Implementation

   

To what extent does central government ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services?

EUOECD
 
Central government effectively ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
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9
Denmark
National laws set standard with varying degrees of discretion for local authorities. The central government can supervise whether standards are met through benchmarks and tests and can require that performance indicators be published, such as hospital waiting lists, school performance results, and so on. Here, too, an active press plays a role in exposing problems, and the central government, which is ultimately responsible politically, can intervene by setting stricter standards or transferring extra money to certain activities. Rhetorical action, such as shaming underachievers, is also sometimes part of the strategy.

An example of the tension between central government concerns for welfare arrangements and local authorities’ push for flexibility and freedom are proposals to introduce minimum standards for various public services, which intend to reduce variation across the municipalities.
Citations:
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen et al, Politik og forvaltning. 4th ed., 2017.
France
Policymakers in France share a common interest in ensuring national cohesion. This is the basis for a large number of national standards and rules that canalize local and regional policies. National standards are determined by national regulations and constitutional and administrative courts serve as arbiters in disputes over whether these standards are met. The application of national standards is facilitated by the fact that most public utilities are provided by large private or semi-public companies with a vested interest in having the same rules and standards across the country. Services such as energy supply, water distribution or garbage collection are run by many different companies, most of which belong to two or three holding companies. Following the protest of business and local politicians against a flood of norms and standards, the government has started an enquiry and taken a few measures of “simplification.” However, to date, no significant results have been observed with the exception of the construction sector where norms have been simplified, after imposing extremely cumbersome rules and standards.
Luxembourg
The Ministry of the Interior supports local administration. As part of territorial reforms, the administration responsible for monitoring municipal finances, will be integrated within the existing national Auditing Court (Cour des Comptes). The government is not entirely free to optimize and improve local government.

In its 2013 program, the government declared that dual mandates would no longer be allowed. To date, no reform has been implemented. More than half of members of parliament also have a local mandate and in October 2017, 11 worked as city mayors and 36 as members of the municipal council. This may be why conflicts of interests between national and local mandates sometimes arise in parliamentary processes.
Citations:
Cour des comptes du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, www.cour-des-comptes.lu/. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

“47 Abgeordnete bekleiden in den kommenden sechs Jahren auch ein kommunales Mandat.” Luxemburger Wort, 10 Oct 2017, https://e-paper.wort.lu/eweb/spl/2017/10/10/w/2/1380692/?q=Doppelmandat. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

Théry, Patrick. “Werden Doppelmandate abgeschafft?” L’essentiel, 7 Mar. 2016, www.lessentiel.lu/de/luxemburg/story/19791348. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.
 
Central government largely ensures that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
8
Iceland
A diverse set of special laws set national minimum standards for the provision of local government services. These laws relate particularly to primary education, child protection, and standards of social services. Nevertheless, central government monitors compliance with some standards, and has even raised certain standards to an unattainable level in view of the financial support available to local governments.
Japan
Japanese government authorities put great emphasis on the existence of reasonable unitary standards for the provision of public services. The move toward decentralization makes it particularly important to raise standards for the local provision of public services. Within the central government, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is in charge of this task, which involves direct supervision, personnel transfer between central and local entities, and training activities. While a 2000 reform abolished local entities’ agency functions in a strict sense (that is, direct administrative supervision has lost some importance compared to legal and judicial supervision), other channels have remained important. At the local and particularly the prefectural level, there is an elaborate training system that is linked in various ways to national-level standards. The government seeks to promote evidence-based policymaking through new data platforms, which are also meant to support local governments in the implementation of plan-do-check-adjust (PDCA) cycles.

A unified digital “My Number Card” system (based on the new social-security and tax number system) was introduced for citizens in 2015 to help authorities with providing and enforcing uniform services. It has faced some opposition and foot-dragging by citizens, however, and experienced some technical problems in 2017.
Citations:
Kyodo News, My Number law takes effect amid privacy fears, The Japan Times, 5 October 2015, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/05/national/number-law-now-effect-notifications-set-sent/

A year into the new system, Japan’s My Number ID cards are not catching on, 4 January 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/04/national/year-new-system-japans-number-id-cards-not-catching/

Cabinet Office, Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2017 – Increasing productivity through investment in human resources, Overview, 9 June 2017
Norway
The Norwegian government is committed to providing public services that are as uniform as possible across the country. Given the large distances involved, and the remoteness of some regions, this implies that peripheral parts of the country receive large (and expensive) transfers, both directly and in the form of infrastructure investments.

Although services are reasonably uniform across the country, this has not been the case for local-government performance in all respects, in particular with respect to financial management.

