Interministerial Coordination


How effectively do ministry officials/civil servants coordinate policy proposals?

Most policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
Formal procedures of coordinating policy proposals are set in the rules of the national government. According to it, all relevant ministries must be consulted and involved in a consensus-building process before an amendment or policy proposal can be brought to the government. In addition to this formal procedure, senior civil servants from the various ministries consult and inform each other about coming proposals; deputy secretaries general are key persons in this informal consultation process.
Cabinet meetings are prepared by ministry officials and civil servants. Findings from a large-scale analysis several years ago into the internal politics and practices of the cabinet and ministries emphasized the existence of a cyclical culture of dependence between ministers and senior officials. One expression of this mutual dependence, according to the same analysis, was that ministers put greater trust in the advice of their subordinate civil servants than in the advice of ministerial colleagues. This pattern extends to all aspects of the cabinet’s agenda. At times, civil servants can exercise significant influence. The former state secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Raimo Sailas, was widely considered to be highly influential. With regard to policy programs and similar intersectoral issues, coordination between civil servants of separate ministries happens as a matter of course. In specific matters, coordination may even be dictated. For instance, statements from the Ministry of Finance on economic and financial matters must be obtained by other ministries. On the whole, given the decision-making culture, civil servants in different ministries are expected to engage in coordination. An unwritten code of behavior prescribes harmonious and smooth activity, and ministers or ministries are expected to subject projects that are burdensome or sensitive to a collective examination and analysis.
Jaakko Nousiainen, “Politiikan huipulla. Ministerit ja ministeriöt Suomen parlamentaarisessa järjestelmässä”. Porvoo: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, 1992, p. 128; Eero Murto, Power Relationship Between Ministers and Civil Servants, pp. 189-208 in Lauri Karvonen, Heikki Paloheimo and Tapio Raunio, eds. The Changing Balance of Power in Finland, Stockholm: Santérus Förlag, 2016.
The federal government deliberates behind closed doors, and minutes of these meetings are not public. A leading expert on government decision processes has estimated that in most decision-making processes, “either the preliminary procedure or the co-reporting procedure leads to an agreement.” The preliminary procedure consists of interministerial consultations at the level of the federal departments. After the departments have been consulted, the co-reporting procedure begins. The Federal Chancellery leads the process by submitting the proposal under consideration as prepared by the ministry responsible to all other ministries. These then have the opportunity to submit a report or express an opinion. A process of discussion and coordination ensues, designed to eliminate all or most differences before the proposal is discussed by the Federal Council.

Two instruments, the large and the small co-reporting procedures, are specifically designed to coordinate policy proposals between the ministries. These processes invite the ministries to take positions on political issues. The co-reporting procedure is largely a process of negative coordination, which highlights incompatibilities with other policies but does not systematically scrutinize the potential for synergy.
Coordination through the cabinet is collegial, and officials largely carry out interdepartmental coordination through negotiations between their affected ministries, often via interdepartmental committees or working groups. There is a certain degree of congruence between such interdepartmental committees and cabinet committees, with different ministries leading on different issue areas. The PMO plays an important role, especially for issues that involve the parliament. Other important ministries are the Finance Ministry, which prepares the annual budget, the Justice Ministry, which checks the legal aspects of all bills, and the Foreign Ministry, which gets involved in security, defense and development policies.
Jørgen Grønnegård Christiansen, Peter Munk Christensen and Mariun Ibsen, Politik og forvaltning. 4. udgave. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017.
Senior ministry officials and interministerial meetings are important for the preparation of draft bills and for cabinet meetings. There is both formal and informal coordination in the conception of new policy, in policy modification or in the conception of a pre-draft bill. As part of the process, interministerial ad hoc groups are formed. Normally, a pre-draft bill is already the result of consultation with social partners and civil society groups. Once the pre-draft bill is published, official consultation rounds start again.
Thomas, Bernard/Schmit, Laurent: “Die Unentbehrlichen: Wieviel Macht haben hohe Beamte?”, September 2013, pp. 33-37. Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.
Bossaert, Danielle (2008): Die öffentliche Verwaltung, in: Wolfgang H. Lorig/Mario Hirsch (eds.): Das politische System Luxemburgs, Springer VS Verlag, pp. 130 – 142.
New Zealand
The cabinet process is overseen by the cabinet office on the basis of clear guidelines. Under the new Labour-NZ First coalition, the so-called Cabinet Office Circular CO (17) 10 provides practical guidance for ministers and departments on implementing the coalition agreement between Labour and New Zealand First and the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and the Green party. Departmental chief executives typically meet with ministers prior to cabinet meetings to discuss the agenda and clarify matters. The amount and effectiveness of policy proposal coordination varies a great deal depending on the policy field. However, there is clearly coordination in the preparation of cabinet papers and demanding processes specified in cabinet office circulars.
Cabinet Office Circular CO (17) 10, Labour-New Zealand First Coalition, with Confidence and Supply from the Green Party: Consultation and Operating Arrangements. December 17, 2017.
There are weekly junior minister meetings, with each ministry represented by one of its junior ministers (known in Portugal as secretaries of state). A key purpose of these meetings is to ensure policy coordination across ministries before proposals reach the cabinet.
These meetings are generally very effective in ensuring policy coordination across government. Furthermore, the work of assessing the various proposals within each ministry is not restricted only to the secretaries of state who attend the meeting, but also include ministerial advisers and, to some degree, senior public administration officials. However, this coordination is not entirely effective.
Many policy proposals are effectively coordinated by ministry officials/civil servants.
There is generally a high level of coordination between federal ministry public servants. In most cases, ministries must coordinate with the Department of Finance and the Treasury, since they are responsible for finding the resources for any new policy developments, and such developments must feed into the government’s spending and budget cycle. Where there are legal implications, there must be coordination with the attorney general’s department. Departments least likely to coordinate their activities across the government portfolio are Defense and Foreign Affairs and Trade, since their activities have the fewest implications across other portfolios.

