Structural Devolution to Agencies

Authored by: Oliver James , Sandra van Thiel

The Ashgate Research Companion to New Public Management

Print publication date:  December  2010
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754678069
eBook ISBN: 9781315613321
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042372


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As part of the NPM reforms, there has been a major shift in a number of OECD countries to transfer central state activities to various forms of semi-autonomous body, a form of structural devolution often called agencification (Greve et al. 1999, Christensen and Lægreid 2001a, OECD 2002b, James 2003, Pollitt and Talbot 2004). This has led to a plethora of ‘agencies’ with different organizational, legal, financial and managerial characteristics and degrees of autonomy. Some examples are: Next Steps Agencies and Non-Departmental Bodies in the UK, the Dutch contract agencies and ZBOs, the Australian Statutory Corporations, the EU executive agencies, French Autonomous Administrative Authorities and public establishments (also in Italy and Portugal), and Scandinavian agencies and state corporations (Flinders and Smith 1999, Greve et al. 1999, OECD 2002b, James 2003, Pollitt and Talbot 2004, Pollitt et al. 2004, Allix and van Thiel 2005). These agencies have in common that they are still part of the public domain, perform public tasks and are usually funded by public means, but they differ in their degree of autonomy and in the way in which they are managed by the central government (parent ministries). Establishment and steering of agencies is generally carried out by the executive and/or ministries. Only a few types of agencies report directly to parliament, like the AAIs in France (Allix and van Thiel 2005) or bodies in US Federal Government where strong reporting lines to the legislature are common.

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