A number of bodies including the regional prefects (fylkesmannen), the national ombudsman, and similar agencies in the fields of health, patients’ rights and more have been established to ensure the effective and uniform application of rules.
7
Finland
Since local authorities have the constitutional right to use their own discretion, the central government has limited capacity to ensure that national standards are consistently met. Local governments are separate from the central government, with municipal authorities recognized as existing independently of the state. Still, appeals to administrative courts regarding decisions taken by local authorities are possible on grounds that the decisions were not made in proper order or were otherwise illegal. In certain and very few specific matters, such as environmental or social-care issues, local government decisions must be confirmed by state authorities. The reform of municipalities and services now ongoing for years aims to increase the effectiveness of public-services provision in peripheral regions and improve local governments’ fiscal sustainability. The extent to which these reforms can meet the stated goals remains an open and much-debated question
Germany
In Germany, public services are provided by various levels of government: the federal administration, the administrations of federal states, municipalities, indirect public administrations (institutions subject to public law with specific tasks, particularly in the area of social security), nonpublic and nonprofit institutions (e.g., kindergartens or youth centers), and finally judicial administrations. While some standards have a national character and thus have to be respected at all levels, this is not the case in areas, such as education.
Ireland
Most of the main public services (health, social welfare, education, public transport, building and maintaining the primary national road network, and, since 2014, the provision of water services) are provided by the central government or national public utility companies; there is little scope for subnational governments to influence standards.

The attainment of national (or, more usually now, EU) levels of public services is prescribed and monitored in other areas where local government plays a greater role, notably environmental services and standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays a key role in enforcing standards across the country. The Office of Environmental Enforcement supervises the environmental protection activities of local authorities by auditing their performance, providing advice and guidance, and in some cases giving binding directions. It can assist the public in bringing prosecutions against local authorities found to be in breach of significant legislation. In other areas – the provision of social housing, maintenance of local roads and other such issues – the attainment of national standards is largely constrained by the resources made available by the central government. There is significant variation between local providers in these areas.
Israel
The provision of local services in Israel is dispersed between many agents, including local authorities, NGOs, government and municipal corporations, and institutions such as public and private hospitals. The bulk of social services are provided by local authorities, proportionally funded according to their revenues and share of dependents. While some local authorities fare well and offer supplementary social support, weaker local authorities such as largely Arab or orthodox Jewish municipalities struggle to maintain government standards. This led to an expansion in the central government’s powers during the 2000s, authorizing the Ministry of the Interior to closely supervise and even dissolve councils that fail to deliver proper services, even at the cost of less democratic local representation.

Another solution has been the use of service treaties within local authorities, which aim to standardize local services used by residents while informing residents of their rights and the level of general services in their city or town. A branch of the Ministry of the Interior reviews this process. In recent years, many local authorities have taken part in this process and published information regarding local services on their website. The privatization of social services has led to problems, with weak social ministries struggling to regulate the quality and content of care. Several reports on education services point to ideological conflicts and poor management, as well as an increase in the share of privately financed activities, with consequent increases in inequality.

Another recent move to ensure that local governments meet national standards was the agreement between the Interior, Justice and Finance ministries to amend the Business Licensing Law. This will allow the government to override municipalities when it comes to licensing for power plants, waste-management facilities and water-treatment centers, among other facilities.

In Israel, there are 2,114 separate communities (cities, community settlements, moshavim, kibbutzim, and so forth). Most local authorities are weak and dependent on government handouts and ministry support. A State Comptroller report on local authorities identified “a slew of offenses against planning and building laws.”

For security reasons, Israel established the West Bank barrier over a decade ago, along a route that diverged both from the municipal boundary of the city as determined in June 1967 and from the Green Line. The substantial discrepancies between these courses have led to a governmental vacuum, legal uncertainty and planning chaos. The ACRI has highlighted this issue, and has proposed the establishment of a new Israeli local council there operating under Ministry of the Interior auspices, paired with the investment of significant government funds in these neighborhoods.
Citations:
Arlozerov, Meirav, “First achievement for the German committee: The government will approve the establishment of a regulatory authority over hospitals,” TheMarker 25.5.2014: http://www.themarker.com/news/health/1.2330341 (Hebrew).

Bersler-Gonen, Rotem,“Service treaty in local government in Israel – review,” Ministry of the interior website (December 2011) (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: http://www.themarker.co m/news/education/1.2450395 (Hebrew).