Coordination is especially effective when the political leadership is driving proposals, but less effective on policy matters initiated at the level of the minister or department, in part reflecting greater uncertainty among civil servants as to the support for the proposal from the political leadership. It also reflects differences in policy priorities and culture across departments, as well as inherent competition between departments for power, relevance and resources.
Many policy proposals are coordinated by line ministries with other line ministries. However, due to issues of departmental mandates and authorities, this process is generally not as effective as the central-agency coordination process. On certain issues, the line department may be unwilling to recognize the role or expertise of other line departments, or have fundamental differences of perspectives on the issue, and hence may fail to consult and/or coordinate a policy proposal with others. The paramount role of central agencies in policy development means that departments have in fact little ability to effectively coordinate policy proposals.
If a ministry wishes to get its proposals accepted or passed, there are no other options than to liaise and coordinate with other ministries or agencies involved. For instance, the Macron Law on the economy (2015) had to be co-signed by 13 ministers. In case this consultation has not taken place, objections expressed by other ministers or by the Council of State might deliver a fatal blow to a proposal. All ministries are equal, but some are more equal than others: for example, the finance minister is a crucial, omnipresent and indispensable actor. Usually the coordination and consultation process is placed under the responsibility of a “rapporteur,” usually a lawyer from the ministry bureaucracy (who is also in charge of arguing and defending the daft bill before the Council of State whose intervention is crucial and not only in purely legal terms). The dossier is always followed as well by a member of the minister’s staff who communicates with his/her counterparts and tries to smooth the process as much as possible. In the most difficult cases (when ministers back up strongly the positions of their respective civil servants), the prime minister has to step in and settle the matter. In contrast to Germany, for instance, sectoral ministers have a limited margin of maneuver.
The official decision-making process mandates the coordination of policy proposals at the state-secretary level. New policy initiatives are officially announced at weekly state-secretary meetings, after the draft proposals are circulated in a transparent process providing all ministries with an opportunity to review and comment on the issues. The process is open to the public and input from non-governmental entities is welcomed. Ministry responses to draft proposals are collected and ministerial coordination meetings on particular drafts are held to achieve consensus on the substance of the proposals. In cases where consensus cannot be reached, the proposals move to cabinet committee for further consideration at the political level.

Issues can be fast-tracked at the request of a minister. Fast-tracking means that the usual procedures for gathering cross-sectoral and expert input can be circumvented, putting the efficacy of coordination at risk. In 2016, 27% of all issues before the cabinet were fast-tracked, a significant drop from 2015.

At a lower bureaucratic level, coordination occurs on an ad hoc basis. Ministries conduct informal consultations, include other ministry representatives in working groups and establish interministerial working groups to prepare policy proposals. These methods are widely used, but not mandatory.
State Chancellery (2015, 2016), Reports (in Latvian), Available at:, Last assessed: 06.01.2019
The interministerial coordination of policy proposals is an official civil service goal. Single Departmental Plans (SDPs) set out departmental objectives and how these will be achieved. SDPs highlight areas of cross-departmental working, including where departments are working together to deliver shared objectives and are overseen by the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister’s Office. There are also some cross-departmental bodies established in response to the identification of specific objectives, such as the Work and Health Unit set up to improve the employability of disabled or ill people.

