Network management tools

There are many different types of procedural tools linked with the use of specific government organizational resources which can affect various aspects of policy subsystem behaviour in policy processes. Interest in these tools has grown as many governments, as discussed in Chapter 1, have moved in the direction of more overt network management in some sectors in recent years.

Staff or central (executive) agencies

This is an old form of government organization, one in which a small, coordinating government agency, rather than one which directly delivers services to the public, is created to centralize agency initiatives in some area. Such ‘staff or ‘central’ agencies are generally created as a means to control other administrative agencies and are often linked very closely to the political executive (Bernier, Brownsey and Howlett 2005). In Westminister-style parliamentary systems, for example, older examples include privy council offices and treasury board secretariats, while newer ones include presidential, premier and prime minister’s offices, ministries of state, communication units, intergovernmental secretariats, and various kinds of implementation units (Chenier 1985; Savoie 1999; Lindquist 2006).

Although small (even most prime minister’s offices until recently had less than 100 personnel, most of whom handled correspondence) these are central co-ordinating units which exercise a great deal of control over other bureaucratic agencies through their links to the executive and to the budgetary and policy processes in government. They have seen much growth in recent years as political executives have sought to re-establish control over far flung administrative apparatuses (Campbell and Szablowski 1979; Rhodes and Weller 2001; Bevir et al. 2003; Bernier et al. 2005). Unlike line departments, these staff or central agencies are less, or non-hierarchical, flatter organizations typically staffed by political appointees, although others also employ permanent officials as well. Key officials are chiefs of staff, principle secretaries and specialized positions such as a clerk of the privy council or cabinet secretary. These agencies play a major and increasing role in designing and coordinating policies and policy-making, ensuring accountability to legislatures and controlling the budgets, activities and plans of line departments and ministries. Their small cost is a major design consideration although this is often offset by their high visibility and high level of intrusiveness in the affairs of the government agencies they control or co-ordinate.

Tribunals and other quasi-judicial bodies

These are created by statute and perform many administrative functions, hearing appeals concerning licencing (e.g. of pesticides), certification (of personnel or programmes), and permits (e.g. for disposal of effluents). Appointed by government, they usually represent, or purport to represent, some diversity of interests and expertise.

Administrative hearings are conducted by tribunals in a quasi-judicial fashion in order to aid tribunals in their activities. These hearings are bound by rules of natural justice, and procedures may be dictated by statutory provisions. The decisions of tribunals are designed to be binding on the ministry in question but may be subject to various political, administrative, and judicial appeals. Public hearings may be statutorily defined as a component of the administrative process.

In the framework of administration, tribunals are directed toward securing compliance with administrative edicts and the achievement of identified standards of behaviour by both governmental and non-governmental actors. They may act as a mechanism with which to appeal administrative decisions, but in most cases proceedings are held at the discretion of a decision-making authority and public hearings are often ‘after the fact’ public information sessions rather than being true consultative devices (Grima 1985; Stewart and Sinclair 2007). They can be precisely targeted and are an important component of legal modes of governance which are generally low cost and nearly invisible. However, in other forms of governance, like market or corporatist modes, their relatively high levels of intrusiveness can diminish their appeal in the eyes of policy designers.

Creating or reorganizing government agencies

Another fairly commonly used procedural organizational tool is to establish new government agencies or reform existing institutions in order to focus or re-focus state and societal activities on specific problems or issue areas (Goetz 2007; Durant 2008). Setting up a new government ministry for technology or a new research council to promote advanced technologies like biotechnology, e-technologies, or other high technology sectors, for example, is a common action on the part of governments wanting to target a new area of activity for further development (Hood 2004; Lindquist 2006; van Thiel 2008). However, such actions are highly visible and, if repeated too often, quite costly. They are also quite intrusive and, as a result, are proposed, and used, only infrequently.