Paz־Fuchs, Amir and Bensimhon־Peleg, Sarit, “On the seam between the public and the private: privatization and nationalization in Israel: Annual report 2013,” The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, 2014 (Hebrew)

Specktor, Shiri, “Social rights and personal social services in Israel,” The Knesset Research Center 21.10.2010: http://www.knesset.gov.il/mmm/data/pdf/m03158.pdf (Hebrew)

Local government in Israel, Knesset website: http://www.knesset.gov.i l/lexicon/eng/LocalAuthorities_eng. htm

“On nominated councils and democracy,” Hithabrut website (NGO) (Hebrew)

The citizen’s empowerment center in Israel: the implantation of the movement’s decision to establish a regulatory authority over hospitals – review – April 2016: http://www.ceci.org.il/sites/citizens/UserContent/files/monitorreport/monitor%201622.pdf

Schindler, Max,“NO MORE ‘NOT IN MY BACKYARD’ STANCES FOR LOCAL MUNICIPALITIES,” the Jerusalem Post online, 18.10.2017,
http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/No-more-Not-in-my-backyard-stances-for-local-municipalities-507780

Marmor, Dror, “Israel’s local government system breeds corruption,” Globes, 04.12.2017, http://www.globes.co.il/en/article-israels-local-government-system-breeds-corruption-1001214368

ACRI, “Implications of Establishing a Separate Local Authority for the Neighborhoods Beyond the Barrier in Jerusalem,” https://www.acri.org.il/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Separate-Municiplaity-Position-Paper-1.pdf

Ir Amim, Displaced in their own city. The Impact of Israeli policy in East Jerusalem on the Palestinian neighborhoods of the city beyond the separation barrier, June 2015, http://www.ir-amim.org.il/sites/default/files/akurim_ENG_for%20web_0.pdf

“The State Comptroller and Ombudsman Yearly Report 2016-2015,” May 2017, (Hebrew), http://www.mevaker.gov.il/he/Reports/Report_425/acdfe4f3-7bc6-48b5-b602-7cf3200380b0/2017-67b.pdf
New Zealand
It is not central government as such but a dense network of agencies that are involved with the development and monitoring of local government. This includes the Minister of Local Government, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Local Government Commission, Local Government New Zealand (representing local councils on the national level), the Office of the Controller and Auditor General, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. Their roles range from strategic development, policy formulation, regulation and monitoring, to handling complaints about the activities and operation of local government. At the end of 2013 a comprehensive reform program, “Better Local Government,” was introduced, whose provisions are part of the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Act 2014. In June 2016, the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2) passed its first parliamentary reading, which includes the Better Local Services reforms. The bill continues the general trend of increasing central government scrutiny and control over local government. These reforms have been the subject of criticism, especially in Auckland with its relatively new “super-city” structure and population of 1.4 million. However, smaller municipalities have also been critical of the reforms, describing them as being undemocratic, especially the “draconian” powers granted to the Local Government Commission. Smaller municipalities argued that they could be forced amalgamate their services. In an open letter to then-Prime Minister John Key, Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt called the legislation the “crushing of local government democracy and seizing control of their assets bill.”
Citations:
Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2). NZ parliament. https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/00DBHOH_BILL69266_1/local government-act-2002-amendment-bill-no-2 (accessed 7 October, 2016).
Woolf, Amber-Leigh, 2016. Minister says Better Local Services reforms not a ‘threat to democracy’ or forced amalgamation. Stuff.co.nz. 3 August 2016 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/82752225/Minister-says-Better-Local-Services-reforms-not-a-threat-to-democracy-or-forced-amalgamation.
Poland
Previous governments have set national standards with the aim of guaranteeing a minimum quality of public services. Institutionally, the regions have a centrally appointed head of regional administration who is responsible for ensuring that national policies are implemented, and that state institutions operating in the region perform their functions properly. This has recently been contested and discussions increased over the competencies of the Voivode (PiS member) ruling the Masovian voivodship and the mayor of Warsaw as the largest city in this region, governed by PO. This debate about the competencies of the regions and larger cities in Poland is again an expression of a political power play. Generally, the PiS receives less votes in large cities than the PO. The politicization of the civil service under the PiS government has put the success of these standards at risk by reducing the professionalism of the administration. Moreover, because of the conflicts between the government and the Constitutional Tribunal, the standards themselves are contested.
South Korea
The Ministry of Public Administration and Security, created through a merger of earlier agencies, is in charge of ensuring that local governments maintain national minimum standards. However, many local governments, particularly in rural areas, have much lower professional standards than does the city government of Seoul or the central government. While the provision of basic services is similar in all regions, there is a huge difference in the provision of additional services such as recreation facilities between affluent (i.e., self-sufficient) regions like Seoul and the southeast and less prosperous (i.e., dependent on transfer payments) regions in the southwest. For instance, a number of local governments have recently begun paying child benefits greater than those dictated by national standards. As local-government autonomy develops, a greater number of customized policies are being introduced for residents. For example, the Special Act for the Promotion of Health and Welfare of Rural Communities was implemented in 2017.
Switzerland
The Swiss political system is one of the most decentralized systems in the world. Cantons and municipalities enjoy very substantial autonomy. Within the scope of their quite significant competencies, it is up to the cantons and municipalities to decide what public services they want to offer, to what extent and at what level of quality. Therefore, there are no national standards for public services except with regard to those limited parts of the administration that implement federal law. However, all public services have to comply with the rule of the law and the human rights set out in the constitution. A comparatively small number of issues (i.e., social policies) are decided at the federal level, and are thus subject to national standards. In these cases, federal laws are implemented by cantonal administrations, which have to follow national norms.

