How effectively does the government office/prime minister’s office monitor line ministry activities with regard to implementation?

The GO / PMO effectively monitors the implementation activities of all line ministries.
There is strong central oversight of the line ministries by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which reports directly to the prime minister. The Commonwealth public service, while independent of the government, is strongly motivated to support the government’s program.
When appointed to a portfolio, a minister receives a mandate letter from the prime minister, while a deputy minister receives one from the clerk of the Privy Council. The importance of mandate letters depends on the department, and more importantly on changing political and economic circumstances. In the case of the current government, ministers’ mandate letters detail priorities for their departments as seen from the center. The minister is subsequently evaluated on his or her success in achieving the objectives set out in the mandate letter. This procedure results in the PCO continually monitoring line-department activities to ensure they are in line with the mandate letter.

The current Liberal government has, for the first time, made public the mandate letters. The media and the general public are now in a position to better monitor the activities of ministers to assess the degree to which they achieve the tasks set out in the mandate letters.
The Prime Minister’s Office has successfully monitored line ministries in all stages of the policy process, enforcing obedience to the political will of the central leadership. As all core executive figures have been Fidesz party stalwarts, control has functioned largely through party discipline. Those who have failed to keep discipline, even in comparatively insignificant matters, have lost their positions. The existing civil-service legislation has made it easy to dismiss public employees without justification.
In March 2016, revised regulations regarding the monitoring and oversight of ministries were introduced, replacing those from 2013. Under these regulations, the Prime Minister’s Office must review bills from all ministries, with the exception of the national budget bill. Accordingly, all bills need to be sent to the Prime Minister’s Office no later than one week before the respective cabinet meeting. Before the bill can be discussed by the cabinet, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office needs to be processed (Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar, No. 292/2016). This regulatory change is a step toward stronger, formal monitoring of ministerial bills.
Regulations on government procedures. (Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar. Nr. 292/2016 18. mars 2016).
The president’s advisory ministry (Secretaría General de la Presidencia, Segpres) and the respective budgetary units of the government monitor the line ministries (especially within the annual performance evaluation). If necessary, arrangements and modifications are made in order to ensure effective alignment with the government program. Monitoring of effectiveness seems to have improved slightly since 2011.
Line ministry activities are generally well monitored, but several factors influence the impact of oversight, including: the strength of the prime minister; the relationship of the minister with the president; the political position of the minister within the majority or as a local notable; media attention; and political pressure. This traditional pattern under the Fifth Republic failed to work during the first 30 months of the Hollande presidency due to the president’s weakness and reluctance to arbiter between ministers and divergent preferences. After the September 2014 crisis and the forced resignation of the dissident ministers, Prime Minister Manuel Valls was able to exercise improved oversight of the ministries. The monitoring of ministers by Macron and his prime minister is even tighter.
New Zealand
Following from the experience of fragmented policymaking in vertically integrated networks, all recent governments have strengthened the steering capacity of the core executive. All contracts between cabinet and line ministries and ministers and chief executives are based on a whole-of-government policy approach. National introduced a performance-improvement framework intended to strengthen a central-agency approach to assessing, supporting, informing and focusing performance across state services.
Statement of Intent 2014-2018 (Wellington: State Services Commission 2014).
South Korea
The offices of the president and the prime minister effectively monitor line-ministry activities. The South Korean government utilizes e-government software (the Policy Task Management System) to monitor the implementation of policies in real time. However, political monitoring or pressure is more influential than e-government, and is the usual tool used to supervise ministries. Ministries have little leeway in policy areas that are important to the president. In general, bureaucracy is organized in a very hierarchical way, but independence is stronger in areas that are comparatively less important to the president. The Prime Minister’s Office also annually monitors and evaluates the performance and implementation of 42 governmental agencies.
Formally, ministries are not very involved in the implementation of policies. It is rather the task of agencies to implement policies. Nevertheless, Swedish ministries still control the implementation process of the agencies. The relationship between ministries and agencies implies monitoring by communication and mutual adaptation, less than through a hierarchical chain of command.
Switzerland’s government features neither a prime minister’s office nor line ministries, but does offer functional equivalents. Given the rule of collegiality and the consociational decision-making style, as well as the high level of cooperation at lower levels of the federal administration, there is little leeway for significant deviation from the government line. Monitoring is built into the cooperative process of policy formulation and implementation.
The tight integration between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet Office enables prime ministers to be effective in determining the strategic direction of the government. Through Treasury Approval Point processes, the Treasury has long had an important monitoring role, which goes beyond the role of finance ministries in other countries. Decision-making is concentrated in strategic units and in informal meetings. Ministers have to reveal their preferences in cabinet meetings, cabinet committees and bilateral meetings with the prime minister or chancellor. Consequently, monitoring is relatively easy for the core executive, also by means of the single department plans.

