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

The ministries effectively monitor the implementation activities of all bureaucracies/executive agencies.
The Orbán governments have adopted a hands-on approach and have closely monitored government agencies’ implementation activities. They have closely controlled the appointment and activities of the heads and core executives of all state agencies at the national level. The centralization of state administration in county-level government offices has extended the government’s control over all subnational agencies, since they have been concentrated in these county offices. The existing civil service legislation has made it easy to dismiss public employees without justification.

In 2021, the government established the Supervisory Authority for Regulated Activities (SARA). In addition to being in charge of regulating and supervising gaming and the tobacco trade, as well for other concession contracts, the new authority has been responsible for overseeing other government agencies. Its first president, a member of Orbán’s closest personal team, was appointed by the prime minister for nine years and is practically irreplaceable. Thus, the establishment of SARA has been widely interpreted as an attempt by the government to entrench its power with a view to a possible change in government after the 2022 parliamentary elections.
Ministries are responsible for monitoring the bureaucratic structures individually subject to them. All bureaucracies (except those within the judicial branch) are legally bound by instructions issued by their ministers (according to Article 20 of the constitution), and have to report regularly to the ministries. By establishing secretary generals above the heads of departments (Sektionschefs), the ÖVP-FPÖ government (2017–2019) strengthened the control of government ministers over their ministerial bureaucracies, a model that has been continued by the ÖVP-Green government (since 2020). These reforms have to be seen against the traditionally advanced levels of informal party politicization of the bureaucracy, which occasionally favor loyalty over competence. Overall, there have been few if any incidents of “bureaucratic drift.”
New Zealand
The monitoring of executive agencies is based on the same procedures governing line ministries.
State Services Commission: Annual Report for the Year Ended 30 June 2015 (Wellington: States Services Commission 2015).
Government departments in the GO monitor the activities of public agencies quite closely. Since the introduction of performance management some 15 to 20 years ago, agencies report to their parent department on their performance targets. In fact, many criticize this reporting, which requires agencies to devote substantial time and effort reporting on their performance to their respective department, because it is so extensive that it has become burdensome. Recently, there has been a tendency to reduce the number of objectives and performance indicators on which the agencies are to report. This tendency is likely to continue over the next several years (Jacobsson, Pierre, and Sundström, 2015; Pierre and de Fine Licht, 2017).
Jacobsson, Bengt, Jon Pierre and Göran Sundström. 2015. “Governing the Embedded State.” Oxford University Press.

Pierre, Jon and Jenny de Fine Licht. 2017. ”Myndighetschefernas Syn på Regeringens Styrning.” Stockholm: Statskontoret.
The ministries monitor the implementation activities of most bureaucracies/executive agencies.
The performance of ministries in monitoring the activities of executive agencies varies, in part due to differences in the degree of independence granted to agencies. For example, central bank independence is core to the credibility of monetary policy and is legislatively protected, which constrains parliament’s capacity to monitor the agency. This notwithstanding, the general pattern over recent years has been one of increasing accountability of the 170-plus statutory authorities and officeholders to the relevant federal minister. The most notable concrete indicator of this trend is that in 2002, the Australian government commissioned the Review of the Corporate Governance of Statutory Authorities and Office Holders (the Uhrig Review). The objective of the review was to identify issues surrounding existing governance arrangements and provide options for the government to improve the performance and get the best from statutory authorities, their office holders and their accountability frameworks. The review was completed in 2004 and a number of the recommendations have since been adopted, including the requirement for ministers to issue Statements of Expectations to statutory authorities and the establishment of governance boards for statutory authorities.
There are specific government procedures for monitoring both Crown Corporations and Special Operating Agencies. Both these entities fall under the Federal Accountability Act, thus have appropriate fiscal stewardship. In the case of Crown Corporations, these corporations and their mandates are established through legislation and they operate both on a “commercial” model as well public policy goals. Special Operating Agencies, while having some independence, operate under the auspices of their respective ministries with a specific mandate and public policy goals.
Government of Canada, “Overview of federal organizations and interests,”
Executive agencies have some autonomy, but given the formal norms of minister rule, the minister is ultimately responsible for what happens in the agencies. It is therefore in a minister’s political interest to monitor activities closely.