Multilateral agreements between some or all cantons (“Konkordate”) for common standards of public services can be seen as a functional equivalent to national policy standards.
UK
There are supposed to be national standards for service delivery by local authorities or the parallel networks of agencies for specific policies such as the trusts running health care, but recent scandals have shown that implementation can be unsatisfactory and thus that there can be “postcode lotteries” in standards. Recently, the Care Quality Commission, a body designed to oversee the quality of health and social care, was criticized for a lack of transparency. A subsequent report by the National Audit Office found that, while there had been considerable improvements, shortcomings still needed to be addressed.

Although central government has the capacity to ensure national standards on this issue, it does not always do enough to “watch the watchers.” All members of the civil service are pledged to a range of codes (such as the Civil Service Code, the Directory of Civil Service Guidance) to ensure national standards in performance, conduct and delivery. In 2012, the Standards Board for England – which has scrutinized civil service commitments to the codes since 2000 – was abolished. The central government has encouraged local authorities to set up regional standards boards. This is in line with the Localism Act 2011, which changed the powers and scrutiny of local government in England. The ongoing Civil Service Reform, which started in 2012, established a new range of national standards, especially in skills, accountability, transparency and diversity, as recorded in the New Public Appointments Governance Code.

An agreement on common standards was reached between central government and the devolved administrations in October 2017 regarding powers returning from Brussels. In a similar vein, a new Appointments Governance Code came into effect on 1 January 2017.
Citations:
HM Government 2012: The Civil Service Reform Plan; http://resources.civilservice.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Civil-Service-Reform-Plan- acc-final.pdf https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Capacity-and-capability-to-regulate-the-quality-and-safety-of-health-and-adult-social-care.pdf
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Australia
The Commonwealth has a strong commitment to providing uniform national services, and it makes considerable effort to ensure that program delivery, particularly in health and education, is as uniform as possible across the country. This attempt at uniformity is necessarily complicated by differences in sizes of states and population distribution, and by resistance from state governments keen to preserve their independence. Variation in funding levels according to need (as determined by an independent statutory authority, the Commonwealth Grants Commission) helps to ensure uniformity. Moreover, contingent funding is regularly used by the Commonwealth to achieve uniformity in minimum standards.
Austria
The national and state governments share responsibility for many issues, including schools and health care. Each side tends to blame the other for specific implementation shortcomings. In most cases, the parties governing on the national level also control the state governments. Party alliances do not prevent the emergence of conflicts deriving from this structural division of power, but the conflicts are somewhat muted by party links. In parallel with overall growing voter volatility, political majorities in the nine states have grown subject to greater volatility, which has prompted officials at the federal and state levels to demonstrate greater political openness toward each other.

The national government has relatively few instruments by which to make state governments comply with its formal policies. Oversight of municipalities, by both the states and the federal government, is more effective.

Conflicts between state and federal governments have to be brought to the Constitutional Court.
Canada
In many areas of provincial jurisdiction, perhaps most notably in education, the federal government does not in principle have the authority to ensure that provinces meet national standards. Contrary to most other advanced countries, Canada has no minimum funding levels, national educational goals or overarching curriculum. Yet despite the complete control exercised by the provinces, Canada’s educational system is arguably quite successful, and remains similar across the various provinces, which invest in mandatory education at comparable levels and achieve comparable results for their students. Graduation rates are similar, as are the results on pan-Canadian and international tests, such as the Program for International Student Achievement (PISA), operated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In other areas where the federal government transfers funds to the provinces, it has the leverage to insist on certain standards. Health care is the main area in which this occurs. The Canada Health Act of 1986 requires provinces to meet five principles for health care: care must be available to all eligible residents of Canada, comprehensive in coverage, accessible without financial or other barriers, portable within the country and during travel abroad, and publicly administered. All five principles must be met by the provinces if they are to receive full federal funding. The federal government has challenged certain provinces for failure to meet these standards. However, no funds have been withheld since 1993. Some feel that the federal government should be more aggressive in ensuring that national standards are met in the health area.