However, problems of capacity and capability in this area have been revealed by surveys undertaken within the civil service. Examples of civil service disruption are, on the one hand, the Civil Service Reform Plan of 2012 and, on the other hand, the coalition’s spending cuts, which have hit parts of the ministerial bureaucracy very hard and led to considerable job cuts. Relations between the civil service and the government have been affected, but the situation does not seem to have had a great impact on the efficiency of policy-proposal coordination. As explained above, the Cabinet Office assures coordination at the level of officials.

There are concerns that the workload required to deliver Brexit will undermine coordination within government.
Ministry staff and civil servants do not always play a dominant role in the drafting of policy proposals before those proposals reach ministerial committees. Depending on the ministry and the importance of the proposal, officials and civil servants are more or less effectively involved in the preparation and coordination process.
Interministerial coordination is typically initiated by the lead unit responsible for preparing a draft proposal, which will be sent to the co-signing ministries (i.e., those ministries whose competences are affected). The co-signing ministerial units read the proposal for negative effects on their own area of competences and only sign once those are eliminated. Ministerial civil servants seek to solve conflicts before involving the higher echelons of the hierarchy. A weekly Monday meeting of administrative state secretaries, preparing the agenda for the upcoming cabinet meeting, serves as the last arbiter.
Ex ante coordination between the line ministries’ leading civil servants has not been particularly strong under past German coalition governments. In addition, an entrenched political practice ensures that no ministry makes any proposal that might be postponed or blocked by other ministries. The federal Ministry of Finance must be involved when budgetary resources are concerned, while complicated legal or constitutional issues necessitate the involvement of the federal Ministry of Justice. But generally, every ministry is fully responsible for its own proposed bills. All controversial issues are already settled before being discussed by the cabinet. The dominant mechanism for conflict resolution is the coalition committee, which is composed of the respective heads of the governing parties, sometimes supplemented by higher bureaucrats and/or party politicians. It is the most important and informal decision-making body with comprehensive competences in the governing process.
Ministry officials and civil servants play an important role in preparing cabinet meetings. Even so, no cooperation between ministries is presumed in cases where the ministers themselves are not involved. As a consequence of the strong tradition of ministerial power and independence, the involvement of too many ministries and ministers has been found to be a barrier to policymaking. Currently, coordination between ministries is irregular. The prime minister has the power to create coordination committees, but the number of active committees is currently low.
Before every Council of Ministers meeting there is a preparatory meeting – the pre-consiglio – where the heads of all legislative ministerial offices filter and coordinate the proposals to be submitted to the Council of Ministers meeting. The head of the Department for Juridical and Legislative Affairs of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers chairs these meetings. Proposals on which there is no agreement will rarely make it to the Council of Ministers. Further informal meetings between ministerial officials take place at earlier stages of drafting. However, the bureaucracies of individual ministries are normally protective of their prerogatives and are not keen to surrender autonomy. Under the new government, the PMO bureaucracy seems to have lost some power for coordination.
The LDP-led government has worked more effectively with the bureaucracy than did the previous short-lived DPJ-led governments. In 2014, the government introduced a Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs tasked with helping the prime minister make appointment decisions regarding the 600 elite bureaucrats in ministries and other major agencies. This significantly expanded the Cabinet Office’s involvement in the process and its influence over the ministerial bureaucracy, including the influence of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who has been in office since 2012. There are more political appointees in the ministries than before, and since Abe has been premier since 2012, the average stay of such appointees has become longer, giving them greater expertise and clout in their ministries. After the Lower House election of 2017, Abe again reappointed key allies. There are growing concerns that basing the promotion of senior ministry civil servants on political considerations and personal allegiance may diminish their utility in terms of offering neutral expertise.
Walter Sim, Japan’s new Cabinet: Key Abe allies stay on as 12 newcomers named, only one woman appointed, The Straits Times, 2 October 2018,

Hideaki Tanaka, Should Civil Servants Offer Allegiance or Expertise? Lessons from the Moritomo and Kake Scandals, Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, 1 May 2018,
The process of drafting laws and resolutions requires consultation with the ministries and state institutions affected by the issue. The coordination process is led by the ministry responsible for a given issue area. Coordination takes place at various levels of the administrative hierarchy: coordination at the civil-servant level is followed by that of ministerial representatives (junior ministers and ministerial chancellors) representing the ministries at the government level. The latter meetings, which had been initially discontinued under the Skvernelis government, were later reintroduced in the form of interinstitutional meetings after a change of the government chancellor.

