How effectively do federal and subnational ministries monitor the activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies with regard to implementation?

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
The third Orbán government has closely controlled the appointment and activities of the heads and core executives of all state agencies at the national level. Simicska followers, some of which were among the most professional pro-government experts, have been removed from state agencies. The frequent changes in administrative positions have contributed to high discipline. The centralization of state administration in county-level government offices has extended the government’s control over all subnational agencies, since they have been concentrated in these county offices. As in the case of line ministries, the government has adopted a hands-on approach and has closely monitored the agencies’ implementation activities.
The performance of ministries in monitoring the activities of executive agencies varies, in part due to differences in the degree of independence granted to agencies. For example, central bank independence is core to the credibility of monetary policy and is legislatively protected, which constrains parliament’s capacity to monitor the agency. This notwithstanding, the general pattern over recent years has been one of increasing accountability of the 170-plus statutory authorities and officeholders to the relevant federal minister. The most notable concrete indicator of this trend is that in 2002 the Australian government commissioned a review of the corporate governance of Commonwealth statutory authorities and office holders, the Review of the Corporate Governance of Statutory Authorities and Office Holders (the Uhrig Review). The objective of the review was to identify issues surrounding existing governance arrangements and provide options for the government to improve the performance and get the best from statutory authorities, their office holders and their accountability frameworks. The review was completed in 2004 and a number of the recommendations have since been adopted.
Ministries are responsible for monitoring the bureaucratic structures individually subject to them. All bureaucracies (except those within the judicial branch) are legally bound by instructions issued by their ministers (according to Art. 20 of the constitution), and have to report regularly to the ministries. The Austrian Court of Audit (Rechnungshof) is the only institution aside from the parliament that monitors the government and its bureaucracies on a broader, cross-ministerial basis. The Court of Audit is officially an institution of the parliament and the coalition parties have not always succeeded in presenting a common position – as in 2016, when the coalition was unable to present a common candidate for the president of the Court of Audit. This gave opposition parties the possibility to influence the decision. Opposition parties also have the opportunity to establish investigating committees in parliament – even against the will of the ruling majority. This development represents a broadening of the scope of political oversight and potentially involves the need and opportunity to monitor bureaucracies more thoroughly.
New Zealand
The monitoring of executive agencies is based on the same procedures governing line ministries.
State Services Commission: Annual Report for the Year Ended 30 June 2015 (Wellington: States Services Commission 2015).
Government departments in the GO monitor the activities (not just implementation) of the agencies quite closely. Since the introduction of performance management some 15 to 20 years ago, agencies report to their parent department on their performance targets. In fact, many believe the reporting, which requires agencies to spend a lot of time and effort reporting on their performance to their respective department, is so extensive it has become burdensome. Recently, there has been a tendency to reduce the number of objectives and performance indicators on which the agencies are to report. This tendency is likely to continue over the next several years.

It should be noted that there is a significant imbalance between the departments and the agencies. The GO has a total staff of about 4,600. The total staff in the agencies is about 220,000. Thus, the steering structures in the system are considerably smaller than the targets of that steering. This state of affairs has encouraged the use of informal communication between departments and agencies to supplement formal steering.
Jacobsson, B., J. Pierre and G. Sundström (2015), Governing the Embedded State: The Organizational Dimension of Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Ministry procedures for monitoring operating agencies is less formal than the parallel monitoring of line departments by the PCO, in part because operating agencies are generally not responsible for policy formulation. In addition, these agencies may have a degree of autonomy. Nevertheless, ministries do monitor the activities of most operating agencies. Recently, the federal government has attempted to play a greater role in the administration of certain agencies such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), especially in the area of labor relations.
Executive agencies have some autonomy, but given the formal norms of minister rule, the minister is ultimately responsible for what happens in the agencies. It is therefore in a minister’s political interest to monitor activities closely.