In environmental policy, the federal government introduced a national carbon tax for provinces that do not adopt their own carbon reduction strategy by 2018. The policy is meant to encourage provinces and territories to implement their own cap-and-trade or carbon tax policies to ensure Canada reaches the 2030 Paris target.
Czech Rep.
A department within the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for overseeing subnational self-government. Its concern is compliance with existing laws and not the assessment of efficiency; laws cover such issues as regular financial accounting, the fair conduct of elections, the avoidance of conflict of interest, the compliance with rules on the disposal of waste materials and freedom of information. Its annual reports show regular monitoring of all levels of self-government, as well as substantial efforts to inform councils of existing legal constraints. The number of breaches of the law, following consultation and advice from the ministry, continues to decline. However, a gap still exists between national and EU standards; there remains a strong tradition of non-implementation. The effectiveness of drawing up EU funds improved significantly during the term of the Sobotka government.
Estonia
The issue of national standards is relatively new to Estonia. First the European Union and later the OECD brought it to the government’s agenda. Until recently, transportation and water management were the only issues subject to quality standards. Local governments were not part of this national system and were responsible for ensuring service quality on their own.

Based on recommendations made in the OECD Governance Report 2011, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications established a unit responsible for developing a comprehensive system of public-services standards. In 2013, a green paper on public services was approved by the government cabinet, establishing online-service standards as the main priority. However, besides one other sophisticated study on possible quality evaluation methods for various public services (2014), no progress has occurred. Since several public services are provided at the local level, the quantity and quality of services varies greatly across municipalities.
Latvia
Autonomous local government functions are subject to laws and regulations emanating from the central government. These regulations delineate common standards and define the scope of local government autonomy. The President’s Strategic Advisory Council has warned that over-regulation is seriously encroaching on local government autonomy. The council has called for a limit to bureaucratization and a reduction in the volume of regulations governing functions that are mandated as autonomous.

The executive has said it would create a new one-stop client-service system across the country, which would centralize the contact point for accessing public (central and local government) services. The new system will also introduce national standards for local government services by 2016. The policy was approved by the cabinet in 2013 and pilot projects have been implemented by a number of local governments. An evaluation conference, in September 2014, documented many instances of successful pilot projects as well as favorable client-satisfaction responses to surveys. In 2015, 59 one-stop agencies were launched. After only one year of operation, they have proven to be useful, processing more than 25,000 different types of applications to state and municipal agencies. A further 20 one-stop agencies were to open in 2016. However, the comparability of data sets between institutions remains a challenge.
Citations:
1. The President’s Strategic Advisory Council (2013), Management Improvement Proposals, Available at (in Latvian): http://www.president.lv/images/modules/items/PDF/Pasvaldibas_EGPP_FINAL.pdf, Last assessed: 21.05.2013

2. Regulation Regarding Concept of the Public Service System Development (2013), Available at (in Latvian): http://www.likumi.lv/doc.php?id=254910, Last assessed: 21.05.2013.

3. Freedom House (2012), Nations in Transit, Country Report, Available at: http://www.freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/NIT2012Latvia_final.pdf, Last assessed: 21.05.2013
Lithuania
National public-service standards at the subnational level are ensured through centralized or regional governance arrangements. For example, landfills are connected in a regional network of service providers. The decentralized provision of other public services at the local level has produced uneven quality in areas such as school education or the accessibility of primary health care services. The Public Management Improvement Program aims at defining minimal-quality standards for various public functions such as health care, education and social services. The Sunset Commission – a commission tasked with finding ways to improve state administrative functions – advised the central government to provide recommendations to municipal authorities regarding general administrative functions, such as personnel policies. Though the Sunset Commission has since been dissolved. A recent report from the National Audit Office found that the central government still lacks reliable and comprehensive data on the provision of public services, which is necessary for the effective modernization and standardization of services.
Citations:
The Public Management Improvement Program (in Lithuanian) is available at http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpa ieska.showdoc_l?p_id=418407&p_query=vie%F0ojo%20valdymo%20tobulinimo%20programa&p_tr2=2
Malta
It is the Department of Local Government and the National Audit Office which seek to ensure standards within local councils. The first is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the performance of individual local councils. Central departments set the benchmarks for services provided by local councils. The second is the National Audit Office, which independently investigates local council activities both from a purely auditing perspective and from a “value for money” perspective. It is the latter that has by and large driven reform of local councils. National standards at the local level are also reinforced through the councilors’ code of ethics and the Local Councils Association. The ombudsman’s office has also suggested the introduction of a commissioner for local government within his office.
Citations:
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151226/local/councils-christmas-dinner-bills-give-auditor-a-headache.596707
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160111/opinion/Auditing-local-governance.598374
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160706/local/auditor-general-criticises-funding-scheme-as-hasty.617914
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20151228/local/councils-shortcoming-identified-by-nao-unacceptable-parliamentary.597069
Report by the auditor general on the workings of local government for the year 2015
Portugal
National standards are largely uniformly applied, albeit as a result of the control and provision of most public services by the central government. However, there are differences between municipalities in some services, as in the case of infrastructure, culture and extracurricular educational offerings. Similarly, differences in service provision can result from the “luck of the draw” in terms of the specific civil servant a citizen encounters. This reflects both the complex and frequently changing policy framework and the relative lack of accountability in public-services provision.
Sweden
Public services have been extensively decentralized over the past decades. Once services are transferred from central to local government, safeguarding national standards and even defining and sustaining those standards becomes problematic. The same problem applies to increasingly privatized services, where the oversight over national standards becomes even more challenging.