Some recent initiatives have reinforced central oversight, including the merger of the Major Projects Authority and Infrastructure UK into the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which reports to both the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. There are implementation task forces set up at ministerial level to drive delivery in a focused set of priority areas and an implementation unit in the Cabinet Office which works on behalf of the prime minister to track the delivery of priority policies and the wider government program. It intervenes where delivery or operational performance is at risk, or progress is unclear and strengthens implementation capability across the civil service. The Financial Management Reform launched in 2014 has been evaluated as a success by the Institute for Government. The Department for Exiting the European Union oversees departments’ progress toward implementing the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. The department has identified individual workstreams that need to be taken forward, and works closely with departments and other parts of central government to monitor delivery in these areas.
Whitehall’s Financial Management Reform:
The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries.
For sensitive political issues, the prime minister has a strong incentive to monitor line ministries. Yet when it comes to less important issues or details, he or she has neither the time nor the means for close monitoring. The prime minister’s control is indirect. It is exercised through the members of the cabinet. Non-implementation will quickly become a political issue.
Jørgen Grønnegård et al. Politik og forvaltning. 4. ed., 2017.
The government monitoring of ministries is indirect in nature and the same mechanisms that foster ministerial compliance tend to have monitoring functions as well. These include the preparation and coordination of matters in cabinet committee meetings as well as other formal and informal meetings. In general, the various forms of interministerial coordination also fulfill monitoring functions. However, these forms are characterized by cooperative and consultative interactions rather than critical interactions. While the Prime Minister’s Office does monitor ministries, the monitoring is implicit rather than explicit.
The annual budgetary process, and in particular the preparation of expenditure estimates, involves individual ministries submitting preliminary estimates to the Department of Finance. This is the opening of a battle for resources, as the department seeks to reconcile the sum of departmental claims with the total available for public spending. Whereas monitoring and oversight of most line ministry spending and policy implementation have been effective in recent years, the problem of large cost overruns in the Ministry of Health and confusion about the medium-term strategy for public health are long-standing and unresolved issues.

Having corrected its excessive deficit in 2015 and 2016, Irish policymakers were constrained by the rules of the EU fiscal compact in framing their 2018 budget. This reduced flexibility at the national level with regard to tax cuts and expenditure increases. However, these constraints were somewhat offset by revenue buoyancy resulting from unexpectedly rapid economic growth.
The monitoring of the implementation of the government program is delegated to one of the undersecretaries attached to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and supported by a special office of the presidency (Ufficio per l’attuazione del programma di governo). This office monitors the main legislative activities of the ministries and more recently has started to monitor regularly also the implementation activities related to the legislation adopted. The office publishes a monthly report. The current undersecretary in charge of the office is a close political friend of the leader of the Democratic Party, but is less close to the current President of the Council.
The government office monitors ministry performance in implementing legislation, cabinet decisions and prime-ministerial decisions. A high degree of compliance has been reported.