The work of the agencies is often based on specialized expertise; as long as an issue is not politicized, the minister will normally defer to the decisions made by the agencies.
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen et al., Politik og forvaltning. 4. udgave, 2017.
Estonian government is horizontally decentralized. This means that besides 11 ministries, there are 22 executive agencies and several foundations established by the government. Foundations have specific policy objectives, often managing implementation of the EU structural funds in Estonia. Foundations are led by a counselor and appointed by a minister. Agencies implement policies within the broader policy area and are accountable to the relevant ministry. Ministers appoint agency directors. These organizational arrangements enable ministries to monitor the activities of executive agencies. However, agencies have grown substantially both in terms of staff and task volume; this may ultimately produce negative effects such as a lack of coordination between the ministry and agency, or misuse of administrative power by executive-agency CEOs. In the framework of governance reform (2019 – 2023), the government has proposed merging the various implementing agencies.
At the beginning of 2018, county governments – the regional arm of the executive branch – were abolished. Their responsibilities have been divided between central government agencies and municipalities. More direct control through the former could enhance monitoring, while giving more powers to the municipalities (and their consortia) could create additional challenges.
All ministries use results-management practices to monitor agencies in their various task areas. In many cases, a balanced score system is used. However, not all agencies are monitored to the same extent. Some agencies, such as the National Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), which operates under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment have a high degree of autonomy, with monitoring taking place only on a general level. Other agencies are accorded a somewhat lesser degree of autonomy. However, as a rule, they do have autonomy with respect to day-to-day operations. Monitoring takes many forms and a system of political undersecretaries of state has been designed to support the individual ministers in their monitoring activities. A Tekes review examining the pandemic support measures targeting firms revealed irregularities that related to the hasty execution of the support program.
Executive agencies’ competences and responsibilities are explicitly detailed in law, edicts, statutes and other regulations. Their activities are not only subject to legal, but also to functional supervision, meaning that agencies’ decisions and administrative instructions will be reviewed. However, the ministries have not always made appropriate use of their oversight mechanism. A number of independent agencies, including the Federal Employment Office, the Federal Network Agency, the Bundesbank and others have deliberately been placed beyond the effective control of the federal government. It is important that monitoring agencies maintain organizational independence, so that they may monitor government effectiveness and financial impacts. The National Regulatory Control Council has tried to increase its powers over legislative and bureaucratic processes at federal and state levels.
In Greece, most ministries supervise dozens of executive agencies. For instance, the Ministry of Transport supervises the state-owned public transport companies in Athens and Thessaloniki, the Ministry of Health supervises all public hospitals, and the Ministry of Finance supervises numerous state-owned enterprises. During the period under review, the government continued to closely monitor the executive agencies. There were adequate reasons for such close monitoring. Memories of state agencies contributing to the deterioration in public finances in previous periods remain fresh. Moreover, the monitoring of public health, public employment and social welfare agencies was critical in 2020–2021, as COVID-19 spread through the country, and agencies had to toe the government line in order to manage the corresponding public health and social crisis.
Executive agencies and the administration usually lack the autonomy to pursue a course of action independent of guidelines issued by the responsible ministers. Sometimes, the strong personality of an agency head leads to conflict. If this happens, the views of the minister or his key collaborators usually prevail. In the domain of labor, social security and public finance, monitoring is more centralized and effective, since the financial implications for the state are much more consequential. Four agencies that wield considerable influence are the Administration of the Environment (Administration de l’environnement); the Labor and Mines Inspectorate (Inspection du Travail et des Mines, ITM), which is attached to Ministry of Labor, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy; the Social Security Inspectorate General (Inspection Générale de la Sécurité Sociale, IGSS), which is attached to the Ministry of Social Security; and the General Inspectorate of Finance (Inspection générale des finances, IGF), which is attached to the Ministry of Finance.
“Finances publiques.” Ministère des Finances. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Inspection générale de la sécurité sociale.” Ministère de la Sécurité Sociale. Accessed 14 January 2022.

Inspection générale des finances. Accessed 14 January 2022.