Decentralization and local autonomy are essentially institutional choices and, as all choices, these arrangements have their downsides. One of the problems with a decentralized system is that it becomes very difficult to enforce national standards. This became obvious to the government after the extensive decentralization reform during the 1980s and early 1990s. In primary and secondary education, the past two decades have witnessed central government trying to regain some control in order to ensure some degree of national standards. The main strategy toward this objective has been to extensively evaluate the performance of schools and publicize evaluation reports (i.e., to “name, blame and shame” underperforming schools). Thus, government exercises a strategy of steering by auditing. In addition, central government has tried to increase equality among local authorities by revising the general regulatory framework of primary and secondary education, and by targeting financial resources to improve the quality of teaching.
 
Central government ensures that subnational self-governments realize national minimum standards of public services.
5
Belgium
Formally, the national (federal) government has no authority over regional governments and administrations, but it can impose some standards and policies. Environmental policies, for instance, have been largely regionalized, but environmental standards and norms are set at the federal level. As a result, environmental-policy coordination has been deadlocked since 2012. In addition, subnational and local executives have to abide by budgetary constraints set by the central government. Responsibilities for several policy levers are shared by different government levels, in which case the central government has partial authority over regional governments’ courses of action.

In general, the central government does not have the ability to enforce or control more detailed standards with regard to issues such as performance figures. The government can only try to maintain influence through more general (legal or budgetary) levers. Another informal mechanism is party discipline; whenever the same parties are in power at the national and subnational levels, coordination is facilitated. The change of government in Wallonia, which is now largely controlled by the MR, a right-wing party also in the national government, has aligned majorities and oppositions in all regions except Brussels.
Italy
Minimal standards for decentralized public services (e.g., public health care and utilities) are agreed upon and set at national level in a number of areas. The permanent conference for relations between the state, regions, provinces and cities (Conferenza Stato-Regioni ed Unificata) is an important forum in which national standards are discussed. However, the implementation of these standards is still far from satisfactory: as the administrative quality of different local authorities varies significantly, standards can differ substantially from one area of the country to another. In many fields the north–south divide remains significant, and seriously affects equality of opportunities and national cohesion. So far, efforts to overcome it have not proven very successful.

National standards have increasingly been adopted for utilities (e.g., water, electricity and communications), but in most cases independent authorities are responsible for the definition and implementation of standards. Implementation in this field is fairly adequate.
Romania
The central government generally tries to ensure that subnational governments realize national public-service standards. The prefects have an important role in this respect. However, enforcement is sometimes undermined by the inadequate funding provided to subnational governments.
Spain
The central government has in principle always been committed to ensuring uniform national standards for public services, but this has never been completely effective. In some cases, regional governments design and implement their own public policies without following clearly defined national standards. As a result, there may be some variation in the quality of public services offered by Spain’s regions. In general, minimum standards are set by basic national legislation, but are not subsequently enforced. The formal administrative method for monitoring the provision of services by the Autonomous Communities through supervision (Alta Inspección) has not been particularly effective. However, new regulations on financial sustainability within public administration and local governments have strengthened the tools through which the central government can ensure that regional and local governments realize national minimum standards. One example was the health care reform, which focused on a services portfolio of the National Health System. The central government tried to ensure that the decentralized provision of public health services comply with standards set on the national level. The 2016 political impasse has limited progress on education reforms. The future of the 2013 Organic Law for Improvement of the Quality of Education (LOMCE), which contains an external evaluation system based on learning standards set at the national level, is unclear and remains on hold. Overall, inequalities between regions have not diminished.
Netherlands
Local governments themselves also try to meet mutually agreed-upon national standards. Several studies by local audit chambers have involved comparisons and benchmarks for particular kinds of services. Local governments have been organizing voluntary peer reviews of each other’s executive capacities. In 2009, the Association of Dutch Local Governments established the Quality Institute of Dutch Local Governments (Kwaliteitsinstituut Nederlandse Gemeenten, KING). Since 2016, KING produces a comparative report on the status of local governments (“De staat van Gemeenten”) which collects relevant policy evaluations and assists local governments in their information management-based policy perspectives. Nevertheless, due to the implementation of strong decentralization plans, including funding cutbacks, it is likely that the uniformity of national standards in the delivery of municipal services will diminish.
Citations:
Raad Financiële Verhoudingen:
http://www.rob-rfv.nl/documenten/reactie_rfv_op_decentralisatiebrief.pdf

