Ministerial Advisors

Ministerial Advisors

Role, Influence and Management You do not have access to this content

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Author(s):
OECD
Publication Date :
24 Nov 2011
Pages :
120
ISBN :
9789264124936 (PDF) ; 9789264124929 (print)
DOI :
10.1787/9789264124936-en

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Government leaders need high-quality and responsive advice to make informed decisions, particularly to help restore long-term economic growth. Indeed, in many countries ministerial advisors are appointed primarily in order to increase the responsiveness of government and help address strategic challenges faced by government leaders. At the same time, their sheer number and the opacity surrounding their status have prompted widespread concern. These are two findings that emerged from an OECD survey in 2010 into the work of ministerial advisors across 27 countries.
This report examines the survey’s findings in order to better understand the important role advisors play and how they are managed. It considers why ministers use their services, how they are appointed, the special status they enjoy, the concerns they have prompted in the general public, and how reform may make them more accountable  and improve the transparency of their status.

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    Foreword
    Political leaders, ministers and heads of government rely on advice from senior civil servants and, increasingly, from so-called ministerial advisors. This is a growing group of people who are essential to help these officials make informed strategic decisions, keep up with different stakeholders and accelerate government responses. Unlike senior civil servants, ministerial advisors are exempt from the requirement of political neutrality.
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    Executive summary
    Modern government operates in a complex market of ideas, policies and actors. It requires thousands of decisions to be taken and acted upon each day. Today’s information and communication technologies have not only increased sources of information and created new communities but have, at the same time, raised public expectations about government response times. A key challenge to successful government is the ability to make good decisions and communicate them in a timely manner.
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    The phenomenon of ministerial advisors
    It is not a new phenomenon in many countries that ministers appoint ministerial advisors on the basis of personal trust. However, ministerial advisors have become more institutionalised. This reflects not only the fact that their numbers are increasing in some countries but also the many roles that they are performing. As a result, ministerial advisors increasingly wield influence in the machinery of government.
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    The employment framework for ministerial advisors
    The general employment rules for the public service apply to both public servants and ministerial advisors in a majority of respondent countries. In fact the compensation for ministerial advisors is based primarily on the public service salary scale, although is not necessarily the advisor’s only source of income.
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    Functions and influence of ministerial advisors
    A unique feature of the OECD Ministerial Advisors Survey is that it affords insights from ministerial advisors themselves into their day-to-day functions and their influence on policy making.
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    Are the frameworks governing ministerial advisors sufficient?
    Governance frameworks to ensure that ministerial advisors do their work transparently, ethically and accountably are generally limited. In most countries the same standards of conduct apply to public servants as well as ministerial advisors. Thus the standards of conduct do not take into account the political nature of ministerial advisors’ role and related risks.
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    Case studies: Austria, Canada and the United Kingdom

    This chapter highlights the experience of the Austrian, Canadian and British governments in managing ministerial advisors. It focuses on:

    - the politico-administrative contexts in which ministerial advisors exercise their functions;
    - the reasons why ministers appoint them;
    - their employment status and, in particular, how their appointment procedures, compensation and performance management differ from those of senior public servants;
    - the governance framework in which they operate and, in particular, the standards of conduct that apply to them.

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    Code of Conduct for Special Advisors, United Kingdom
    The employment of special advisors adds a political dimension to the advice and assistance available to ministers while reinforcing the political impartiality of the permanent civil service by distinguishing the source of political advice and support.
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    Guidelines for Special Advisors in Denmark
    In Denmark, several policy steps have been taken over time to govern the employment and management of special advisors. In particular, a series of white papers were produced in 1998 and 2004, which led to the development of the Standard Job Contract for Special Advisors.
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    Methodology of the survey
    Building on previous OECD work on political involvement and senior staffing, the Public Governance Committee identified in its 2009-10 work programme the politico-administrative interface as a key priority, particularly in respect of the role of ministerial advisors.
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    References
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