Inspection du Travail et des Mines. Accessed 14 January 2022.
Government agencies are formally subject to monitoring through direct bureaucratic channels and informally by the activities of Norway’s free press, which regularly exposes problems with implementation processes. There is a formal system of agency oversight in place, including regular top level meetings, the setting of priorities by ministries, and reporting by agencies. As a rule, executive agencies have autonomy when it comes to their areas of expertise, and can provide advice or recommendations to government. They rarely act against the directives of ministries and there have been very few cases in which agency officials have taken deliberate action that could be seen as contrary to government policy. However, it is not unusual that, for instance, an environmental agency will have different views to an agency responsible for fisheries or oil exploration. The Office of the Auditor General (Riksrevisjonen), which reports to the parliament, plays a key role in monitoring implementation. However, administrative inertia in policy implementation are more prevalent than would be expected in such a well-organized system.
To a certain extent, high positions in government agencies are filled not via political appointments but through the government’s civil service department (Alta Dirección Pública, ADP), based on candidates’ technical capacity and experience. Clear goals are identified by the directors of executive agencies and the corresponding ministries. Exhaustive evaluations of the system and of personnel choices are performed annually by the minister, the civil service and the president’s advisory ministry (Secretaría General de la Presidencia, Segpres). In addition, the Ministry of Finance’s budget office monitors decentralized agencies and public enterprises from a budgetary perspective very tightly and effectively. Nevertheless, the changes in government in 2014 and 2018 showed that the selection of candidates through the ADP is in fact only moderately institutionalized, as there is still an understanding that a successful candidate is a “government officer” rather than a “state officer.” The monitoring of bureaucratic activities and executive agencies, especially at the subnational level, tends to be distorted by this effect.
In a highly centralized system like France’s, the central machinery is unable to monitor the implementation of government policies fully and constantly. Thus, huge sectoral and geographical variations exist. In some areas, decisions are badly implemented, flexibly interpreted or not implemented at all. For instance, education is one of the most centralized policy fields in France, but implementation varies so starkly that parents have adopted strategies (such as the crucial choice of where to live) to register their children in the “best” schools. Implementing centrally designed policies requires local or regional adaptation of rigid rules that are applicable to all. Even the prefects, supposedly the arm of central government, refer to this practice, as may be witnessed for instance in the absent, or insufficient, implementation of water directives in some regions. Thus, bureaucratic rules are rendered somewhat less rigid by a certain political flexibility, a pattern that was emphasized even by 19th century sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville, who said: “The rule is hard, the practice weak” (La règle est rigide, la pratique est _itu).
Japanese ministries are traditionally run by civil servants who work in a single ministry throughout their career. Government agencies that belong to a specific ministry’s sectoral area are thus also directed by civil servants delegated from that ministry, who may return to it after a number of years. From that perspective, control of executive agencies below the ministerial level can be quite effective. This mechanism is supported by budget allocations and peer networks.

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

All institutions are required to prepare annual reports. Beyond the reporting requirement, there is no centralized standard for monitoring subordinate agencies. Ad hoc arrangements prevail, with some ministries setting performance goals and requiring reporting relative to these goals.
There is a large number of executive agencies in Poland. Agencies report to ministries, and ministries have special units responsible for monitoring agencies’ activities and auditing their finances. Under the PiS government, the leadership of state agencies has become highly politicized, with many of these positions being filled by party representatives or allies. As a consequence of the new civil service act that came into effect in January 2016, all employment contracts of previous directors turned invalid, and the positions were no longer filled by open competition but by personal appointment. An earlier provision was canceled, requiring directors of state institutions to have not been members of a political party for five years before assuming a leading position in state administration. Thus, compliance between ministries and administration has become easier, but the administration has also become dependent on the political will of the majority. The increase in oversight has led to a decline in professionalism, and an erosion of checks and balances. The PiS government has privileged some agencies. The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which helped the government to push through its national-conservative agenda, for instance, received a record financial contribution in 2020.
Over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, Portugal experienced a proliferation of quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations, agencies and other structures. In the context of the bailout, the Passos Coelho government closed and restructured a number of these agencies, while also tightening control over their work in order to reduce public expenditure.

This increased scrutiny generally remains in the current, post-bailout period. Appointments to these agencies seek to ensure fairly high levels of ex ante alignment between the appointee and the government, which constrains bureaucratic drift. At the ex post level, the political staff of ministries monitor the activities of these agencies, paying greater attention to the more relevant agencies.
Spain’s ministries have the capacity to monitor the activities of the administrative bureaucracy and executive agencies with regard to implementation. In 2012, as a consequence of the crisis, the central control over these public bodies increased, and in some cases entailed the absorption of the smallest agencies by the ministry in charge of their task area.

Law 40/2015 established an integrated framework for evaluation, monitoring and the independent audit of all agencies. Thus, the ministries can now monitor the activities of all executive agencies and force them if necessary to act in accordance with the government’s program. However, it is also true that thanks to bureaucratic drift and/or flexibility in their functioning, some of these semi-autonomous public bodies have been able to elude this control. Ministers have particular difficulties in effectively monitoring the largest ones.