The PKC monitors how ministries are achieving the policy goals stated in the government declaration and reports to the prime minister. Progress reports are not only a monitoring tool, but also provide substantive input into the prime minister’s annual report to parliament.
The Government Office effectively monitors policy implementation, through several channels. First, it administratively tracks the execution of government actions assigned to different ministries and other state institutions. Second, through its information system of monitoring, it assesses the achievement of government priorities and linked policy objectives on the basis of performance indicators. Progress in the implementation of policy is discussed during cabinet meetings and other government-level deliberations. However, information derived from this monitoring process is only infrequently used to propose corrective action when progress is deemed insufficient. Thus, the monitoring process does not always prevent the prioritization of sectoral or bureaucratic over full-government and horizontal interests in policy implementation. As part of one EU-funded project, the Government Office reviewed monitoring and evaluation practices, and made a number of recommendations as to how performance measurement could be improved in line ministries (including the development of key performance indicators or indicator libraries in various policy areas). Despite the implementation of this project, the National Audit Office stated that the country’s monitoring and reporting system continues to lack quality information, while the government and line ministries often provide incomplete information regarding the achievement of their policy aims and objectives in their reports.
Norway has a small, consensual and transparent system of governance. The Office of the Prime Minister knows what is going on throughout, or is assumed to know. The cabinet is quite cohesive. There is always a tug-of-war between line and coordinating ministries, but line ministries virtually never deviate from the government line. To do so would require a degree of intergovernmental disagreement and breakdown of discipline that has not been seen for a very long time. The terrorist attacks of July 22 did in part represent a failure to follow up on government decisions made by the relevant line ministries, but these failures have subsequently been by and large rectified.
Ministries are obliged to keep the Chancellery of the Prime Minister informed about legislative progress on a regular basis. If ministries seek to maintain their autonomy, the prime minister, through the Chancellery or Jarosław Kaczyński, as party leader, can intervene.
The lax monitoring of line ministries by the PMO characteristic of previous review periods has been addressed. This was due to the fact that the PMO understood that Greece was still dependent on funds flowing into the Greek economy from the country’s lenders. Thus, the PMO monitored the implementation activities of most line ministries. A possible exception were certain line ministries, such as the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, that are responsible for policy sectors outside the core of conditionalities linked to the Third Economic Adjustment Program.
The basic law on the issue of the government establishes the prime minister’s responsibility over the government’s advancement of policy goals. This includes monitoring and guiding the work of appointed line ministers. In recent years, the PMO has introduced best-practices reforms featuring elements of transparency, sharing and benchmarking that have improved the systematic monitoring of ministries. A special committee formed to review the PMO identified its comparative weakness when dealing with recommendations from the ministries of Finance and Defense, aggravated by the PMO’s tendency to take on the responsibility for executing policies from weaker ministries such as Welfare and Health, thus expending its workload. However, three new professional units have been established in the PMO, each in charge of monitoring related ministries. Moreover, the past two years has seen a major improvement in monitoring with the government’s annual coordination of all ministerial reports on the implementation of governmental decisions. Currently, the PMO thus has strong ministerial oversight capacities.
“Reorganization of structure,” Civil Service Commissioner information booklet No. 2, October 2012: (Hebrew).

“Report on the implementation of governmental decisions 2016,” PMO wesite, (Hebrew)

“The committee to review the PMO’s,” Official state publication, February 2012, (Hebrew)

Environment and Health Fund, Ministry of Health, “Health and Environment in Israel 2017,”, (Hebrew)
The presidential office can choose who it evaluates and how. There are two caveats to this statement, however. First, Mexico is a federal system, and there are thus strong limits to the central government’s power as many competencies fall, at least partially, to the states or even the local level. Second, independent agencies headed by individuals of cabinet rank have taken on an expanding role during the last two decades. Yet where the central authority has power, it uses it. Ministerial turnover is in general relatively high for a presidential system and President Peña Nieto has reshuffled his cabinet several times. However, while sanctioning ministers is a sign of the president’s power, it does not necessarily reflect the output of a systematic monitoring process. In many instances, inadequate implementation is due to structural problems of capacity or a lack of political will, rather than insufficient monitoring. Personnel changes at the attorney general’s office (PGR) and the public function secretariat (SFP) in the context of continuing revelations about the administration’s inadequate response to corruption are cases in point. Replacing high-profile officials, without addressing underlying structural problems, is often a quick attempt to demonstrate political capacity, it is unlikely to produce better results.
Latin American Regional Report: Mexico & NAFTA (November 2016) “Seeking to bolster PGR and SFP amid persistent corruption.”
The government is relatively small, with 17 ministers and a few more than 40 secretaries of state. A July 2017 reshuffle that created the position of secretary of state for housing increased the number of secretaries of state to 43.