Coordination is a lengthy, well-documented process. Joint working groups are sometimes established, while interministerial meetings are used to coordinate the preparation of drafts and resolve disagreements before proposals reach the political level. All draft legislation must be coordinated with the Ministry of Justice and/or the Government Office. However, the substance of coordination could be improved if the initiators of draft legislation were to use consultation procedures more extensively in assessing the possible impact of their proposals. The importance of coordination should be recognized not only during the planning phase, but also during the implementation, monitoring and evaluation phases of the policy process.
Senior civil servants and political appointees play an important role in preparing cabinet meetings. This process follows fixed procedures, and matters must be appropriately prepared before being presented to the cabinet. This includes the creation of documentation alerting cabinet ministers to the essentials of a proposal, thus allowing cabinet meetings to focus on strategic issues and avoid being distracted by routine business details. Most issues on the agenda have been prepared well before the meeting.
South Korea
Civil servants from different ministries regularly coordinate on policies of common concern. This coordination and cooperation among related civil servants across ministries can be either formal or informal, hierarchical or horizontal. Unfortunately, attitudes in the ministries are shaped by a departmentalism that obstructs coordination. Different ministries use their policies to compete for support and approval from the office of the president. There is also a clear hierarchy delineating the ministries. Civil servants in important ministries, such as the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, consider civil servants from other ministries, such as the Labor Ministry or the Environment Ministry, as being “second tier.” Key issues given a high priority by the president can be effectively coordinated among concerned ministries.

Some attempts to improve coordination among ministries are being made. Various interministerial coordination mechanisms have been implemented on the basis of sector and theme, such as the interministerial coordination system for ODA. Moreover, it is expected that the efficiency of and communication between government agencies will be improved by the introduction of a new records-retrieval system. The National Archives and Records Administration (NIS) has announced that it will establish a search and retrieval service in consultation with the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. However, in spite of the Blue House’s political dominance, the Moon government has exhibited numerous cases of coordination failure among relevant ministries.
“Korea’s Government 3.0: the Beginning of Open Government Data,” Korea IT Times, February 24, 2016
The two most important senior bureaucratic positions in the 17 ministries are the secretaries of state, who play a role much like that of junior ministers but do not formally belong to the government, and the undersecretaries, who are career civil servants who typically act as department administrators. These figures meet every Wednesday in the so-called General Committee of Undersecretaries and Secretaries of State. This committee effectively prepares the Council of Ministers’ weekly sessions, which are held two days later, on Fridays. The deputy prime minister and head of the Government Office (GO) chairs the meetings of this preparatory committee in which all draft bills, all appointments and any other ministerial proposals are discussed and scheduled as a part of the Council of Ministers’ agenda. A provisional agenda is published by the GO a week before the cabinet meeting. The GO also collects and circulates all relevant documents for discussion by the line ministers. On Tuesday mornings, the prime minister’s advisers assess the relative importance of agenda items and identify where there are likely to be divergent positions. Thus, the Wednesday meetings of the preparatory committee perform an important gatekeeping function in returning problematic proposals to the appropriate line ministry and forwarding the remaining proposals to the Council of Ministers.

While policy proposals are efficiently coordinated at the highest level of the bureaucratic hierarchy, the tradition of interministerial coordination at mid-level administrative bureaucracy means efficiency is weaker here. To be sure, the role of high-ranking civil servants is crucial in the preparation of policy proposals within every line ministry, but their subsequent involvement in horizontal coordination with other ministries is very limited. In fact, and as a consequence of the strong departmentalization, every ministry tends to act within its area of competence or jurisdiction, avoiding proposals which may involve other ministries. Although many administrative interministerial committees formally exist, in practice these committees do not coordinate the drafting of policy proposals or decision-making between different ministries. As administrative committees do not tend to work efficiently, they have fallen by the wayside and now usually simply facilitate the exchange of information or try to settle jurisdictional conflicts
Ley 50/1997
Real Decreto 595/2018
Most of the daily coordination on policy matters does not involve the political level of the departments but is instead handled at the administrative level. However, as soon as coordination takes place on a political dimension, it is “lifted” to the political level.

Coordination within the GO remains a significant problem, although some measures have been implemented to address that problem. Many departments still find it difficult to coordinate policy across departmental boundaries. Departments that were formed through mergers of departments tend to display “subcultures” of the former departments.
Jacobsson, B., J. Pierre and G. Sundström (2015), Governing the Embedded State (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Niemann, C. (2013), Villkorat förtroende. Normer och rollförväntningar i relationen mellan politiker och tjänstemän i Regeringskansliet (Stockholm: department of Political Science, University of Stockholm).
Austria’s federal bureaucracy is characterized by structural fragmentation. Each federal ministry has its own bureaucracy, accountable to the minister alone and not to the government as such. Each minister and his or her ministry is regarded as having a party affiliation according to the coalition agreement. Policy coordination is possible only when the ministers of specific ministries agree to establish such a specific coordination. As fitting in the government’s ministerial structure of the government, individual ministers fear loss of control over their respective bureaucracies, and thus lasting and open contacts are possible only between the (politically appointed) personal staff of ministers belonging to the same political party.