Central government ministries are formally able to supervise the activities of decentralized authorities at the regional level. ´However, many important responsibilities, such as those regarding health or education, have been in the hands of the autonomous communities for almost two decades, and coordination mechanisms are weak. Moreover, the institutional framework for supervision is very limited. For example, during the first weeks of the state of alert in March/April 2020, the national Ministry of Health was unable to collect or provide operational data, let alone coordinate joint actions with the autonomous communities in areas such as the procurement of protective clothing and masks. Another example relates to the controversy over education and linguistic policies implemented by the regional governments, which are not subject to central supervision. This has opened the door for judiciary interventions that have ordered modifications to some relevant aspects of these regional policies.
Erkoreka, Mikel; Grau Creus, Mireia; Kölling, Mario (2021), Decentralisation and COVID-19: the Spanish territorial system under pressure, en Nico Steytler (ed.) Comparative Federalism and COVID-19: Combatting the Pandemic, Routledge.
Turkey is a unitary state divided into 81 provinces (Article 126 of the constitution). Power is devolved in such a way as to ensure the efficiency and coordination of public services from the center. Ministerial agencies are monitored regularly. The central administration by law holds the power to guide the activities of local administration, to ensure that local services are delivered in conformance with the guidelines set down by the central government, as well as ensuring services are uniform, meeting local needs and in the interest of the local population (Article 127). The central government has provincial organizations that differ in size and capacity and are regularly scrutinized by the central government. Independent administrative authorities such as the Telecommunications Authority and Energy Market Regulatory Authority are not monitored but are subject to judicial review.
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Strateji ve Bütçe Başkanlığı. 2021 Yılı Cumhurbaşkanlığı Yıllık Programı.
The United Kingdom was an early adopter of delegating civil service work to executive agencies in order to improve performance and reduce costs, which has been going on since the early 1990s under the Next Steps Program. There is, moreover, an expectation that the departmental minister takes responsibility for any agencies that the ministry oversees but no expectation that the minister will have to resign if problems arise in an agency. The ongoing Civil Service Reform also seeks to introduce new instruments of performance control and individual accountability, for example, through guidance, such as Managing Public Money. The Cabinet Office has recently revised its guidance on public-service reviews and issued a code of good practice for partnerships between departments and arm’s length bodies. The government’s July 2021 declaration on governance reform sets out plans for a fresh look at policy delivery, including the roles of agencies.

Nevertheless, problems have arisen. After repeated criticism, the UK Border Agency, which is responsible for the entry and management of foreign nationals, was taken back into the Home Office to improve transparency and political accountability. It still attracts some negative headlines, and there are evident stresses arising from the management of prisons by private contractors and the failings in dealing with cross-channel migration. Several child-abuse scandals revealed shortcomings in the monitoring of local-level entities, including local childcare, youth and police services. Further, the horrible fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017 (which caused upward of 70 deaths) exposed major failings in British construction supervision. To some extent, quality control bodies – for example, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary for the police – provide safeguards through setting standards.

Some public agencies have been heavily criticized. For example, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has been very critical of HM Revenue and Customs, the tax collection agency, while the CEO of the education standards agency (OFQUAL) was obliged to resign over problems in implementing grading of pupils in the summer of 2020. Public Health England – only created in 2012 – was abolished in October 2021 as a result of perceived inadequacies.

In its 2022 Whitehall Monitor, the Institute for Government asserts that problems with arms-length bodies (ALBs) partly stem from ongoing and largely unresolved questions about how ALBs should be used and what sort of relationship they should have with ministers.
Elston, Thomas 2011: Developments in UK executive agencies: re-examining the disaggregation – re-aggregation thesis, Paper presented to the Governance of Public Sector Organisations study group at the 33 rd Annual Conference of the European Group for Public Administration, Bucharest, 7th – 10th September 2011.

Tailored Reviews:

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

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

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

WEF: Schwab, Klaus (ed) (2019). The Global Competitiveness Report 2019. World Economic Forum.
The number of government agencies has been steadily increasing. In 1950, there were around 130 agencies. By 2010, there were more than 350 agencies (see MacCarthaigh, 2012). In 2022, there are 213 agencies alongside 18 government departments (IPSC, 2022).

