man in front of a big screen with a matrix with a red arrow
Photo: Frank Busch, Unsplash

Out of Control or Over Controlled? Incentives, Audits and New Public Management

Research project
Inactive research
Project size
7 074 000 SEK
Project period
2014 - 2018
Project owner
Department of Political Science

Short description

The purpose of this project is to study the effects of NPM (New Public Management) reforms on public service delivery, corruption, government effectiveness, and more broadly human well-being.

Although NPM is at least 25 years old, we have limited understanding about the effects of NPM. In particular, there has been a lack of quantitative studies with large-number sample sizes. Previous studies tend to focus on studies of failed cases with relatively small sample sizes. To fill this gap, this project aims to study the effects of NPM by conducting quantitative assessment with a large number of samples from different countries. NPM reforms emphasize the importance of ex-post evaluations of the results of bureaucratic performance through management tools such as performance and financial audits and performance indicators. NPM has been said to replace the traditional emphasis on ex-ante controls of bureaucracies – procedural controls, personnel policy, and organizational design –with ex-post controls. However, previous studies suggest that ex-ante controls remain important in the NPM era. Therefore, this project focuses on both ex-ante and ex-post control mechanisms and assesses how they affect the aforementioned outcomes.

This project has led to 19 published papers at peer-reviewed academic journals, 5 book chapters, 15 working papers, and 15 conference papers. Furthermore, the team’s proposal for a special issue, “The Effects of New Public Management on the Quality of Public Policies,” is soon to be published by Governance.

The research team has also assembled and made publicly available comprehensive datasets on institutions, processes, and practices in public administration. This includes a cross-national data-set for more than 100 countries (Dahlström et al 2015a; 2015b; Dahlström and Suzuki 2018) and 4 subnational data-sets: Sweden (Broms 2017a; 2018; Dahlström and Tyrberg 2016), Russia (Nistotskaya et al 2015; Nistotskaya and Khakhunova 2016b), Spain (Drapalova and Lapuente 2017), France (Bauhr and Charron 2018), and Japan (Suzuki and Avellaneda 2018; Suzuki and Ha 2018; Suzuki and Sakuwa 2016).

Among our findings, three stand out.

1. First, unlike the original intent, the effect of various NPM is not univocally positive (Broms et al. 2018; Dahlström et al. 2018; Drapalova and Lapuente 2017; Nistotskaya and Khakhunova 2016a; Suzuki and Sakuwa 2016; Suzuki and Ha 2018). Marketization of municipal services in Sweden improves neither service quality nor citizen satisfaction (Broms et al. 2018; Dahlström et al. 2018). Relying on revenue from certain industries also lead to low institutional quality in Sweden (Broms 2018). Negative NPM impacts were also found in Japan (Suzuki and Sakuwa 2016; Suzuki and Ha 2018) and Russia (Nistotskaya and Khakhunova 2016a). However, restructuring public services can stimulate citizen volunteering (Suzuki 2017; 2018). Previous private-sector experience enhances efficiency-oriented attitudes of public managers without harming important values such as impartiality and equity (Lapuente et al. 2018).

2. Second, ex-ante factors still remain important for bureaucratic performance. Recruitment and promotion systems influence performance and bureaucratic behavior (Dahlström et al. 2016; Lapuente and Suzuki 2018a; 2018b; Nistotskaya 2017; Parrado et al. 2018). Contextual factors such as political competition (Broms et al. 2018) and gender (Bauhr, Charron, and Wängnerud 2018; Suzuki and Avellaneda 2018) also play a role in reducing corruption and government debt. Mismanagement in public procurement processes results in higher corruption risk (Bauhr and Charron 2018).

3. Third, concerning ex-post control mechanisms, we have made an overview of currently available transparency measures (Bauhr and Grimes 2017), and defined and measured the type of transparency that can effectively monitor public procurement (Bauhr et al. 2018). Electoral fortune of local governing parties is, at least indirectly, damaged by receiving a critical audit, providing evidence that auditing can be an important tool for securing accountability between elections (Broms 2018).