Because the Austrian bureaucracy is organized along the lines of a (British-style) civil service system, the different ministerial bureaucracies are stable in their political makeup and therefore immune to short-term political influences. Specific ministries are generally dominated by one party over the long term (e.g., the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (social democratic) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Environment (conservative).

Nonetheless, by introducing “secretary generals” above the heads of departments in government ministries, the autonomy of civil servants has been reduced by the new ÖVP-FPÖ coalition.
The tradition of a civil service system, consisting of professional bureaucrats bound to be loyal to any minister, has always been balanced by the undisputed right of any cabinet minister to decide about the activities of each civil servant in his (her) ministry. But by introducing in all ministries “secretary generals” above the heads of sections, the autonomy of civil servants has been further reduced.
Responsibility for policy coordination lies with the Prime Minister’s Office (Department of the Taoiseach). However, to be truly effective in this area the office would require greater analytical expertise across many policy areas than it has at present. Despite much rhetoric about “joined-up government,” the coordination of policy proposals across ministries has traditionally been relatively weak, with conflicting policies pursued in different parts of the civil service. For example, employment creation can take precedence over environmental considerations and local planning processes often do not mesh with national housing policies.

While coordination across government is often an up-hill battle, the development of the cabinet committee system has somewhat improved matters. Hardiman et al (2012, p.120) conclude, “perhaps the most significant organizational change aimed at improving cross-departmental coordination has been the growing reliance on the cabinet committee system: “Most of the major policy initiatives – health, environment, climate change, economic renewal – all will have gone through the cabinet committees. So that is a big change in the system of governance … They provide a mechanism to manage complex cross-cutting issues’ (Interview B, 1 Nov 2009).”
Another source of interdepartmental coordination stems from the practice of cabinet and junior ministers each appointing their own “special adviser.” These advisers meet to debate policy proposals: O’Malley and Martin (2018, p265) comment that “the advisers collectively operate in effect as a lower-level cabinet.”
Niamh Hardiman, Aidan Regan and Mary Shayne ‘The Core Executive: The Department of the Taoiseach and the Challenge of Policy Coordination, in Eoin O’Malley and Muiris MacCarthaigh (eds, 2012), Governing Ireland: From Cabinet Government to Delegated Governance. Dublin: IPA.

Eoin O’Malley and Shane Martin, ‘The Government and the Taoiseach,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher, Politics in The Republic of Ireland. (Routledge, 2018).
Civil servants from a ministry typically coordinate policy proposals with other line ministries before a policy is officially drafted. During the review period, a new system was established. The cabinet director general is in charge of administrative decisions and ensures that cabinet decisions are implemented in the different ministries. On Mondays, the chiefs of staff meet to draft memos for the cabinet. On Tuesdays, the cabinet meets and makes a decision. On Wednesdays, the permanent secretaries meet to decide on how to implement the cabinet’s decisions. A commissioner for the simplification and reduction of bureaucracy has been established to implement reforms across government. These have been introduced horizontally (e.g., delegating staff recruitment to departments and agencies) and vertically (e.g., engaging ministries to improve efficiency). The permanent secretaries have requested that all departments examine current processes and consider methods of simplification. One result is the introduction of push service delivery, whereby individuals do not apply for social benefits but rather receive them automatically. Every year a report is published and made available to the public on the simplification systems that have been introduced. In 2017, the first 12 key performance indicators (KPIs) for the public service were put into place. This is a new concept for the public service, and is designed to establish clear objectives that need to be attained within a specific time-frame. A “mystery shopper” for government departments was also introduced, with the aim of identifying shortcomings in service delivery and allowing the situation to be remedied.