Raad voor het Openbaar Bestuur:
http://www.rob-rfv.nl/documenten/reactie_rfv_op_decentralisatiebrief.pdf

Kwaliteits Instituut: https://www.kinggemeenten.nl/

KING Jaarverslag 2015 In één oogopslag, ringgemeenten.nl (consulted 12 October 2017)
Turkey
The Regulation Concerning Public Service Standards was issued by the Council of Ministers in July 2009. According to the regulation, all public entities including municipalities must prepare service standards tables for the council’s use.

The Ministry of Interior Affairs closely monitors the structure and quality of services provided by municipal governments, through its own local agencies and administrative trusteeship (through internal and external audits, and audits by civil service inspectors). The Union of Municipalities of Turkey also offers nationally or EU-funded training and technical support for municipalities in this respect.

While United Nations Development Program (UNDP) support for the implementation of local-administration reform in Turkey (LAR Phase 2) has been concluded, Turkey still aims to fulfill some requirements of the European Local Self-Government Charter. In this context, municipalities work to establish departments tasked with monitoring, investment and coordination. The main duties of these departments are to provide, monitor and coordinate public institutions and organizations’ investments and services; to provide and coordinate central-administration investments in the provinces; and to guide and inspect provincial public institutions and organizations. However, the most significant outstanding issues with regard to standardizing local public services are essentially financial, technical and personnel-driven. Within the OECD, Turkey remains the country with the largest regional disparities.
Citations:
Kamu Hizmetlerinin Sunumunda Uyulacak Usul ve Esaslara İlişkin Yönetmelik, Official Gazette, 31 July 2009, http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/main.aspx?home=http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2009/07/20090731.htm&main=http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2009/07/20090731.htm (accessed 1 November 2017)
Ankara Büyükşehir Belediyesi Hizmet Standartları Tablosu, https://www.ankara.bel.tr/files/2913/4727/6681/tablolar_imar_8_1.pdf (accessed 1 November 2017)
USA
Due to the dual nature of the U.S. federal system, the issue of national standards applies mostly to co-financed federal programs, where the federal government sometimes asserts its right to set and monitor compliance with these standards. The bulk of public services are delivered by local and state agencies with minimal intervention by the federal government. The question of enforcing federal standards arises in specific areas where federal policymakers have sought to impose such standards, sometimes to enforce citizens’ rights under the federal constitution, and other times for policy reasons. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, requires states to meet air-quality standards under the Clean Air Act. On the other hand, states exercise broad discretion in setting standards of eligibility for Medicaid coverage or with regard to unemployment insurance. The Obama administration granted waivers that allowed individual states to relax work requirements for welfare recipients (under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). One Obama administration K-12 education program sought to promote national “core curriculum” standards. In most areas, large variation in state government policies and standards of service are regarded as legitimate.
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Bulgaria
In Bulgaria, the effectiveness of national-government oversight and compliance with national standards in the decentralized provision of public services differ among functional spheres. For example, education is provided by local schools on the basis of funds delegated by the national or the local government, with standards upheld relatively objectively and effectively through external evaluation and regional and local inspection. However, in the sphere of environmental, waste-management and forestry standards, as well as in the local-level health care sector, monitoring is uneven and some localities have much lower standards than others.
Citations:
Institute for Market Economics (2016): The successes and failures of Bulgarian municipalities. Sofia (http://ime.bg/en/articles/the-successes-and-failures-of-bulgarian-municipalities/).
Hungary
In Hungary, the quality of subnational public services has suffered as a result of the reorganization of subnational governments. The state administration’s new subnational tiers have only gradually gained experience in providing services. The provision of those public services that have been left with subnational self-governments has in turn suffered from self-governments’ lack of financial resources and administrative capacities. as well as from conflicting legal norms and the complexity of some regulations. The central government has exercised strong control but has not focused on quality issues. As a result, national standards have increasingly been undermined, especially in the fields of health care, education and social services.
Citations:
Albert, F. (2016): Restructuring of the Hungarian social protection system: Evaluation of the 2015 decision to delivering benefits locally. European Social Policy Network, Flash Report No. 2016/26.
Slovakia
