Value for Money in Government

2079-8946 (online)
2079-8938 (print)
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The OECD series Value for Money in Government reports on new reforms and reform trends in public administration, as part of the OECD multi-annual, cross-country study of the same name. The study looks in particular at reforms which aim for better quality of services at lower costs – that is, value for money. The series includes horizontal studies that look at reforms on a thematic basis across countries, as well as country assessments of individual countries. The horizontal studies are descriptive and provide information on the reforms that have occurred in member countries. The focus is on features of the reforms, and on experience with their implementation, which are relevant from an international perspective so that countries can learn from each other. The country studies assess government institutions and practices and, drawing upon reforms that have delivered good results in other countries, make recommendations to the country.

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07 June 2010
9789264086449 (PDF) ;9789264086432(print)

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Public administration has entered a new age. In the 1980s, "less" government was the prevailing idea; in the 1990s and early 21st century, "New Public Management" was the dominant theme. Today, public administration is moving in new directions. Reforms are focusing on the quality of services for citizens and businesses and on the efficiency of administration (the "back office" of government). The OECD is studying these new trends in a multi-annual, cross-country project called "Value for Money in Government".

This is the first report in a new OECD series on the topic. The book examines four themes in nine OECD countries: the development of shared service centres, the steering and control of agencies, automatic productivity cuts, and spending review procedures. In addition, it contains a quantitative analysis of the size of employment in central government. The countries studied are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The book pays particular attention to the case of the Netherlands, the country that first proposed an OECD study on value for money in government.

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  • Executive Summary
    The aim of this study is to compare the organisation of central government in selected OECD countries from the perspective of value for money. The countries covered in this study are: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. These countries have been at the forefront of public governance reform in the past. Moreover, the countries are diverse in geographical circumstances and national resources, which have given rise to a wide variety of public policies and governance structures.
  • Introduction
    In July 2008 the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations asked the OECD to conduct a comparative study on the organisation of central government. The Dutch government had launched a reform initiative aimed at "better public service with fewer staff" as part of the coalition programme of the Cabinet that entered into office in 2007. The Dutch government felt that there was still ample room for efficiency improvement and a reason to "hold up existing work to the light and see whether it is still necessary". A memorandum outlining the programme (Policy Document on Central Government Reform) was sent to Parliament on 25 September 2007.
  • Quantitative Comparison of Public Service Employment
    This chapter presents the results of a quantitative analysis of the number of employees in general government using three different data sources (the OECD Public Finance and Employment Database, the ILO LABORSTA database, and the snapshots of the public administration). This chapter also addresses administrative employment – which excludes all actual service delivery both in individual services and in collective services – as a relevant concept for efficiency analysis. The extent to which countries delegate tasks to agencies differs between countries. There is also a discussion of the distribution of central government employment over the four types of government tasks: policy development, policy execution, support services, and regulatory/supervisory services.
  • Qualitative Assessments of Recent Reforms
    This chapter presents qualitative assessments of the development of shared service centres, the steering and control of agencies, spending reviews, and automatic productivity cuts. Before 1990, support services, such as human resources, internal audit, procurement, and accommodation and facilities, were more concentrated. In the 1990s, under the influence of "New Public Management", central control was gradually loosened. However, in the last few years some governments realised that the results were not as intended, as staff levels had increased in all task areas and especially in the area of support services. In addition, there were problems with output steering and control. This led to another change of direction and to a more pragmatic approach involving the re-concentration of central ministerial support services, ad hoc downsizing operations, and shared services. The chapter concludes with a list of questions that emerge from the qualitative assessments. They can serve as the basis for a follow-up review in which the organisation of central government will be studied more broadly. Issues such as policy development and regulatory/supervisory tasks could then be addressed as well.
  • Annex A. COFOG-Special Classification
  • Annex B. Snapshots of the Public Administration
  • Annex C. Corrected Central Government Employment
  • Annex D. Standard-setting Units and Support Services Delivery Units
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