The work of the agencies is often based on specialized expertise; as long as an issue is not politicized, the minister will normally defer to the decisions made by the agencies.
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen et al., Politik og forvaltning. 4. udgave, 2017.
Estonian government is horizontally decentralized. This means that besides 11 ministries, there are 25 executive agencies and several foundations established by the government. Foundations have specific policy objectives, often managing implementation of the EU structural funds in Estonia. Foundations are led by a counselor and appointed by a minister. Agencies implement policies within the broader policy area and are accountable to the relevant ministry. Ministers appoint agency directors. These organizational arrangements enable ministries to monitor the activities of executive agencies. However, agencies have grown substantially both in terms of staff and task volume; this may ultimately produce negative effects such as a lack of coordination between the ministry and agency, or misuse of administrative power by executive-agency CEOs. This latter problem is illustrated by the increase in corruption offences within these institutions.
All ministries use results-management practices to monitor agencies in their various task areas. In many cases, a balanced score system is used. However, not all agencies are monitored to the same extent. Some agencies, such as the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), which operates under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment have a high degree of autonomy, with monitoring taking place only on a general level. Other agencies are accorded a somewhat lesser degree of autonomy. However, as a rule, they do have autonomy with respect to day-to-day operations. Monitoring takes many forms and a system of political undersecretaries of state has been designed to support the individual ministers in their monitoring activities.
Executive agencies’ competences and responsibilities are explicitly detailed in law, edicts, statutes and other regulations. Their activities are not only subject to legal, but also to functional supervision, meaning that agencies’ decisions and administrative instructions will be reviewed. However, the ministries have not always made appropriate use of their oversight mechanism. A number of independent agencies, including the Federal Employment Office, the Federal Network Agency, the Bundesbank and others have deliberately been placed beyond the effective control of the federal government. It is important that monitoring agencies maintain organizational independence, so that they may monitor government effectiveness and financial impacts. The National Regulatory Control Council has tried to increase its powers over legislative and bureaucratic processes at federal and state levels.
In Greece, most ministries supervise dozens of executive agencies. For instance, the Ministry of Transport supervises the state-owned public transport companies in Athens and Thessaloniki, the Ministry of Health supervises all public hospitals, and the Ministry of Finance supervises numerous state-owned enterprises. In the period under review, the government realized that any fiscal derailment of supervised state agencies would endanger the progress attained in implementing the Third Economic Adjustment Program, which was under close review by the country’s lenders. Thus, there was a tightening of the relevant monitoring performed by ministries’ executive agencies. However, in some cases, public administration deficiencies and a lack of reliable data undermined monitoring and evaluation efforts.
Executive agencies and the administration usually lack the autonomy to pursue a course of action independent of guidelines issued by the responsible ministers. Sometimes, the strong personality of an agency head leads to conflict. If this happens, the views of the minister or his key collaborators usually prevail. In the domain of social security and public finance, monitoring is more centralized and effective, since the financial implications for the state are much more consequential. The two agencies that wield considerable control are the Social Security Inspectorate General (Inspection Générale de la Sécurité Sociale, IGSS), which is attached to the Ministry of Social Security and the General Inspectorate of Finance (Inspection générale des finances, IGF), which is attached to the Ministry of Finance.
“Finances publiques.” Ministère des Finances, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Inspection générale de la sécurité sociale.” Ministère de la Sécurité Sociale, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Inspection générale des finances, Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
Government agencies are subject to monitoring through direct bureaucratic channels and by the activity of the free press. As a rule, executive agencies have autonomy when it comes to their “expertise,” but they rarely act against the directives of the ministries, and there have been very few cases in which agency officials have taken action that could be seen as contrary to government policy. However, it is not unusual that an environmental agency will have different views to an agency responsible for fisheries or oil exploration. The Office of the Auditor General (Riksrevisjonen), which reports to the parliament, plays a key role in monitoring implementation. However, administrative inertia in policy implementation is more prevalent than would be expected in such a well-organized system.
There is a large number of executive agencies in Poland. Agencies report to ministries, and ministries have special units responsible for monitoring the activities of agencies and auditing their finances. Under the PiS government, the leadership of state agencies has become highly politicized. As a consequence of the new civil service act that came into effect in January 2016, all employment contracts of previous directors turned invalid, and the positions were no longer filled by open competition, but by personal appointment. A previous provision was canceled requiring directors of state institutions to have not been members of a political party for five years before assuming a leading position in state administration. Thus, compliance between ministries and administration has become easier, but the administration has also become dependent on the political will of the majority. The increase in oversight has led to a decline in democratic checks and balances, professionalism (since there was a massive personnel exchange in the state bureaucracy), and non-politicized relations between ministries and agencies.
To a certain extent, high positions in government agencies are filled not via political appointments but through the government’s civil service department (Alta Dirección Pública, ADP), based on candidates’ technical capacity and experience. Clear goals are identified by the directors of executive agencies and the corresponding ministries. Exhaustive evaluations of the system and of personnel choices are performed annually by the minister, the civil service and the president’s advisory ministry (Secretaría General de la Presidencia, Segpres). In addition, the Ministry of Finance’s budget office monitors decentralized agencies and public enterprises from a budgetary perspective very tightly and effectively. Nevertheless, the changes in government in 2011 and 2014 showed that the selection of candidates through the ADP is in fact quite weakly established, as there is still an understanding that a successful candidate is a “government officer” rather than a “state officer.” The monitoring of bureaucratic activities and executive agencies, especially at the subnational level, tends to be distorted by this effect.
In a centralized system like France’s, the central machinery is unable to monitor fully and constantly the implementation of government policies. There exist huge sectoral and geographical variations. In some areas, decisions are not implemented or instead are badly implemented or flexibly interpreted. For instance, education is one of the most centralized policy fields in France, but implementation varies so starkly that parents have adopted strategies (such as the crucial choice of where to live) to register their children in the “best” schools. Implementing centrally designed policies requires local or regional adaptation of rigid rules that are applicable to all. Even the prefects, supposedly the arm of central government, refer to this practice, as may be witnessed for instance in the absent, or insufficient, implementation of water directives in some regions.
Japanese ministries are traditionally run by civil servants who work in a single ministry throughout their career. Government agencies that belong to a specific ministry’s sectoral area are thus also directed by civil servants delegated from that ministry, who may return to it after a number of years. From that perspective, control of executive agencies below the ministerial level can be quite effective. This mechanism is supported by budget allocations and peer networks.