O’Malley and Martin (2018, 261) note that “the Irish experience had been criticised even before the economic crisis by the OECD, which noted that ‘in Ireland, the objectives of agentification are unclear, mixed and not prioritized,’ resulting in sub-optimal governance structures” (OECD, 2008: 298).

The Health Services Executive (HSE) is the government agency responsible for providing public healthcare. It is the largest semi-autonomous bureaucracy in the country. It was formed by the amalgamation of local health boards in 2005, when the current taoiseach, Michael Martin, was minister for health. It remains difficult to identify the savings that were promised due to this rationalization. On the other hand, cost over-runs and low delivery standards have been a persistent feature of the agency. In 2022, the minister of health is expected to propose the reintroduction of regional health areas, which had been abolished following the establishment of the HSE.

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

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

In summary, a system of monitoring executive agencies is in place, but high-profile cases in recent years show that it all too often discovers failings and shortcomings after they have occurred and has not been very effective in averting them.
IPSC (2022) Government Agencies and Useful Links, available at:

OCAG reports on the accounts of the public services are available here:

A list of special reports on value for money in the public sector is available here:
While connections between ministries, and government agencies and NGOs are defined by contractual agreements, and financial and legal oversight, the content and quality of services are not under similar appraisal. Most ministries sufficiently monitor their respective agencies, while some – notably education and welfare – are criticized for failing to implement government policies and effective monitor service provision. According to media reports, government ministries still drag behind when it comes to monitoring and enforcing regulations on private service providers in outsourced services, including protecting the rights of customers and workers.
Ben Aeter, Moshe. ‘Who needs the state-own enterprises?’ – Haaretz, 13.04.16 (Hebrew):

Detal, Lior, “The Ministry of Education inc.: This is how hundreds of private bodies receive some 11 billion shekels,” themarker 5.10.2014: (Hebrew).

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

IDF employees: The state leads to the privatization of the production of tanks and armored personnel carriers,” Globes,10.10.2018 (Hebrew):

Israel Government Website, “Government Resolution No. 4398 of December 23, 2018: Smart regulation – Implementing OECD recommendations and amending government decision, 2018 (Hebrew):

Koren, Ora, “Reform in the public sector: The Ministry of Treasury’s authorities will be restrained, employees will receive incentives,” TheMarker website 9.8.2012 (Hebrew)
Limor, Nissan, “Regulation and oversight over third sector organizations,” Social security no. 70 (2005),159-187.

Maman, Daniel, “State Economy in a Neo-Liberal Age,” In Adva Center’s “30 Years for the Neo-liberal revolution In Israel,” 2016 (Hebrew):

“Public service provisions using outsourcing,” JDC publication. (Hebrew)

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

The privatization failures: “The Transportation Ministry completely smashed the examiners.,” Davar, 22.11.2017 (Hebrew)

“The state admits failures in privatization tenders and supervision of privatized service” – The Marker, 8.9.2016 (Hebrew):

“The state comptroller presents: “The privatization of IMI was” cooked up ” – Globes, 26.6.2018 (Hebrew):
Lithuania’s fragmented structure of agencies and other public sector organizations undermines the effective monitoring of bureaucratic performance. While agencies subordinate to the central government or individual ministries can be monitored relatively efficiently, autonomous organizations such as public nonprofit institutions, foundations and state-owned enterprises that carry out administrative functions are more difficult to control. Parent ministries and third parties acting on behalf of the ministries use a combination of ex ante and ex post oversight mechanisms, including the assessment of agency results. However, many Lithuanian ministries have no professional staff specifically assigned to monitor agency activities, and the interest shown by ministers and other politicians in the performance of agencies depends on the changing salience of political issues. In 2012, the Governance Coordination Center was established as part of the State Property Fund. Among other tasks, it monitors the implementation of state-owned enterprises’ goals, and produces regular reports on the performance of these enterprises. Beginning in 2013, the scope of annual public sector reports produced by the Lithuanian Ministry of the Interior was expanded to include municipal organizations. However, this ministry’s reports remain of a descriptive nature, lacking specific recommendations as to how the performance of individual organizations or their groups might be improved. In 2015, the Sunset Commission reviewed the performance of public nonprofit institutions and proposed several recommendations, some of which were related to improving the monitoring of these institutions. However, the Sunset Commission ceased operating in 2016. The relationship between the center of the government, its ministries and agencies might be affected by the planned reform of the public administration, which is one of the high-priority reforms identified by the Šimonytė government (which took office in 2020). It is set to be adopted in 2022.
South Korea
The Prime Minister’s Office annually monitors and evaluates the performance of 42 governmental agencies. The ministries effectively monitor the activities of all executive agencies, with each minister holding responsibility for the compliance of the agencies under his or her purview. Once again, the top-down structure of the government typically allows for effective monitoring. Agencies generally have autonomy with respect to day-to-day operations, but even these can occasionally be the subject of top-down interventions. Each ministry sets its own performance and implementation indicators and reports its annual progress. The indicators can be used as a monitoring tool for the activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies with regard to implementation. However, ministries fail in some cases to monitor executive agencies’ implementation activities effectively. By contrast, bureaucrats have often responded to strong political pressures with an apathetic attitude.
Switzerland’s governance system offers considerable flexibility in implementing decisions. The central administration is very small; this does not prevent bureaucratic drift, but in all likelihood the opportunities for such drift are much smaller than in huge administrations.