Some governments have also set up internal think tanks or research institutes in order to provide policy advice to governments (Dobuzinskis et al. 2007; Marchildon 2007). Many government departments and agencies also have established specialized policy units designed to generate studies and reports which can influence or help to persuade both government officials and nongovernmental actors of the merits of government plans. These agencies also often employ outside consultants to bring additional expertise and knowledge to policy formation, implementation and evaluation (Schwartz 1997; Perl 2002; Speers 2007). The knowledge they generate is used to inform internal policy-making processes and also to garner support for government positions from outside groups (Whiteman 1985 and 1995).

New analytical units such as those policy shops created in many jurisdictions in the 1970s and 1980s in order to promote formal policy analysis and what is now referred to as ‘knowledge-based’ or ‘evidence-based’ policymaking are good examples of such procedural organizational tools (Prince 1979; Prince and Chenier 1980; Chenier 1985; Hollander and Prince 1993; Lindquist 2006). These agencies can be precisely targeted and are generally low cost and have low visibility. However their impact on policy-making can raise the ire of stakeholders and others in market, corporatist and network forms of governance, while other agencies in more legal modes also find them to be rivals. Such considerations have dampened enthusiasm for such units in many jurisdictions and sectors and reduced their appeal in policy designs in recent years.

Establishing clientele units

New administrative units in areas like urban affairs, science, technology and other areas flourished in the 1970s, as did new environmental units in many countries in the 1970s and 1980s; they were joined by units dealing with areas such as youth and small business in the 1990s; while in the post- 1990 period new units were developed in countries like Canada and Australia to deal with aboriginal affairs, and in many countries to promote multiculturalism, women’s and human rights. Human rights units dealing with minorities and the disabled are good examples of network mobilization and activation occasioned by government organizational (re)engineering (Malloy 1999; 2003; Teghtsoonian and Grace 2001; Teghtsoonian and Chappell 2008; Osborne et al. 2008).

In general these agencies can be precisely targeted in order to undertake the management functions set out in Table 5.3. They are very popular in network governance modes given their generally low cost, high visibility and high levels of automaticity. They are also popular in policy designs in legal governance given their relatively high levels of intrusiveness.

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Establishing government reviews, ad hoc task forces, commissions, inquiries and public hearings

A sixth common procedural organizational tool used by governments is the establishment of a government review. These range from formal, mandated, periodic reviews of legislation and government activity by congressional or parliamentary committees and internal administrative bodies to ‘ad hoc’ processes such as task forces or inquiries designed to activate or mobilize network actors to support government initiatives (Gilmore and Krantz 1991; Bellehumeur 1997; Marchildon 2007; Sulitzeanu-Kenan 2007, 2010; Rowe and McAllister 2010).

Ad hoc task forces and inquiries are typically temporary bodies, much shorter term and often more issue related than institutionalized advisory committees. Ad hoc commissions are also created as instruments to consult a variety of interests with regard to economic and other areas of planning activity. These range from the presidential or royal commissions to those created at the departmental level. Presidential and royal commissions are the most formal and arm’s length, and therefore, are the most difficult for governments to control and predict, and therefore are used less often (Maxwell 1965; Doern 1967; Clokie and Robinson 1969; Wilson 1971; Chapman 1973; Flitner 1986; Salter 1990; Jenson 1994).

Task forces have been created in many jurisdictions for planning, consultation, or conflict resolution concerning many specific issues. The task force may be invoked by a government when there is an area of conflict in which different groups have different interests and perspectives or where they require information in order to arrive at a decision or judgement (Marier 2009; Rowe and McAllister 2006).

The subject matter of an ad hoc commission is typically urgent, of concern to more than one ministry and level of government, and is the subject of some controversy (Resodihardjo 2006; Sulitzeanu-Kenan 2010). It is invoked at the discretion of government and is subject to political, economic, and social pressures. Indeed, the very initiation of the commission is likely to be the product of pressure by public interest groups. But, as Chapman (1973: 184) noted ‘Commissions may also play a significant political role and are often used as a method for postponing to an indefinite future decision on questions which appear to be embarrassing but not urgent’. Employment of these instruments for this purpose can result in serious legitimation problems for governments utilizing these policy tools, however, given their high level of visibility (Heinrichs 2005; Hendriks and Carson 2008; Stutz 2008; Marier 2009).