In 2001, so-called independent administrative agencies were established, following new-public-management recommendations for improving the execution of well-defined policy goals by making them the responsibility of professionally managed quasi-governmental organizations. Such independent agencies are overseen by evaluation mechanisms similar to those discussed in the section on regulatory impact assessment (RIA), based on modified legislation. In recent years, voices skeptical of this arrangement have gained ground, because the effectiveness of this independent-agency mechanism has been hindered to some extent by the network effects created by close agency-ministry staffing links. In addition, the administrators in charge have typically originated from the civil service, and thus have not always possessed a managerial mindset.
The executive branch is organized hierarchically, with ministries each having a group of subordinate institutions. Some institutions are directly managed by the ministry, while others are managed at arm’s length when there is a need for the autonomous fulfillment of functions.

All institutions are required to prepare annual reports. Beyond the reporting requirement there is no centralized standard for monitoring subordinate agencies. Ad hoc arrangements prevail, with some ministries setting performance goals and requiring reporting relative to these goals.

The government office has recently taken steps that compensate for poor monitoring and communication with subordinate agencies. In 2013, the prime minister set specific policy goals for ministries and agencies and has required semiannual reporting on progress toward these goals. The government office has also begun including agency heads in interministerial coordination meetings, as a response to the observation that information flows between ministries and their subordinate agencies are neither reliable nor adequate.
Over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, Portugal experienced a proliferation of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations and other structures that complicated an already complex direct administrative structure. These structures were often left with little in the way of ex post monitoring. In the context of the bailout and the continuing need to reduce public expenditure, the Passos Coelho government increased its scrutiny of the number and operation of these non-governmental organizations as well as the state administration. However, this interest was fundamentally centered on financial and budgetary aspects rather than the implementation of policy per se. Since the bailout, and even with a very different government under the Socialist Party, there has been little interest in these structures, and indeed the Programa do XXI Governo Constitucional 2015-2019 makes no mention of these.
Spain’s ministries have the capacity to monitor the activities of the administrative bureaucracy and executive agencies with regard to implementation. One of the main ingredients of the administrative-reform process launched in 2012 (coordinated from the Government Office through the Commission for the Reform of the Public Administrations, CORA) consisted of reinforcing central control over these public bodies, and in some cases entailed the absorption of the smallest agencies by the ministry in charge of their task area.

This reorganization included the first comprehensive register of all existing agencies or any other semi-autonomous bureaucracy in Spain (Inventario de Entes del Sector Público Estatal, Autonómico y Local), and resulted in several mergers and the liquidation of many public companies. In 2014, the Council of Ministers unified internal monitoring of all public entities, giving this responsibility to the Auditor General’s office.

In addition, Law 40/2015 promotes the introduction of mechanisms to prevent the “unnecessary creation of future entities and the continuous review of the functions, goals and structures of existing bodies, in order to facilitate their subsequent restructuring if decided.” An integrated framework of evaluation, monitoring and independent audit of all agencies will also be introduced as a result of this recent legislation. Thus, the ministries can now monitor the activities of all executive agencies and force them if necessary to act in accordance with the government’s program. However, it is also true that thanks to bureaucratic drift and/or flexibility in their functioning, some of these semi-autonomous public bodies have been able to elude this control. Ministers have particular difficulties in effectively monitoring the largest ones.
October 2016, Quarterly report on the follow-up of CORA Public Administration Reform
http://www.sefp.minhafp.gob. es/dam/es/web/areas/reforma_aapp/ac tuaciones-informes/proceso/CORA-Inf orme-trimestral-de-seguimiento-Juni o-2016.pdf
Inventario de Entes del Sector Público Estatal, Autonómico y Local -ES/CDI/Paginas/Inventario/Inventar io.aspx
Turkey is a unitary state divided into 81 provinces (Article 126 of the constitution). Power is devolved in such a way as to ensure the efficiency and coordination of public services from the center. Ministerial agencies are monitored regularly. The central administration by law holds the power to guide the activities of local administration, to ensure that local services are delivered in conformance with the guidelines set down by the central government, as well as ensuring services are uniform, meeting local needs and in the interest of the local population (Article 127). The central government has provincial organizations that differ in size and capacity and are regularly scrutinized by the central government. Independent administrative authorities such as the Telecommunications Authority and Energy Market Regulatory Authority are not monitored, but are subject to judicial review.