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

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

A 2016 study by Fritz Sager and Eva Thomann on cantonal asylum policies showed that implementation was mainly dependent on the extent of the problem, politicization and partisan power distribution in the respective canton as well as the previous policy. This analysis allows for many different constellations, which can explain the large variation in cantonal implementation of federal laws.

Federal agencies are monitored by the Swiss Federal Audit Office and the Parliamentary Control of the Administration; public and semi-public enterprises are monitored by various independent regulatory agencies.
Fritz Sager and Eva Thomann: Multiple streams in member state implementation: politics, problem construction and policy paths in Swiss asylum policy. Journal of Public Policy, Available on CJO 2016 doi:10.1017/S0143814X1600009X
Federal departments have central units attached to the relevant secretary’s office that monitor the activities of subordinate agencies. There are no semi- autonomous agencies in the U.S. administrative system. Independent regulatory commissions –including the Federal Reserve Board (both a regulatory agency and the central bank, responsible for monetary policy) – are headed by bipartisan commissions with fixed terms of office and are in some respects outside the executive branch. The White House and certain executive agencies such as the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department monitor the activities of regulatory agencies, despite lacking formal authority to impose changes. State-level agencies which administer federal programs are subject to highly inconsistent federal supervision. The losses of organizational capacity in the federal bureaucracy under Trump reduced the ability of departments to monitor agencies. The Biden administration is currently rebuilding this lost organizational capacity.
The ministries monitor the implementation activities of some bureaucracies/executive agencies.
The delegations of responsibility away from the government is limited in Czechia. Agencies take diverse organizational forms and are monitored in different ways. Some of them enjoy little autonomy and are monitored relatively tightly. In many cases, both the government and parliament are directly involved in supervision. The oversight of financial management and spending improved with the introduction of the Supervizor program, which increased transparency but did not cover all line ministries or state agencies.
Autonomous executive agencies are not very common in Italian ministries, but they have increased with time (there are currently around 15 agencies) and their autonomy is quite differentiated (some of them are highly autonomous, while others function as an executive branch of the respective ministry). Although their activities are monitored, this monitoring is neither systematic nor particularly effective. There are some exceptions: for example, the monitoring of the tax agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) by the Ministry of Finance is more effective than many other oversights. The Corte dei Conti – the main Audit Office – performs a systematic monitoring of bureaucratic offices and also of executive agencies but this monitoring is mainly focused on legal and procedural aspects and is much less effective in covering other aspects such as cost efficiency.