Ministries in Portugal are not independent of the prime minister. The prime minister is also assisted by the Presidência do Conselho dos Ministros and by the office of the adjunct secretary of state of the prime minister. These entities can and do monitor all line ministries’ implementation activities. However, the lack of in-depth policy capacity and the reality of limited resources limit the overall degree of control.

Diário de Notícias (2017), “Governo: Lista atualizada do XXI Governo Constitucional,” 13/7/2017, available online at:
The activities of all line ministries are monitored by the Spanish Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Government Office (GO, Ministerio de la Presidencia), and ultimately the Council of Ministers. The PMO oversees the flow of political and sectoral information and keeps the prime minister abreast of the activities of all line ministries. The head of the Prime Minister’s Economic Office has also coordinated the important weekly meeting of the government’s Delegate Committee for Economic Affairs since 2012.

The GO, headed by the powerful deputy prime minister, monitors the activities of line ministries through the weekly meetings which prepare the way for Council of Ministers meetings. The capacity of the GO to monitor ministers improved due to a new law on general administrative procedure, as it introduces a new system for systematically assessing policy implementation in the form of a periodic evaluation report that would be prepared in close consultation with line ministries. Nevertheless, this monitoring cannot guarantee that no sectoral ministry will ever prioritize vertical over horizontal interests. The organizational resources of the prime minister’s direct entourage and the GO as a department are limited, and these bodies rarely engage in direct coordination of ministerial departments. Only the prime minister or the deputy prime minister are entitled to play this role.
Funciones del Ministerio de la Presidencia y para las Administraciones Territoriales
http://www.mpr.gob.e s/mpr/funciones/Paginas/funciones.a spx
The Prime Minister’s Office has, among other measures, established the General Directorate of Laws and Decrees and the General Directorate of Legislation Development and Publication to examine the congruity with the constitution of draft bills, decrees, regulations and resolutions of the Council of Ministers, as well as to review in general laws, plans and the government’s program. These bodies are the primary government centers for the drafting and coordinating of regulations.

However, there is no systematic monitoring of the activities of line ministries. In some cases, the ministerial bureaucracy resists policy handed down by the government without serious consequences, particularly in issues of democratization. In general, however, ministries work in cooperation with the prime minister’s office because the single-party government has staffed leading ministerial posts with bureaucrats who operate in sync with the ruling party’s program and ideology.

The PMO has a total of 2,253 employees, a quarter of whom are experts or advisers, or able to provide similar services. A Sectoral Monitoring and Assessment Unit was established in 2011 to provide the PMO consultation. A total of 17 full-time officers are employed by the PMO. Beginning in May 2015, about 266 career employees from various public institutions were also assigned to this unit.

It remains to be seen how effectively the presidency, with the gradual dissolution of the PMO following the April 2017 referendum, will fulfill the PMO’s monitoring responsibilities.
TC Başbakanlık 2016 Yılı Faaliyet Raporu, (accessed 1 November 2017)
The main instrument for monitoring ministry activity is the Austrian Court of Audit (Rechnungshof). Constitutionally, this is a parliamentary institution, and its president is elected by parliament for a term of 12 years. The Court of Audit has the reputation of being wholly nonpartisan.

Within the government itself, there is no specific institution for monitoring ministries, though the coalition’s party leaders have significant influence over the individual ministers affiliated with their party. The Federal Chancellery is tasked with coordinating line ministries’ activities rather than monitoring them per se. However, this coordination does allow it to monitor ministry activities, particularly regarding implementation of the coalition agreement.
The hierarchical structures inside ministries is such that the line minister (or ministers, when a ministry’s set of responsibilities are shared by more than one government portfolio) controls the ministry at the political level. The ministry itself is presided over by a general administrator, whose nomination used to be purely political, but is now (at least partly) determined through a competitive exam.