Law 5018, adopted in 2004, introduced a strategic-management approach under which all public agencies must prepare a strategic plan, annual program and activity reports. The performance of subunits is assessed on the basis of these documents. However, neither strategic management principles nor internal oversight mechanisms have been effectively implemented.

The Internal Audit Coordination Board, affiliated with the Ministry of Finance, was established under Article 66 of the Public Financial Management and Control Law (Law 5018). The board ensures that administrative bodies cooperate with public auditing bodies, and recommends measures to eliminate fraud and other irregularities. According to the 2016 Annual Activity Report, qualified human resources management, capacity-building, coordination, and the separation of inspection and internal-audit functions are major issues in this field.

All public agencies maintain an internal audit body. However, such bodies do not function effectively or operate to their fullest.

The State Supervision Board, which is subject to the Presidency of the Republic, provides supervision and prepares in-depth reports upon the request of the Presidency. These reports were made public until recently; since 2009 only summaries of the reports are available.
İç Denetim Koordinasyon Kurulu 2016 Yılı Kamu İç Denetim Genel Raporu, November 2016,
The United Kingdom was an early adopter of delegating civil-service work to executive agencies in order to improve performance and reduce costs, which has been going on since the early 1990s under the Next Steps Programme. There is, moreover, an expectation that the departmental minister takes responsibility for any agencies that the ministry oversees but no expectation that the minister will have to resign if problems arise in an agency. The ongoing Civil Service Reform also seeks to introduce new instruments of performance control and individual accountability, for example, through guidance, such as Managing Public Money. The Cabinet Office has recently revised its guidance on public service reviews and issued a code of good practice for partnerships between departments and arm’s length bodies.

Nevertheless, problems have arisen. After repeated criticism, the UK Border Agency, which is responsible for the entry and management of foreign nationals, was taken back into the Home Office to improve transparency and political accountability. It still attracts some negative headlines and there are evident stresses arising from the management of prisons by private contractors. Several child-abuse scandals revealed shortcomings in the monitoring of local-level entities, including local childcare, youth and police services. Further, the horrible fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 (which caused upwards of 70 deaths) exposed major failings in British construction supervision. To some extent, quality control bodies – for example, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for the police – provide safeguards through setting standards. However, some public agencies have been heavily criticized. For example, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has been very critical of HM Revenue and Customs, the tax collection agency.
Elston, Thomas 2011: Developments in UK executive agencies: re-examining the disaggregation – re-aggregation thesis, Paper presented to the Governance of Public Sector Organisations study group at the 33 rd Annual Conference of the European Group for Public Administration, Bucharest, 7th – 10th September 2011.

Tailored Reviews:

Code of Good Practice:
Belgium has relatively few agencies that are funded and controlled by the government, but are also formally independent of the government. Agencies of this type include the public radio and television stations, Child Focus, a foundation for missing or sexually exploited children, UNIA (the former Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism), some official job-placement agencies, and public social-service centers (Centres Publics d’Action Sociale (CPAS) / Openbare Centra voor Maatschappelijk Welzijn (OCMW)). Monitoring of these agencies takes place through several channels. Two are most relevant here. First, a government or party delegate will generally sit on the board of these agencies. Second, the agency must submit a report each year to the government or the ministry responsible for its activities. This monitoring mechanism is extremely effective, in part thanks to party discipline.

Despite effective formal monitoring mechanisms, two important issues are present in Belgium. First, effective monitoring is not synonymous with efficiency. Among other issues, the absence of impact assessment or efficiency monitoring allows public agencies to increase their costs without effective sanctions. Second, as noted in the Corruption Prevention section (D4.4), effective monitoring has been hampered by the outsourcing of many areas of government to ostensibly private entities that are in fact controlled by public-office holders.

