OECD Public Governance Reviews

The has developed a series of country reviews focusing on public governance arrangements and public sector capacity and effectiveness, to see how these can better support one another to achieve national objectives . The reviews help countries assess their public governance arrangements from an international comparative perspective in terms of their: ability to deliver on government objectives, in particular for the whole-of-government; and preparedness to meet current and future challenges.
The reviews make recommendations on how to strengthen and improve public sector performance, with a focus on the sustainability of governance arrangements. The review process with its focus on both internal and external stakeholder consultation, also provides countries with a platform for developing a consensus with all stakeholders on a forward-looking agenda for the public service.
The first review of the Ireland, [http://www.oecd.org/document/31/0,3746,en_2649_33735_40529119_1_1_1_1,00.html "OECD Public Management Reviews - Ireland: Towards an Integrated Public Service]", was completed in 2008. Reviews of Finland, , and Greece, , were completed in 2010. A number of OECD-member and non-member countries have also expressed interest in reviewing their systems comprehensively which will allow the OECD to begin drawing broader public governance lessons.
Focus of a Review
All reviews cover a common set of topics to ensure that critical public service issues are covered. The focus of each review, however, is determined jointly with the country under review and is tailored to meet their specific needs and requirements. Countries are assessed through international benchmarking, and recommendations are illustrated through examples from other OECD countries.
The reviews examine public governance and public management values and outcomes - such as citizen focus, stakeholder participation, efficiency and integrity - and the most appropriate tools to achieve them - for example, the use of evaluation, risk analysis and evidence-based approaches to policy development and implementation, arrangements for co-ordination and co-operation between levels of government, and use of e-government and other technologies. The governance element of the reviews also encompasses public and societal roles and responsibilities for achieving policy outcomes.
Key themes covered in the Public Governance Reviews include Governance Structures, Building Public Sector Capacity and the Citizen and Business Perspective.
Governance Structures
The reviews examine governance actors inside and outside the public administration - including sub-national levels of government and public sector agencies (arms length bodies) - and examine how relationships between these actors can be strengthened or improved to enhance information flows, co-ordination and collaboration, and the development and the delivery of services. The reviews look at the leadership and accountability arrangements needed across the different levels of government to maximise the effectiveness of structures and to embed reforms and changes in working practices.
The reviews also consider the evolving role of government - in a national and international context - and in particular, the role played by the ‘centre’ of government, in terms of:
* Its capacity to achieve strategic insight by processing complex information and inputs;
* its ability to plan and anticipate issues; and
* its ability to communicate and inspire other parts of government and society to work in a more mutually-supportive manner to achieve whole-of-society objectives
In looking at these questions, the reviews look at the both the capacity of the centre and the interface structures that provide for collaboration and communication between political officials and other governance actors.
Building Public Sector Capacity - Enabling delivery of reforms
Following from the economic and fiscal crisis, governments are under increased pressures to provide higher levels of service with fewer resources. The reviews look at the tools and strategies that can be utilised both within individual public sector organisations and across government actors, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the public administration. They also look at how to better mobilise and incentivise existing and available resources to improve performance and effectiveness, using tools such as performance management and performance budgeting.
The reviews look at how well placed the body of public servants within the public service - generically or within a particular level - are to meet the changing needs and expectations of all stakeholder groups. In addition to examining the numbers, capacity, distribution and skill-mix of staff, the reviews also examine the wider systems in place for recruitment, training, retention and reassignment (mobility) of staff.
Citizen and Business Perspective
Business and citizens increasingly expect and want the state to provide immediate solutions to complex challenges. They expect high quality public services to meet their changing circumstances and needs. Technological advances have also raised expectations regarding how they interact with government and how they want services delivered.
The reviews look at how well placed governance arrangements are to ensure a citizen- and business- focused approach to service delivery. They consider the capacity of the public sector to engage with citizens, business and civil society, and to meet increased expectations for faster service delivery and improved outcomes, particularly given the changing nature of social interactions and the opportunities presented by electronic technologies.
The reviews also look at the practices in place to build citizen trust in government and the impact that this can have on the internal incentives and practices of the public administration. Specific issues addressed are tailored to the needs of a particular country, ranging from improving social accountability through to anti-corruption efforts.
Case Studies
The reviews also use sector case studies to help illustrate governance issues for the broader public service, and to demonstrate real world reform challenges and obstacles. The purpose of these case studies is not to make sector policy recommendations, but to look at how capacity, performance and governance have been addressed and can be further strengthened from a public management perspective.
Peer Review Process
The reviews draw on the OECD public sector management and governance building blocks (e.g., regulatory reform, transparency and accountability, e-government, human resource management and public budgeting etc.). But in looking at individual reforms or practices, one can lose sight of the big picture, both in terms of the country context in which reforms are taking place and the place of individual reforms as part of a broader set of reforms to reach country objectives. A practical, government-wide understanding of both context and policy objectives is needed to effectively identify and apply public management lessons across countries.
The reviews make use of OECD international expert and practitioner networks and comparative country data from the OECD's Government at a Glance, to provide a balanced, comparative view of public governance in a country, based on a transparent methodology and international peer review. In order to assist in this process, the OECD, in consultation with the country under review, invites national experts who are recognized practitioners in the area of public management to comment on the draft report and to provide, along with the broader group of OECD countries, the formal peer review of the final report.
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