Occasionally interministerial committees help coordinate policy before the drafting process is started. This has increasingly become normal practice, with a number of interministerial committees created to support Valletta’s campaign to be the 2018 European Capital of Culture, and to prepare for the Commonwealth Heads of State Summit in Malta, an EU-Africa summit, and Malta’s presidency of the EU in 2017. These activities have laid stronger foundations for more effective coordination between the ministries and civil servants.
Much of the coordination takes place in interministerial committees, usually presided over by a minister and composed primarily of deputy ministers (political positions) and top civil servants. In the absence of these committees, bills are subject to interministerial consultation by being sent for review to the ministries affected by each act. If ministries do not respond to the review request within five days, the non-response is considered tacit approval. Prior to government meetings discussing a particular legislative proposal, the Secretariat General of the Government organizes working groups between the representatives of ministries and agencies involved in initiating or reviewing the proposal in order to harmonize their views. While these procedures promote coordination, the capacity limitations of many ministries and the short turnaround time allowed for review undermine effective review and hence allow for only superficial coordination in many cases.
The government rules of procedure establish clear mechanisms to ensure effective cooperation between the ministries. They require the consultation of all ministries that are concerned before the submission of bills to the cabinet. While senior civil servants are thus heavily involved in the coordination of legislation, the effectiveness of this coordination has suffered from the deteriorating quality and increasing politicization of the upper echelons of civil service. Under the Cerar government, a number of prominent and experienced high-ranking civil servants were replaced by party loyalists with limited administrative experience and even less expert knowledge. The Šarec government’s five-party coalition agreement failed to address the issue.
Since the 2006 elections, politicians have demanded a reduction in the number of civil servants. This has resulted in a loss of substantive expertise, with civil servants essentially becoming process managers. Moreover, it has undermined the traditional relations of loyalty and trust between (deputy) ministers and top-level officers. The former have broken the monopoly formerly held by senior staff on the provision advice and information by turning increasingly to outside sources such as consultants. Top-level officers have responded with risk-averse and defensive behavior exemplified by professionally driven organizational communication and process management. They have embraced some Dutch variation of New Public Management thinking and practices. The upshot is that ministerial compartmentalization in the preparation of Council of Ministers meetings has increased. Especially in the Ministry of Justice and Safety, the quality of bureaucratic policy and legislation preparation has become a reason for serious concern.
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin ( 2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

H. Tjeenk Willink, Een nieuw idee van de staat, Socialisme & Democratie, 11/12, 2012, pp. 70-78

“Is justitie politiek te managen?, in NRC-Handelsblad, 1 October 2015

De Correspondent, Den Haag bestuurt het land alsof het een bedrijf is. En democratie heeft het nakijken, 29 June 2018
There is some coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
While ministries are not significantly involved in preparing cabinet meetings, each minister has a large team of close collaborators and advisers (the ministerial cabinet) to prepare projects, which are first submitted to the minister, and then to the Council of Ministers. For some decisions, responsibilities are shared among several ministers, a situation that happens regularly. In this case, ministerial teams must coordinate their actions in cabinet committee meetings before being able to submit a proposal to receive the approval of each minister. Proposals may be submitted to the ministers’ council only at this stage.

The bottom line is that top civil servants do not play a significant role – in most cases, they are at best informed of ongoing discussions and are simply asked to deliver data and information.
The constitution’s limit of the number of ministries to 11 results in each having a broad area of responsibility that has been extended to new fields since EU membership. While ministry officials and civil servants participate in ad hoc bodies or seek coordination with other ministries, final decisions rest with the ministers themselves, often based on political criteria. Constitutional powers accorded to ministers render ministries fiefdoms, with ministers operating as absolute rulers.

More interministerial interaction was promoted through new units created in the framework of the reform effort. In July 2018, the parliament voted against legislation to establish a coordinating sub-ministry of development and the government dissolved the Unit for Administrative Reform. It reallocated the latter’s tasks back to the ministries and, thus, the prospect of institutionalizing much needed consultation and coordination between line ministries on policy matters has been suspended.
The Unit for Administrative Reform to be Dissolved, InBusiness, 27 July 2018, [in Greek]
As part of the interministerial coordination process, some coordination among line ministry civil servants takes place. Senior ministry officials are generally a crucial link in collecting and discussing comments on proposed legislation. The definition of their roles and responsibilities was improved through the civil service law, which went into effect at the beginning of 2015 and regulates the legal status of state employees in administrative offices and represents a significant step toward establishing a stable and professional public administration. However, the form in which the civil service law is implemented has not yet led to a clear de-politicization of public administration, and it remains difficult to attract highly qualified workers into public service. In line with its technocratic appeal, the Babiš government has elevated several respected public servants into ministerial positions.
Given the relatively small number of ministries in Hungary, interministerial coordination has, to some extent, been replaced with intra-ministerial coordination, especially within the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI), the largest superministry. In addition to policy coordination by the PMO, senior ministry officials meet in order to prepare cabinet meetings.
Over the past decade, the government has sought to improve interministerial cooperation in order to overcome bureaucratic entanglements and political power struggles. In so doing, it has introduced roundtable meetings, director generals and vice-director generals of ministries coordination forums, guidelines and digital information platforms. However, experts say that ministries are essentially territorial in nature, and information sharing between ministries is difficult at best.