Public-service standards are poorly defined, especially with regard to the independent functions of subnational governments. Moreover, the monitoring of compliance with these standards is often fragmented. The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for overseeing subnational self-government, but largely focuses on formal compliance with existing laws and cost efficiency. While the ministry regularly monitors all levels of self-government, the number of breaches of the law and the extent and effects of ministerial intervention are not transparent. Clearly, there are differences between national and EU standards that negatively influence the effective use of EU structural funds. The second Fico government’s ESO project has focused on increasing the administrative capacity of subnational governments by realizing economies of scale and by sharing and centralizing services such as facility management, procurement and payroll management.
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Chile
Due to the different financing structures at regional and municipal levels, the national government can only guarantee services at an adequate standard at the regional level. The central government clearly fails to establish national standards at municipal level across the whole country. In addition, relatively poor municipalities and those in rural regions often lack the capacity to meet national standards for public services, especially in the fields of health care and education. This segregation is also evident in Santiago itself, where public schools in richer districts clearly tend to show higher standards and better results than public schools from poorer districts. In comparison to previous years, a slight improvement can be noticed in the field of education and primary healthcare. Nevertheless, there is still a huge gap to be closed.
Greece
In the period under review, there was some improvement in the implementation of national standards. It was realized by the incumbent government that non-implementation of such standards could put the state’s finances in danger, particularly since subnational self-governments are heavily dependent on the central government for their finances.
Mexico
Insufficient funding, corruption and inefficiency inhibit the effective implementation of nationwide public policy standards in many sectors. Currently, this is playing out particularly visibly in the education sector, where not a single government entity seems to know how many teachers there are in the public schools, let alone how effectively they teach. Part of a recent education reform requires the statistical agency INEGI to conduct a census of the education sector. The discrepancy in the number of teachers in official data provided by the Ministry of Education and those encountered by census-takers when they visited schools is significant. In several states, INEGI’s work was disrupted by unions, especially the CNTE, which sought to prevent census-takers from entering schools. Overall, the education reform has increased pressure for accountability and transparency but the country still has a long way to go before all schools and teachers meet national standards. So far, even trying to collect the data that would enable the monitoring of standards has been challenging. While education reform has focused mostly on schools, higher education also suffers from a lack of uniformity and insufficient monitoring of standards.
Citations:
Latin American Regional Report: Mexico & Nafta (November 2017) “Solving higher education conundrum key to 2018 election success?.”
Slovenia
In Slovenia, public-service standards are poorly defined, especially with regard to the independent functions of municipal governments. As every municipality is autonomous in providing such services, their extent and quality differ substantially across the country. Financial controls and inspections are often ineffective due to the lack of resources and staff. Moreover, the monitoring of standards is often highly fragmented. In the case of health care, for instance, the Public Agency for Drugs and Medical Accessories, the National Institute for Health Protection, the Public Health Inspectorate and the Office for Drugs and Pharmaceutical Control all play oversight roles.
 
Central government does not ensure that subnational self-governments realize national standards of public services.
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Croatia
There are no national standards for public services in Croatia. Modern systems for the improvement of service quality such as ISO, EFQM or similar public-management standards are not implemented in the Croatian public sector. Moreover, the productivity, efficiency and quality of local self-government units are not systematically measured, and local-government budgets are currently monitored only on the basis of the economic purposes of local-government spending, rather than on its outcomes. There is not even a catalog of services that local and regional self-government units (municipalities, towns, countries) should provide to the local community. The absence of clear national standards is felt particularly in the field of social policy. Here, the implementation of central-government regulation has differed strongly among municipalities. Some have even ignored legal requirements such as the provision in the Act on Social Welfare that municipalities should use 5% of their budgets for housing allowances for socially marginalized groups.
Cyprus
Standards and indicators at the central government level often lack consistency and universality. Planned reforms aim at creating a complete framework and improving implementation that tends to be incoherent. The promotion of strategic planning and budget design introduce general standards and procedures, in particular on fiscal issues. However, an evaluation report on their application across government levels, including local authorities, is still not available. When implemented, these reforms may reduce individual discretion regarding the interpretation and implementation of fiscal and other policies. However, generalized planning and the setting of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are still pending.
Citations:
Reforms Unit – Presidency, Better regulation http://www.reform.gov.cy/en/growth-reform/better-regulation
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