Loeffler, Bristol Business School, Bristol , UK
        E-mail: elke.loeffler@gmx.net
Katarina Staroňova, Open Society Foundation, Slovakia
        E-mail: katka@osf.sk

The coordinator of the WG invites contributions on its 2003 theme "Measuring the quality of life and the quality of governance processes"

The objective of this fourth meeting is 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 and social responsibilities with its external stakeholders. For example, in the case of garbage collection, excellent service provision will not guarantee clean streets if citizens continue to drop litter. In the fight to get clean streets, it may be rather more important to teach children at school appropriate civic behaviour. In other words, "good local governance" is more than "good local government".

In particular, public governance involves the following dimensions which should be also reflected in the 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 governance deals 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, 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.
In particular, we would encourage interested authors to focus on one of the following topics:
  1. Measuring the quality of life at local and regional levels, including quality of life issues such as economic development and jobs, leisure and culture, environment, health and social care, etc. Papers should focus on the measurement methodology used (in particular, the indicators used, stakeholder involvement, etc.) but also analyse the effects of such quality of life measurement (reactions by various stakeholders, use of the quality of life data, future of quality of life measurements).
  2. Measuring the quality of public governance processes, including issues such as measuring the degree of transparency, honest and fair behaviour, equalities of gender, race, religion, etc. in public decision-making processes and implementation processes. The papers may focus on governance processes involving external stakeholders (e.g. co-production of public services with NGOs or citizens or public-private partnerships) or governance processes within the public sector (e.g. managing accountability between a public agency and its parent ministry or working in partnership with other public agencies).
  3. Assessing the effects of decentralising powers to local levels of government on the quality of public governance: The key issue to be explored is whether the devolution of powers to local levels of government has improved public governance (e.g. in terms of higher degrees of stakeholder participation in policy-making and service delivery, better balance of powers between different levels of government) or whether the quality of public governance has deteriorated as a result of decentralisation processes (e.g. lower degrees of transparency as to who is accountable for what, slower decision-making processes resulting in stalemate or protracted delays, greater disparities in the level of equity achieved in public services or in recruitment and promotion of staff in public organisations). Obviously there has been a lot of capacity-building at local level in the context of decentralisation. Consequently, we will be interested in papers which assess the success of this capacity-building, either within local governments or within other agencies which work at local level, or within the local community itself.
We will give a very high priority to papers which are jointly authored by academics and practitioners! We believe that there is a need for an intensive dialogue and cooperation between different social sciences disciplines, civil servants, elected politicians and representatives of civil society in CEE (and also in Western European and other countries). Papers should contain some empirical content. They also should be critical and ideally should draw lessons about what works and what doesn't work. The total length of the paper should not exceed 6000 words. The authors should NOT use footnotes but quote all references in the text.

For further information on the NISPAcee Working Group on Public Sector Quality please check http://www.vus.uni-lj.si/nispa/

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

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