This lack of communication results at least partially from the government’s highly centralized budget process, which makes public servants defensive of limited and strictly supervised resources. In 2016, a report by the State Comptroller suggested that the lack of communication regarding foreign affairs is a result of the transfer of duties from away from main ministries such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to other ministries. The report also asserted that interministerial disagreements are delaying the publication of regulations necessary for the implementation of laws. A report from 2015 claimed that 175 laws had not been implemented because ministries had not yet established regulations regarding those laws. According to that report, 32% of regulations are not promulgated because of internal arguments between ministries. A report from 2017 shows that this trend had improved, with 148 laws having not been implemented. Regulations under these laws were rescheduled or returned to parliament for further revision and should be resubmitted by the end of 2019.

More so, it seems that in some cases different ministerial offices are responsible for the same topic or field of expertise and that there is no coordination between these offices. This is somewhat deliberate as some of the reforms are reflect the personal interests of the prime minister’s agenda. For example, the Office of Strategic Affairs and the Israeli Office of Foreign Affairs came into conflict regarding BDS movements and the question of which office was responsible, because there was no coordination between offices.

Steps to improve communication issues include the Israeli government’s work plan for “open administration” in 2017 – 2018. This indicates that one of the government’s reasons for joining the international initiative for open administration is to improve coordination between government offices, and strengthen formal and informal mechanisms.
“About: Public sharing,” Sharing official website (Hebrew)“ Failures of the public sector and directions for change,” The committee for social and economical change website (Hebrew)

Barda, Moshe, “Coordination between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense,” The Knesset Research Center 2007: (Hebrew)

Bar-Kol, Yair, “Appointing a minister for interministerial cooperation,” TheMarker 3.4.2013: (Hebrew)

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

Ravid, Barak.”Watchdog: Power Struggles Between Ministries Hindered Israel’s Battle Against BDS,” 24.5.2016,

Reducing the number of mandatory regulations that have not yet been enacted, Government decision number 2588, PMO, April 2017,

“The committee to investigate the Prime Minister’s headquarter,” Official state report, April 2012 (Hebrew).

“The division of electronics and technologies,” Accountant General website (Hebrew) “The guide for governmental sharing: A model for cooperation between ministries,” official state publication, 2013:מודל%20לשיתוף%20פעולה%20בין%20משרדי%20הממשלה.pdf (Hebrew)

The Foreign Affairs Ministry closes the department that handled BDS,7340,L-4991405,00.html

“The Leadership Academy- founding statement,” November 2014, Civil Service Commission website:

The Open Administration Work Plan for 2018-2019, Israel’s ICT Authority,

Zinger, Ronny. “175 laws are not implanted because ministries didn’t set regulation for them” – Calcalist, 25.1.2016 (Hebrew):,7340,L-3679237,00.html
Traditionally, there was little real distinction in Mexico between civil servants and politicians, though the relationship between them has significantly varied over time. The upper administration overly consists of presidential appointments, with only a limited number of career bureaucrats. Two exceptions are the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where bureaucratic expertise has always played a major role. The reason for this is the importance of being a competent actor in multilateral arenas given the dominance of the United States and the experience of macroeconomic turmoil due to continuous political interference in economics. Traditionally, the political system has been weighed toward presidential appointments. The cabinet today is much more heterogeneous, however, with some figures personally close to the president and others more independent. The politicization of the cabinet, which has increased under the three recent administrations, is constraining its ability to coordinate policy proposals given the centrifugal tendencies. On the other hand, the previously mentioned independent agencies are often characterized by higher levels of bureaucratic professionalism. Moreover, socioeconomic modernization has, albeit slowly, changed the administrative landscape, with technical expertise increasing in many sectors (e.g., social sectors) and the number of policy experts with an administrative background increasing in the upper administration; It is too soon to say, whether this trend will continue during the current administration of AMLO.
Senior ministry officials play a substantial role in interministerial coordination. All meetings of the Council of Ministers, the Polish cabinet, are prepared by the Council of Ministers’ Permanent Committee, which is made up of deputy ministers from the ministries. The Committee for European Affairs, which is in charge of EU coordination, also relies strongly on coordination by top civil servants. In contrast, bureaucratic coordination at lower levels of the hierarchy is still relatively limited, even though the joint administration of EU funds has helped to intensify interministerial exchange. Changes in personnel, especially in the security agencies, have secured the dominance of the government over administration.
In Slovakia, senior ministry officials have traditionally been heavily involved in the interministerial coordination process at the drafting stage. In contrast, coordination at the lower levels of the ministerial bureaucracy has suffered from a strong departmentalist culture and the top-down approach taken in most ministries. Under the second Fico government, the role of senior civil servants in interministerial coordination decreased and coordination within the Smer-SD party gained importance. Since coming to power after the 2016 elections, SNS and Most-Híd have weakened the role and independence of the civil service by seeking to provide ministerial positions to party members.
Undersecretary, deputy undersecretary and central governor cadres were abolished by Decree No. 703 in July 2018, in the wake of the introduction of the presidential system of government.