The outcome has been a decline in public trust, reflected in lower performances for Belgium in the World Economic Forum’s ratings on issues such as “public trust in politicians,” “diversion of public funds,” “favoritism in decisions of government officials,” and “efficiency of government spending.”
Citations: t?utm_campaign=app&utm_medium=tablet&utm_source=IPAD

WEF: Schwab, Klaus and Sala-i-Marti, Xavier (2017). The Global Competitiveness Report 2017–2018. World Economic Forum editor.
As in many other westernized countries, the Israeli government has undergone a process of agencification and outsourcing in recent decades, with the goal of enhancing its regulatory functions and shrinking its direct public-provision role. While ministries’ connections with agencies and NGOs are restrained by contractual agreements as well as by financial and legal restrictions, the content and quality of services do not face similar constraints. Thus, while most ministries sufficiently monitor the agencies under their control, some ministries – notably Education and Welfare – have been criticized for failing to implement government policies through the effective monitoring of services. The movement for improved government in Israel claims that this phenomenon is undermining the efficiency of public services, while others claim that the state-owned enterprises are unnecessary and should be privatized. Various government committees and reports have issued recommendations indicating that ministries’ professional and organizational capabilities should be enhanced, but there is as yet no clear comprehensive plan to deal with such failures.

Israel also suffers from “politicization” in its public services and state-owned companies, such as in the electricity authority that was made subordinate to the minister of energy following a reform in 2015. This decision raised concerns that the appointment of senior officials would be made based upon political rather than professional considerations. This concern was borne out when current Minister of Energy Yuvel Stieniz proposed appointing a close associate to head the electricity authority without holding a tender, even though this candidate lacked the required experience for the position. The appointment was approved by the civil state commissioner, but later overturned by a committee that inspects appointments in state-owned companies.
Ben Aeter, Moshe. ‘Who needs the state-own enterprises?’ – Haaretz, 13.04.2016 (Hebrew):

Bar-Ali, Avi. ‘The Warning Regarding the Politicization of the Electricity Company Are Coming True’ – The Marker, 28.8.2016 (Hebrew):

Dagan-Buzaglo, Noga, “Aspects in privatization in the education system,” Adva center 2010. (Hebrew) Detal, Lior, “The Ministry of Education inc.: This is how hundreds of private bodies receive some 11 billion shekels,” TheMarker 5.10.2014: (Hebrew).

Haber, Carmit, “Managerial culture blocks to implementing open government policy,” The Israel Democracy Institute (March 2013) (Hebrew)

Koren, Ora, “Reform in the public sector: The ministry of Treasury’s authorities will be restrained, employees will receive incentives,” TheMarker website 9.8.2012 (Hebrew)
“Public service provisions using outsourcing,” JDC publication. (Hebrew)

Limor, Nissan, “Regulation and oversight over third sector organizations,” Social security no. 70 (2005),159-187.

“The Ministry of Health,” in Annual report 63c for 2012, the State Comptroller publication 8.5.2013: (Hebrew)

Ziv, Amitai, “It’s Time to Privatize the Post Office, 25.1.2018, Haaretz,

“The State Comptroller and Ombudsman Yearly Report 2016-2015,” May 2017, (Hebrew),
Lithuania’s fragmented structure of agencies and other public-sector organizations undermines the effective monitoring of bureaucratic performance. While agencies subordinate to the central government or individual ministries can be monitored relatively efficiently, autonomous organizations such as public nonprofit institutions, foundations and state-owned enterprises that carry out administrative functions are more difficult to control. Parent ministries and third parties acting on behalf of the ministries use a combination of ex ante and ex-post oversight mechanisms, including the assessment of agency results. However, many Lithuanian ministries have no professional staff specifically assigned to monitor agency activities, and the interest shown by ministers and other politicians in the performance of agencies depends on the changing salience of political issues. In 2012, the Governance Coordination Center was established as part of the State Property Fund. Among other tasks, it monitors the implementation of state-owned enterprises’ goals, and produces regular reports on the performance of these enterprises. Beginning in 2013, the scope of annual public-sector reports produced by the Lithuanian Ministry of the Interior was expanded to include municipal organizations. However, this ministry’s reports remain of a descriptive nature, lacking specific recommendations as to how the performance of individual organizations or their groups might be improved. In 2015, the Sunset Commission reviewed the performance of public nonprofit institutions and proposed a number of recommendations, some of which were related to improving the monitoring of these institutions. However, after 2016, the Sunset Commission stopped its work.
South Korea
The ministries effectively monitor the activities of all executive agencies, with the minister holding responsibility for the agencies’ compliance. Once again, the top-down structure of the government allows for effective monitoring. Agencies generally have autonomy with respect to day-to-day operations, but even these can occasionally be the subject of top-down interventions. Each ministry sets its own performance and implementation indicators and reports its annual progress. The indicators can be used as a monitoring tool for the activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies with regard to implementation. However, ministries fail in some cases to monitor executive agencies’ implementation activities effectively.
Switzerland’s governance system offers considerable flexibility in implementing decisions. The central administration is very small; this does not prevent bureaucratic drift, but in all likelihood the opportunities for such drift are much smaller than in huge administrations.