The fact that the tenure of the general administrator and the minister are different opens the gate to potential tensions between the minister and the ministry. A concrete example is that of the minister for mobility, Jacqueline Galant (MR, francophone liberals, i.e., the party of the prime minister), who was eventually forced to step down. She had to handle particularly sensitive issues in the Belgian multiregional context, including security at the Brussels airport. The head of her administration was appointed before her term, and the two were not politically aligned. She instead systematically worked with external advisers over whom she had more political control and sometimes acted against the recommendations of her own administration.
Generally speaking, the Cabinet Secretariat, upgraded over a decade ago, offers a means of monitoring ministry activities. In recent years, its personnel has expanded, improving its monitoring capacity. However, effective use of the secretariat has been hindered in the past by the fact that the ministries send specialists from their own staff to serve as secretariat employees. It de facto lacks the ability to survey all activities at all times, but the current, long-serving chief cabinet secretary is considered a decisive power in the enforcement of government-office positions.
There is no formal monitoring by the Prime Minister’s Office, as no institutional resources exist to carry this out. The small size of the government administration and ongoing discussions between ministers, foster a high level of transparency without the necessity of explicit monitoring tools. In case of conflicts, the prime minister moderates and acts as conciliator.
Schroen, M. “Das politische System Luxemburgs.” Die Politischen Systeme Westeuropas, edited by Wolfgang Ismayr, 4th ed., VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2008, pp. 483 – 514.
The government has a special office in charge of monitoring the activities of line ministries and other public bodies, the Control Body of the Prime Minister. While suffering from having limited staff and resources, this office monitors the activity of most line ministries fairly effectively.
Although Prime Minister Fico has been able to count on a significant degree of ministerial compliance, he nevertheless expanded the Government Office’s responsibilities in monitoring line ministries, particularly with respect to European affairs and economic and fiscal issues, during his second term. Under the third Fico government, monitoring has remained strong in the case of ministries in the hands of Smer-SD, but has weakened in the ministries led by its coalition partners.
The president and the White House monitor activities in departments and agencies to widely varying degrees, depending on the centrality of the activities to the president’s political agenda. Agencies and programs that are not the focus of presidential policy initiatives and are not politically controversial may get little attention from the White House, and in fact may receive most of their political direction from Congress or the congressional committees with jurisdiction over the policy area. Recent years have seen a number of serious failures of administrative control.