Monitoring of regional healthcare agencies, and healthcare expenditure and procurements is theoretically very adequate. This is thanks to the role of the AGENAS (Agenzia Nazionale per i Servizi Sanitari Regionali), which is in charge of monitoring the work of the regional healthcare systems. AGENAS oversees the field effectively, but overall decision-making lacks coherence. As in the case of the standard cost that is not implemented due to the lack of political effectiveness, despite the empirical evidence offered by the monitoring activity of AGENAS.
Malta is a unitary state. As such, monitoring of bureaucratic agencies is undertaken by parliamentary oversight, such as through parliamentary committee sessions, a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the National Audit Office and the Office of the Ombudsman. In 2018, the Office of the Principal Permanent Secretary committed his office to a review of all cases that had been investigated by the Ombudsman the previous year as a means of ensuring the rule of law and good governance. The 2017 Ombudsman report emphasized difficulties in receiving timely information, and further indicated problems related to the inappropriate disclosure of government information – specifically problems with binding parties signing government contracts to secrecy, and in areas where essential health and energy services in sectors have been partially or fully privatized. The 2020 ombudsman report again emphasized the need to update the FOI act in order to ensure transparency of administration and the need to discuss the ombudsman report in the relevant committees of parliament to ensure appropriate monitoring. In terms of citizen complaints, the highest number concerned issues of fairness and balance, followed by delays and failures to act. The Department of Local Government assesses the performance of local-government bodies. There is also an internal audit office within ministries. The Prime Minister’s Office, through the Office of the Principal Permanent Secretary, has become more involved in monitoring processes. Nonetheless, National Audit Office reports still point to some problematic areas. The main problem lies with ministers themselves rather than with the bureaucracy, as many problems highlighted by independent offices originate from ministerial secretariats.
73% of budget measures to be implemented by the end of 2016 Malta chamber of commerce
The process of monitoring tends to work better at the national level than at the subnational level, where the general process of accountability is more heterogeneously developed. Monitoring is considerable at particular times and places, but limited otherwise. Moreover, monitoring is selective due to uneven state capacity, which hampers greater coverage. Essentially, the commitment to monitoring depends on political constellations. Ministries can scrutinize bureaucratic agencies if they want to, but there are good reasons why they do not always do so. Decentralized agencies often try to exercise autonomy. President López Obrador has tried to limit the autonomy of independent bodies in order to increase the power of the president. Many such bodies are today headed by loyal allies, and independent bodies such as INE, the national electoral institute, have been attacked by the president. Additionally, political polarization has increased, which has led federal-state governors belonging to opposition parties to oppose the presidency instead of working together. The federal character of Mexico limits the ministries’ ability to engage in effective monitoring.
Slovakia has a rather fragmented structure of agencies and other public sector organizations that undermines the effective monitoring of administrative performance. While agencies subordinate to the central government and ministries can be monitored relatively effectively, autonomous organizations such as public nonprofit institutions, foundations and state-owned enterprises that carry out administrative functions are more difficult to control. Monitoring has suffered from the politicization of agencies. Their leaders are selected on the basis of their party affiliation and social connections (family bonds) rather than their expertise and public reputation.
Ministries’ capacity to monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies and executive agencies within their task areas is quite limited in institutional terms. For example, a serious shortcoming was revealed in 2019 with the Ministry of Finance’s failure to monitor the revenue agency’s implementation of personal-data protection policies. Insofar as monitoring takes place, it generally focuses only on high-priority areas (e.g., the absorption of EU funds), and tends to rely on informal rather than formal mechanisms.

Under coalition governments, monitoring is further limited by the practice of dividing government, bureaucratic and agency appointments between coalition partners. Consequently, ministers from one party are impeded from effectively monitoring agency heads from another party.
In 2015, Croatia had about 75 executive agencies, six of which were regulatory agencies. The tasks of these agencies were determined by law. The two most important monitoring instruments are certain reporting requirements and the representation of ministers or senior civil servants on the agencies’ management boards. Reports are not based on predefined performance indicators but are more a loose and often self-congratulatory review of agencies’ activities in the past year. They are seldom discussed after publication. As a result, the agencies enjoy a relatively large amount of discretion and face primarily political constraints. The proliferation of agencies has been a source of waste and inefficiency. The Orešković government continued the evaluation of agencies begun under the Milanović government and eventually proposed the elimination of nine agencies. Under the first Plenković government, this proposal was not implemented. The second Plenković government eventually came up with its own reform proposal in August 2018. The government announced a plan to reduce the number of agencies and to make the others more efficient; in this plan, only a few agencies were abolished or shut down, and the rest were merged with other agencies. In September of that year, trade unions responded to the proposal, saying the social partners had not been consulted on the future of some bodies of immediate interest, and opposed the merger of the four agencies.