A number of factors mitigate for close coordination between the federal government and the federal administration. The country’s direct democracy means that citizens have the ability to limit the maneuvering room of both government and administration. In the collegial governmental system, coordination is essential to success, and government and administration alike depend on efficient collaboration given the reality of parliamentary control. There is little evidence of an administrative class that acts on its own; moreover, administrative elites perceive themselves to be politically neutral.

Furthermore, Switzerland’s system is not characterized by a unitary federalism such as in Germany. Rather, it resembles the federalism of the United States. This implies that cantons have considerable responsibility for implementing policy, while the federal state has a subsidiary role. According to Article 3 of the constitution: “The cantons are sovereign insofar as their sovereignty is not limited by the federal constitution; they shall exercise all rights which are not transferred to the confederation.” Even in areas in which the federal state has tasks and powers, such as social insurance, environmental protection or zoning, implementation is carried out by the cantonal and sometimes municipal administrations. These bodies have considerable flexibility in performing their work, and implementation of federal guidelines frequently varies substantially between cantons. Zoning policy has offered examples in which the same federal regulation has led to opposite outcomes in different cantons. In addition, much implementation is carried out by interest organizations though the corporatist channel.

A 2016 study by Fritz Sager and Eva Thomann on cantonal asylum policies showed that implementation was mainly dependent on the extent of the problem, politicization and partisan power distribution in the respective canton as well as the previous policy. This analysis allows for many different constellations, which can explain the large variation in cantonal implementation of federal laws.
Fritz Sager and Eva Thomann: Multiple streams in member state implementation: politics, problem construction and policy paths in Swiss asylum policy. Journal of Public Policy, Available on CJO 2016 doi:10.1017/S0143814X1600009X
Federal departments have central units attached to the relevant secretary’s office that monitor the activities of subordinate agencies. There are no semi-autonomous agencies in the U.S. administrative system. Independent regulatory commissions –including the Federal Reserve Board (both a regulatory agency and the central bank, responsible for monetary policy) – are headed by bipartisan commissions with fixed terms of office and are in some respects outside the executive branch. The White House and certain executive agencies such as the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department monitor the activities of regulatory agencies, despite lacking formal authority to impose changes. State-level agencies which administer federal programs are subject to highly inconsistent federal supervision. The losses of organizational capacity in the federal bureaucracy under Trump reduces the ability of departments to monitor agencies.
The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
Czech Rep.
There is not much delegation of responsibility away from the government in the Czech Republic. Agencies take diverse organizational forms and are monitored in different ways. Most of them enjoy little autonomy and are monitored relatively tightly. In many cases, both the government and parliament are directly involved in supervision. The oversight of financial management and spending improved with the introduction of the Supervisors program, which increased transparency.
The number of government agencies has been steadily increasing. In 1950, there were around 130 agencies. By 2010, there were more than 350 agencies (see MacCarthaigh, 2012).

The Health Services Executive (HSE) is the government agency responsible for providing public health care. It is the largest semi-autonomous bureaucracy in the country. It was formed by the amalgamation of local health boards 10 years ago; it remains difficult to identify the savings that were promised due to this rationalization. On the other hand, cost overruns and low delivery standards have been a persistent feature of the agency. The history of HSE weighs heavily on public perceptions of the new Irish Water agency.

In other areas, the autonomy of executive agencies has yielded mixed results, and the monitoring of these agencies is not sufficiently close to ensure that government policy is being implemented efficiently.

The Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (OCAG) is responsible for auditing and reporting on the accounts of all public bodies, ensuring that funds are applied for the purposes intended, and evaluating the effectiveness of operations. The OCAG does not regularly monitor all executive agencies. It seems to select those where it knows or suspects that problems have arisen. Its mission statement says it “selects issues for examination which are important in the context of the management of public funds.” Its reports contain details of overspending and inefficiencies, and make recommendations for improving financial administration within the public sector.

In summary, a system of monitoring executive agencies is in place, but recent high-profile cases show that it all too often discovers failings and shortcomings after they have occurred and has not been very effective in averting them.
The latest (2013) OCAG reports on the accounts of the public services are available here:

A list of special reports on value for money in the public sector is available here:
Malta is a unitary state. As such monitoring of bureaucratic agencies is undertaken by, for example, parliamentary oversight, such as during parliamentary committee sessions or annual budget debates A Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also exists. The National Audit Office produces an annual report on all public service entities (departments, agencies, etc.), though the reports are ad hoc, focused on different sections and departments of ministries and agencies every year The ombudsman also produces a procedural audit, though it has been recommended that the ombudsman be given the same rights of oversight as held by the audit office in order to better review the workings of government. The Department of Local Government assesses the performance of local government bodies. There is also an internal audit office within ministries. The Prime Minister’s Office, through the Principal Permanent Secretary’s Office, has become more involved in monitoring processes. The follow-up of reports remains problematic, though the government has pledged to address administrative shortcomings identified by the National Audit Office. Furthermore, the parliamentary secretary charged with monitoring bureaucracies has strengthened this process.
73% of budget measures to be implemented by the end of 2016 Malta chamber of commerce
The process of monitoring tends to work better at the national level than at the subnational level, where the general process of accountability is more heterogeneously developed. Monitoring is considerable at particular times and places, but limited otherwise. Moreover, monitoring is selective due to uneven state capacity, which hampers greater coverage. Essentially, the commitment to monitoring depends on political constellations. Ministries can scrutinize bureaucratic agencies if they want to, but there are good reasons why they do not always do so. Decentralized agencies often try to exercise autonomy by going over the top of the governing secretariat and contacting the president directly. Pemex, the state-owned petroleum company, is notorious for such attempts, although it does not always succeed. In addition, ministers or the cabinet have mostly been unable to effectively monitor the military and the police, and attempts to increase oversight – especially with regard to human rights violations – has been politically difficult in the context of an ongoing security crisis.
The politicization of agencies is a continuing issue in Slovakia. While the independence and accountability of the eight major regulatory and controlling bodies increased, a recent study shows that half of the leaders of these institutions have been selected on the basis of their party affiliation and social connections rather than expertise and widespread reputation. The Office for Public Procurement and the Supreme Audit Office – both quite critical bodies – stand out in this regard. As with the line ministries, the government has closely monitored the agencies’ implementation activities.
The capacity of ministries to monitor the implementation activities of the bureaucracies and executive agencies within their task areas is quite limited in institutional terms. The monitoring that does take place tends to focus only on priority areas – such as the absorption of EU funds – and tends to rely on informal rather than formal mechanisms. Under coalition governments, as in 2017, monitoring is further limited by the practice of dividing government, bureaucratic and agency appointments between coalition partners. Consequently, ministers from one party are impeded from effectively monitoring ministers from another party.
Croatia has about 75 executive agencies, six of which are regulatory agencies. The tasks of these agencies are determined by law. The two most important monitoring instruments are certain reporting requirements and the representation of ministers or senior civil servants on the agencies’ management boards. Reports are not based on redefined performance indicators but are more a loose and often self-congratulatory review of agencies’ activities in the past year. They are seldom discussed after publication. As a result, the agencies enjoy a relatively large amount of discretion and face primarily political constraints. The proliferation of agencies has been a source of waste and inefficiency. The Orešković government continued the evaluation of agencies begun under the Milanović government and eventually proposed the elimination of nine agencies. However, no progress with implementing this proposal has been made under Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.
Autonomous executive agencies are not very common in Italian ministries, but they have increased with time. Although their activities are monitored, this monitoring is neither systematic nor particularly effective. There are some exceptions: for example, the monitoring of the tax agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) by the Ministry of Finance is more effective than many other oversights. The Corte dei Conti – the main Audit Office – performs a systematic monitoring of bureaucratic offices and also of executive agencies but this monitoring is mainly focused on legal and procedural aspects and is much less effective in covering other aspects such as cost efficiency. Monitoring of regional health care agencies, and health care expenditure and procurements is still inadequate. Despite major regional differences and deviations from “standard costs,” established by recent studies, systematic oversight is not yet in place. After long discussions about the introduction of nationally defined “standard costs” in the health sector this decision is yet to be implemented. The capacity of regional governments to properly manage and monitor health care resources can vary significantly from region to region, which has cast doubt over further decentralization and the ability of the central government to control this sector.
The monitoring of agencies in Romania has been plagued by political clientelism and the capacity reduction suffered by many ministries following the often-haphazard personnel reductions associated with the austerity measures adopted in 2010 – 2011. Many agencies fail to provide information on their websites, which is in violation of decisional transparency legislation.
Following the passage of the 2002 Civil Service Act, which at least formally has made it easier for the government to get rid of unwanted personnel, politicization has increased in Slovenia’s executive agencies. Despite a rhetorical commitment to depoliticization in public administration in the 2014 coalition agreement, the Cerar government has replaced a number of experienced high-ranking and even some mid-level civil servants with less qualified staff loyal to the coalition parties and has filled leading positions in executive agencies with politically loyal personnel. Also, ministerial cabinets are largely filled with politically loyal personnel that usually lack the requisite expertise to carry out its functions and aid the minister. Political and personal ties have prevented the prosecution of misconduct and incompetency, resulting in dropping level of civil service quality at the national level.
The national Framework Law on Agencies/Bureaucracies has insufficient scope: too many agencies are exempted from (full) monitoring directives, while annual reports are delivered too late or are incomplete. Hence, the government lacks adequate oversight over the dozens of billions of euros of expenses managed by bodies at some distance from the central government. The original intention was that the Framework Law would apply fully to some 75% of the agencies; by 2012 it had less than 25% of its intended function. In 2014 – 2015, it became clear that several oversight agencies and inspectorates, such as the Inspectorate for Health Care and the Authority for Consumers and Markets, were not quite up to their tasks.