Public participation through hearings is the most common type of public or network consultation in many sectors (Rowe and Frewer 2005). Hearings vary by degree of formalization and when they occur in a policy process. The most effective and influential are often flexible processes that are geared towards policy formulation such as project reviews or environmental assessments, but the most common are rigid processes that take place in or after the implementation stage of a process, such as a formal policy evaluation exercise (Dion 1973; Baetz and Tanguay 1998; Edelenbos and Klijn 2005). Public hearings are often mandated by legislation and most often occur after a decision has been taken – that is, purely as information and/or legitimation devices. Actual instances of open, truly empowered public hearing processes are very rare (Riedel 1972; Grima 1985; Torgerson 1986).

Although sometimes used for other purposes such as information collection or blame attribution, these tools are often also used to overcome institutional ‘blockages’ and veto points such as those that  are commonly found in federal–state or intergovernmental relations or in interdepartmental jurisdictional struggles (Ben-Gera 2007). They can also help bolster the capacity of groups to become more involved in the policy process if funding is extended to their participants, thereby promoting network governance (Robins 2008). They can be precisely targeted and are generally low cost. However, their high level of visibility can cause problems for governments and results in their less frequent appearance in policy designs than would otherwise be the case (Rowe and Frewer 2005).

Legislative and executive oversight agencies

This category of organizational tools also includes specialized agencies with very different policy-making functions, like arm’s-length independent auditors general or access to information commissioners, which are units typically attached to legislatures, providing some oversight or control over executive branch activities (Campbell-Smith 2008). Many principle-agent problems can also be overcome through administrative procedures mandating oversight agency reviews of government actions (McCubbins and Lupia 1994; McCubbins et al. 1987), especially if these are linked to funding and budgetary issues (Hall 2008). These latter units are usually fairly small, inexpensive and highly visible, and there has been a proliferation of such units in recent years dealing with areas such as corruption, human rights and the promotion of ethnic and gender equality (Malloy 2003). They often represent an effort to promote legal governance in sectors typically configured in other modes.


Organization-based implementation tools are generally costly and high visibility. This is because they rely on government personnel funded by appropriations from general revenue raised through taxes or royalties, although some are also funded from market revenue stemming from the sale of goods or services. The use of tax-based funding makes the use of public servants expensive in the sense that governments tend to have a limited capacity to tax citizens to pay for services and incur opportunity costs no matter which activity they choose to adopt. It can also lead to governance failures, as the link between system outputs and inputs (expenditures and revenues) is usually not clear, providing the opportunity for funds to be misallocated and effort misspent, all in the fishbowl environment of public government (Le Grand 1991).

However in some countries additional sources of revenue – such as those  accruing from natural resources rents or ‘royalties’ – especially from oil and natural gas activities in many states in the contemporary era – can make the expenses involved in direct delivery appear less onerous for the public at large and in such circumstances  such tools are much easier for governments to establish and maintain. It is also the case that some publicly delivered goods and services can be charged for – for example through highway or bridge tolls, or publicly
run electricity, fuel or food services, among many others – and can be priced like any other private good or service, helping to explain why many resource rich countries have large public sectors and why many countries of all types have large public sectors and state-owned enterprises.

Despite their real or perceived cost, and in spite of many efforts to create or replace them with other forms of service and goods delivery, direct delivery of goods and services by public agencies remains what Christopher Leman (1989) has called ‘the forgotten fundamental’ of implementation instruments and policy designs. That is, much attention has been focused in the past three decades on the privatization of public goods and service production and distribution facilities and organizations, and many efforts have been made to replace chargeable publicly provided goods (‘toll’ or ‘club’ goods such as toll bridges or publicly run recreational facilities) (Potoski and Prakash 2009) with privately supplied ones, largely in the effort to improve productivity or reduce the burden on taxpayers and governments of the wages of public servants involved in direct government provision (Dunleavy 1986; Ascher 1987; Cook and Kirpatrick 1988; Donahue 1989; Finley, 1989; Cowan 1990; Hanke and
Walters 1990; Heald 1990; Connolly and Stark 1992). However these efforts have generally been less successful than often thought or alleged.