The government’s proposal aimed to downsize public administration by reforming 54 public organizations, including state agencies, state institutions and state-owned enterprises, which will be either closed, merged with other agencies or subsumed within line ministries. Agencies will be brought within a new framework, which will involve a higher degree of homogeneity across the system. A continuing problem is the lack of a publicly accessible online list of all executive agencies and their annual reports, which would enable any changes to their number, size or functioning to be tracked.
The monitoring of agencies in Romania has been plagued by political clientelism and the capacity reduction suffered by many ministries following the often-haphazard personnel reductions associated with the austerity measures adopted in 2010 – 2011. Many agencies even fail to provide legally required information on their websites.
Favored by the 2002 Civil Service Act, the politicization of executive agencies in Slovenia has increased. Governments have reduced the autonomy of the independent regulatory agencies and filled leading positions in executive agencies with politically loyal, but professionally weak personnel. Political and personal ties have prevented misconduct and incompetency being subject to sanctions. While both the Šarec and Janša governments have paid some lip service to the depoliticization of public administration, the situation has deteriorated even further, with ample examples of the partisan politicization of state bureaucracy, regulatory agencies and even the police.
Ottavio Marzocchi 2021: The situation of Democracy, the Rule of Law andFundamental Rights in Slovenia. Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs Directorate-General for Internal Policies PE 690.410 date.pdf
The many implementation failures and low level of policy effectiveness are generally considered to have resulted from the cuts imposed under the austerity policies of the previous Rutte governments. Inspectorates tasked with monitoring policy implementation practices by QANGOs and bureaucracies have also had their work impaired by the legacy of strict austerity measures. A 2016 evaluation study of the national Framework Law on Agencies/Bureaucracies had insufficient scope, according to members of parliament: too many agencies are exempted from (full) monitoring directives, while annual reports are delivered too late or are incomplete. Hence, the government and parliament lack adequate oversight over the dozens of billions of euros of expenses managed by bodies (QUANGOs) at some distance from the central government. In 2019, the Inspection Council (Inspectieraad) judged that the current legal structure and limited influence exerted by ministerial oversight result from a neglect of implementation problems and a predominantly efficiency-focused inspection approach. Inspectorates in sectors like building, education, healthcare, environment, labor conditions and even some water management regions are now considered impotent due to understaffing, underfinancing and overburdened staffs. A similar situation is evident in the consumer and privacy protection field, especially with regard to the digitalization of citizen registrations and the accessibility of online-only government services.
Inspectieraad, 2019. Reflecties op de staat van het toezicht, Den Haag (Rijksoverheid, accessed 2 November 2019)

Evaluatie Kaderwet zelfstandige bestuursorganen, Kamerstuk 33 147, nr. 5, Verslag van een schriftelijk overleg, 20 September 2018

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

NOS Nieuws, n.d., 2021. Milieuovertredingen weinig gecontroleerd; vaak niet bestraft

De Groene Amsterdammer, Estra and Staal, 21 November 2021. Onderzoek: Omgevingsdiensten handhaven niet. ‘Bel de pers’.

Groene Amsterdammer, Peek and Woutersen, 29 September 2021. Investico: Inspectie pakt uitbuiting niet aan. Voor de tweede keer slachtoffer.
The Council of Ministers appoints the governing bodies of quasi-governmental institutions, approves their budget and exercises budget control. The government, strengthened by a 2014 law, has greater control over these institutions and oversight over line ministries. Reports by the audit office show that some do not submit accounts for auditing on time or point to problems of management. No data is available about the effectiveness of oversight in practice or remedies to tackle favoritism.

The situation with local authorities is no better. Despite central government control, audits identify high debt levels, disrespect for rules and procedures, and functional inadequacies. No evidence of improvement exists.

Radical reforms of public law bodies and local authorities, suggested by the European Union, IMF and specially commissioned studies have been discussed for many years. The reform of local authorities was presented to the parliament in January 2022.
1. Cyprus blocking evolved local government, Financial Mirror, 27 October 2021,
The monitoring of public agencies by ministries is weak. Public agencies and government ministries have often spent more money than allotted to them in the government budget. This problem has been exacerbated by the limited capacity of the National Audit Office (Ríkisendurskoðun) to monitor the activities of those agencies within its jurisdiction. From 2000 to 2007, the National Audit Office audited only 44 out of 993, or 4.4%, of the agencies within its jurisdiction. In 2009, almost half of the NAO’s efforts (43%) were diverted to financial auditing related in some way to the financial crash and its consequences. Moreover, National Audit Office’s resources were cut as its personnel was reduced from 47 to 42 in 2012, before being restored to 47 by 2017 and remaining close to that level in 2019.
National Audit Office Annual Reports 2012 - 2019. (ÁRSSKÝRSLA RÍKISENDURSKOÐUNAR 2012 - 2019.)
The ministries do not monitor the implementation activities of bureaucracies/executive agencies.
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