ICT projects for the national government too were improperly monitored, resulting in huge time- and cost-overruns. The Social Insurance Bank (Sociale Verzekeringsbank, SVB) was for far too long unable to disburse personal benefits to special-education students and senior citizens eligible for day and home care on time and in the correct amount. The Implementing Institute for Workers’ Insurances (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen, UVW) has struggled for a long time with apparently unsolvable problems, including delays in medical check-ups and increasing fraud, while the inaccessibility of its ICT-system is undermining communication with clients. Implementation of human resource plans for the National Revenue Service (Belastingdienst), following substantial political pressure, were put under external supervision. Some MPs believe the Revenue Services’ organizational continuity may be at stake. In 2017, implementation problems in the reformed national policy system were reported, including excessive administrative regulation, incomplete oversight of different tasks and task fields, and insufficient leadership in capacity-building and performance management. On top of this, there were financial irregularities in the national police’s Central Works Council.
Algemene Rekenkamer, Kaderwet zbo’s. Rijkwijdte en implementatie, juni 2012

A. Pelizza and R. Hoppe, Birth of a failure. Media debates and digital infrastructure and the organisation of governance, in Administration & Society, 2015

Instellingsbesluit Onderzoekscommissie intern functioneren Nederlandse Zorg Autoriteit (NZa), 27 October 2015

Financiëel Dadblad, Algemene Rekenkamer gaat effectiviteit UWV onderzoeken, 29 January, 2016 (, consulted 9 November 2016), Wiebes plaatst Belastingdienst onder curatele, 12 October 2016 (, consulted 9 November 2016), Deel Tweede Kamer niet overtuigd dat de continuïteit van de belastingdienst niet in gevaar is, 2 November 2016 (, consulted 2 November 2016)

Rapport brengt belangrijkste belemmeringen bij Nationale Politie in kaart,, 18 July 2017

“Strafontslag COR-baas politie. Declaratieschandaal.,”, 1 September 2017
The Council of Ministers appoints the governing bodies of quasi-governmental institutions and approves their budgets (after line ministries review them, but before a vote in parliament). The need for closer scrutiny and significant reform of the public sector led to measures that enhance control but, regrettably, not oversight. Clientelistic practices prevailed in the past, serving government and partisan objectives. However, amendments to the law on the governing bodies of quasi-governmental institutions (2014) appear to offer room for closer oversight, though ample favoritism remains possible.

The situation among local authorities is similar. Legislation for their reform is still pending. Though some municipalities faced bankruptcy, no significant improvement in management or response to chronic challenges has been discernable.
1. Municipalities overall Debt seen at €448.9m in 2015, Cyprus Business Mail,
The monitoring of public agencies by ministries is weak. Public agencies and government ministries have often spent more money than allotted to them in the government budget. This problem has been exacerbated due to the limited capacity of the National Audit Office (Ríkisendurskoðun) to monitor the activities of those agencies within its jurisdiction. From 2000 to 2007, the National Audit Office audited only 44 out of 993, or 4.4%, of the agencies within its jurisdiction. In 2009, almost half of the National Audit Office’s efforts (43%) were diverted to financial auditing related in some way to the financial crash and its consequences. Moreover, National Audit Office’s resources have been cut. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of personnel was reduced from 47 to 42. At the end of 2016, the number was up to 45 so the situation seems to be recovering and the National Audit Office is again being strengthened.
Nation Audit Office Annual Report 2012. (ÁRSSKÝRSLA RÍKISENDURSKOÐUNAR 2012. APRÍL 2013).
Nation Audit Office Annual Report 2013. (ÁRSSKÝRSLA RÍKISENDURSKOÐUNAR 2013. APRÍL 2014).
Nation Audit Office Annual Report 2014. (ÁRSSKÝRSLA RÍKISENDURSKOÐUNAR 2014. APRÍL 2015).
Nation Audit Office Annual Report 2015. (ÁRSSKÝRSLA RÍKISENDURSKOÐUNAR 2015. MARS 2016).
Nation Audit Office Annual Report 2016. (ÁRSSKÝRSLA RÍKISENDURSKOÐUNAR 2016. JÚNÍ 2017).
The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
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