The new centralized government system consists of offices, councils and ministries formed around the presidency. Under the new system, offices produce projects, councils transform projects into policies and the ministries implement policies. The Department of Administrative Affairs conducts monitoring and the State Supervision Council performs a control function. The new governmental system is an attempt to promote efficiency and coordination in governmental processes, especially in decision-making and implementation. However, the centralization and unification of decision-making in the hands of the president raises doubts about the sustainability of interministerial coordination, in particular.

The effectiveness of the system, which is based on centralization and unification in decision-making, should be reviewed in the near future.

Until July 2018, there was an increasing tendency to draft and adopt legislation without appropriate consultation. The creation of new ministries and agencies and the resulting fragmentation of responsibilities has complicated ministerial coordination, for example in the areas of budgeting and medium-term economic policymaking. Until their abolishment in July 2018, the oversight bodies under the PMO were responsible not only for coordinating and overseeing legal proposals, but are also tasked with monitoring legislative implementation.

Similar observations have been made by the Ministry of Development, the primary policy-coordination body. Accordingly, a serious problem is inefficient coordination due to institutional ambiguity and conflicts.
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Teşkilatı Hakkında Cumhurbaşkanlığı Kararnamesi 1, (accessed 1 November 2018)
K. Gözler, Türkiye’nin Yönetim Yapısı (TC İdari Teşkilatı), Bursa: Ekin Basın Yayın Dağıtım, 2018.
Z.Sobacı et al.,Turkey’s New Government Model and the Presidential Organization, SETA Perspective No. 45, July 2018.

Y. Üstüner and N. Yavuz, ” Turkey’s Public Administration Today: An Overview and Appraisal,” International Journal of Public Administration, 2017.
TC Başbakanlık 2016 Yılı Faaliyet Raporu, (accessed 1 November 2017)
2015 Programının Uygulanması, Koordinasyonu ve İzlenmesine İlişkin Karar, Resmi Gazete, 17 October 2014, (accessed 27 October 2015)
While a comprehensive framework for coordination between ministry officials and civil servants exists, many issues are actually resolved at the political level. Within the ministries, a departmentalist culture prevails. This is especially true during coalition governments, when coordination between line ministries under ministers from different parties is virtually nonexistent.
The direct coordination of policy proposals by ministries is limited. There is no stable and transparent scheme for settling interministerial differences within the bureaucracy. The ministries in charge of drafting proposals rarely set up working groups that include peers from other ministries or government bodies. Deadlines for comments by other ministries are often too abbreviated, capacities for comments are sometimes inadequate, and comments made by other ministries are often not taken seriously.
Musa, A., Petak, Z. (2015): Coordination for Policy in Transition Countries: Case of Croatia, in: Mednarodna revija za javno upravo/International Public Administration Review 13(3-4): 117-159.
Greek bureaucracy is over-politicized and under-resourced. Political party cadres rather than civil servants coordinate policy proposals. Civil servants in line ministries often lack modern scientific and management skills. Policy proposals are usually assigned to ministerial advisers, who are short-term political appointees and can be non-academic experts, academics and governing party cadres. Top civil servants contribute to policy proposals by suggesting what is legally permissible and technically feasible, although even on those issues ministers often tend to trust their own legal and technical advisers. The remaining civil servants at lower levels of the bureaucratic hierarchy rarely, if ever, know of, let alone contribute to policy proposals. Moreover, there is little horizontal coordination among civil servants working in different ministries. Ministers assign the task of horizontal interministerial communication to their advisers.

In the period under review, such trends were exacerbated, though officially the government may have intended otherwise. Pressed by the country’s creditors, the government began implementing a new law (passed in 2016) which should have enhanced the role of civil servants when formulating and coordinating policy proposals. The senior civil service was supposed to be staffed by personnel selected based on meritocratic standards (e.g., new appointments were scheduled to be made to the rank of general directors of ministries). The selection process took over a year to complete and was heavily disputed. In practice, little progress was made as the government preferred to turn to its own political appointees for the preparation and coordination of policy proposals.
The new law on higher civil service is law 4369/2016.
In general, there is an expectation of interagency coordination at various levels of the bureaucracy. The quality of this coordination varies, and as with cabinet-level coordination, it is adversely affected by the short-term service of political appointees, which results in underdeveloped working relationships across agencies. President Trump has failed to appoint or nominate people to occupy a large majority of the important political-appointee positions in the agencies. In addition, permanent staff have been departing. As a consequence, it would be impossible for interagency coordination to operate effectively at this stage of his presidency.
There is no or hardly any coordination of policy proposals by ministry officials/civil servants.
Back to Top