Such practices were a key component of ‘New Public Management’ (NPM) thinking in the 1980s and 1990s in many countries and are a key component of contemporary efforts to promote ‘public-private partnerships’ and ‘collaborative government’ (Linder 1999). However, it is sometimes overlooked that ‘old-fashioned’ government agencies are still the most common and pervasive policy instrument in most sectors (Leman 1989; Aucoin 1997; Olsen 2005).

Even in the ostensibly most private sector-oriented market governance systems (like the USA or, more recently, New Zealand), direct government goods and service production usually reaches close to 50 per cent of gross national product (GNP) – that is, half of the dollar value of all goods and services produced in a country in one year – while direct civil service employment typically hovers in the area of 15–20 per cent of the labour force but can also be much higher (Christensen and Pallesen 2008; Derlien 2008; Busemeyer 2009).3

This organizational activity is somewhat sectorally focused, due to large publicly provided expenditures on direct government activities like defence and the military which cannot be delivered by the private sector and/or items such as health care, social security, education and pensions associated with the development of modern welfare states and the extension of legal rights to these services to members of the public. It also includes what statistical agencies refer to as the ‘MUSH’ sector – municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals – which in many countries are established as autonomous or semi-autonomous operating agencies of more senior levels of government. In many countries MUSH sector agencies are among the largest employers since the activities they undertake – such as education and health care, as well as sewer, road and parks maintenance – are very labour intensive.

Many of the recent innovations in organizational forms, from special operating agencies, to quangos, private-public partnerships and various kinds of hybrid organizations, have emerged largely in the effort to reduce the size of these existing organizations and transform some sectoral activities from legal and corporatist to market modes of governance (Hardiman and Scott 2010). This is done in the name of improving the efficiency of service delivery, or in order to try to reduce the resource burden large public service delivery agencies place on budgets and taxpayer loads (Verhoest et. al 2007 ; O’Toole and Meier 2010).

Either way, it has promoted the frequent appearance of alternate instruments and policy designs, although much less often their realization in practice. And even where they have been implemented, many of these efforts have proved unsuccessful in either improving the efficiency of goods and service delivery or reducing tax burdens. Significant areas of public expenditure and effort such as health care and education, for example, have generally proved immune to privatization efforts given their overall cost structures, mandatory service delivery nature and high levels of citizen support (Le Grand 2009). Most successes have come in either small-scale direct service privatizations or in single-industry company privatizations which have generally not altered earlier governance modes (Verhoest et al. 2010).

Procedural organizational instruments have also been growing in frequency of appearance, but for different reasons: under efforts to shift sectoral activity undertaken through older legal forms of governance to more corporatists network forms. Government reorganizations are increasingly common and these reorganizations and the new agencies often created alongside them are intended to use government organizational resources to refocus government efforts and interactions with policy community/network members rather than
directly improve the delivery of particular types of goods and services (Herranz 2007; Bache 2010).

As Peters (1992) noted, re-organization of existing departments and agencies (serves to) refocus government efforts and reposition government administration within policy networks, bringing together policy community members to reconsider the effectiveness of network management activities (Banting 1995; de la Mothe 1996), improving management of complex areas by restructuring relationships (May 1993; Metcalfe 2000) and can insert government actors between competing private actors in networks by, for example, creating consumer departments to sit between producers and (un)organized consumers (Bache 2010). These moves are often accompanied by the increasing use of government reviews and inquiries, as well as consultative conferences and other similar organizational forms for stakeholder and public consultation (Crowley 2009; Lejano and Ingram 2009).


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