In 2015, agents of the Secret Service responsible for protecting the White House and the president were discovered asleep on the job after working shifts that required severe sleep deprivation. Separately, the National Security Agency has been exposed as having violated the legal terms of its surveillance authority, even eavesdropping on the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the Trump administration, staffing deficiencies in both the White House and the departments has diminished the capacity for monitoring. The White House lacks the organization or personnel needed to keep track of most significant activity in the departments.
The GO / PMO monitors the implementation activities of some line ministries.
Czech Rep.
In the Czech Republic, the government office formally monitors the activities of the line ministries. Under the Sobotka government, the effectiveness of monitoring was complicated by the nature of the coalition government and the competition between Prime Minister Sobotka and Vice Prime Minister Babiš for the control of critical ministries. The adoption of the conflict of interest law and the success of Babiš’ ANO party in the regional elections in October 2016 further worsened cooperation. Under Andrej Babiš, the Ministry of Finance developed a system called Supervisor for collecting and publishing data on the financial management of ministries and authorities. As of November 2017, data are available for 2015 and 2016 for six ANO ministries and three agencies; the information includes overall budget items, allocation for individual categories, and detailed information on purchases.
The Prime Minister’s Office has a small staff that performs mainly supportive and technical tasks. Thus, the capacity to monitor the line ministries’ activities from the core executive is limited. Even though the prime minister has little power over ministers, they rarely challenge the government program. Still, sometimes line ministers break with consensus, which results in bilateral talks with the prime minister.
According to the Basic Law, ministers are fully responsible for governing their own divisions. However, they are bound to the general government guidelines drawn up by the chancellor or the coalition agreement. Concerning topics of general political interest, the cabinet makes decisions collectively. The internal rules of procedure require line ministers to inform the chancellor’s office about all important issues. However, in some cases, the Chancellery lacks the sectoral expertise to monitor line ministries’ policy proposals effectively.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) monitors the implementation activities of most line ministries and the structures for doing so effectively are being continually refined. The PMO has an office dedicated to monitoring which is increasingly fine-tuning the system. The PMO does not have a unit to assess policies in the ministries. Instead, the ministries themselves must do this work according to impact assessment procedures and the policy cycle. If problems surface in a ministry, the PMO steps in to assist. Furthermore, the cabinet office, which is part of the PMO, monitors policy implementation by line ministries and ensures that the respective ministry implements the decisions of the PMO. There are constant attempts to improve coordination and the EU presidency accelerated this. However, competition between ministries hinders some efforts.
Bartolo insists that ministries should support each other, pull the same rope Independent 10/06/15
The weak capacity of the Government Office (GO) and the predominance of coalition governments have limited the GO’s role in monitoring line ministries’ implementation activities. The GO tends to respect the assignment of ministries in the coalition agreement, and most monitoring takes places in coalition meetings.
The Council of Ministers’ administration lacks the capacity to monitor the implementation activities of the line ministries. The chief secretary of the Council of Ministers’ administration and the specialized directorates of the administration can, however, oversee most of the line ministries’ policy activities, especially in the areas financed through EU funds. The chief secretary and the directorates also provide some administrative support to the prime minister and the head of his political cabinet, who exercise more direct control over the ministries on a political basis. The exercise of this control tends to be informal, through the party apparatuses, rather than formal.
The Secretariat General of the Government is just one of the central-government organizations involved in monitoring the activities of line ministries. Its restrictive remit constitutes a major capacity gap. More important has been the Ministry of Finance, as the 2010 Fiscal Responsibility Act has given it far-reaching powers to monitor the activities of any organization drawing funds from the central budget.
The constitution provides that overall coordination lies with the Council of Ministers. This creates a circular relationship since each minister is the sole authority in his/her ministry. The monitoring and coordination functions of the DGEPCD are connected to a taskforce team at the presidency. Their powers as well as those assigned to the finance minister create a central oversight and coordinating mechanism, albeit mainly on budgetary and fiscal issues; neither is founded in the constitution.
Given the Prime Minister’s Office’s lack of capacity to coordinate and follow up on policy proposal and bills, systematic monitoring of line ministries’ implementation activities is scarcely possible. In the event of crises, ad hoc monitoring does occur. Parliamentary debate on ministerial monitoring should have been limited to a well-defined set of “focus subjects” in full accordance with the policy-program budgeting philosophy developed in the 1970s. However, recent political developments (the election campaigns in 2010 and a Council of Ministers breakdown in 2012) have prevented this. In 2012, yet another system of program budgeting – called “responsible budgeting” – was introduced.

Since 2013 to 2014, General Audit Chamber studies have indeed focused on particular subjects, and following some political consultation, on departmental domains. In 2012, the General Audit Chamber reported that just 50% of governmental policy initiatives were evaluated, most of these evaluations incorrectly were considered effectiveness studies. Hence, parliament remains largely ill-informed about the success of governmental goals and objectives. In 2016, the government cut financing for the General Audit Chamber by €1.2 billion, meaning a personnel reduction from 273 to 233 full-time employees and outsourcing research for specific programs. In 2017, the Audit Chamber launched a website for monitoring ministerial compliance of Audit Chamber recommendations.
Algemen Rekenkamer, Rapport Effectiviteitsonderzoek bij de Rijksoverheid, 22 May 2012 (consulted 12 October 2017)

Algemene Rekenkamer, Opvolging Aanbevelingen, consulted 12 october 2017

Algemene Rekenkamer, Een toekomstbestendige Algemene Rekenkamer, 13 October 2016 (, consulted 9 November 2016)

R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of The Netherlands. Houdmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 188, 198-203
The GO / PMO does not monitor the implementation activities of line ministries.
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