Public Services: Control and Transparency
On June 28th the international APPAM (Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management) conference ‘Improving the Effectiveness of Public Services’ started at the HSE. The event was organized by the HSE Faculty of Public Administration and the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.
At the opening ceremony, the participants were welcomed by Lev Yakobson, First Vice Rector of the HSE, Douglas Besharov, Professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, Alexey Germanovich, Public Projects’ Director at the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, Ilya Massukh, Deputy Minister of Communications and Media of Russia and other organizers and founders of the forum.
The topic of the first plenary session was ‘Managing Change in Public Institutes’. In this part of the conference, issues regarding the creation and development of systems for understanding government effectiveness were discussed. Of course, different countries have different specifics of public administration. For example, the presentation by O Taeg Shim, Vice Minister for Policy Analysis and Evaluation, Secretary of the Public Service Evaluation Committee, Prime Minister's Office, Republic of Korea, was dedicated to the strategy of development and implementation of ways of evaluating public officers’ effectiveness. When Korea became one of the best developed economies in the world in the 1990s, and the role of the state in the economy remained quite high, a serious reconsideration of policy was needed. It was in this period that they started moving towards a policy of administration focused on goals, not results. In order to do that, it was necessary to clarify the mission of governmental bodies, to define priorities and key actors.
In 2007 a system of reporting for governmental bodies was introduced in Korea, which involved the development of interdepartmental communication, new means of data processing and transparency of information about the authorities’ work. But many experts are skeptical about this system, since these changes were initiated by the government, not by society.
Andrey Klimenko, Vice Rector of the HSE, spoke about the development of public administration in Russia and summarized the results of this process. While reforms of public administration started in 2001, the executive power system in Russia is still far from ideal, and by some indicators Russia has fallen behind its closest neighbours, for example, Kazakhstan and Georgia.
Dmitry Gurtov, Department Director at Rostelecom, devoted his presentation to the e-government which has become a tool for improving the effectiveness of the state’s work. He spoke about some achievements in this sphere, such as the some segments of the infrastructure, working centers of collective access, the united web-portal www.gosuslugi.ru and the system of inter-institutional communication and also mentioned some unsolved problems. One of them is the different level of IT penetration in municipalities. Another problem is that out of the 15000 services offered at the united portal, in reality only about 90 federal and 59 municipal services are actually provided.
Lev Yakobson, First Vice Rector of the HSE, started his presentation about the interaction between Russian governmental bodies and non-commercial organizations with a reminder that last year it was 10 years since the so-called Gref programme, which implied many changes, but unfortunately only about 40% of the planned changes were actually implemented, despite powerful political support. The least successful regulations were those concerning the public sector and public services.
|O Taeg Shim|
According to Kenneth Apfel, the U.S. government is not the leading player in U.S. public policy: state administrations have much more power. Nevertheless, the issue of control over governmental bodies’ work is very important for Americans, and the first reforms in this area were started by President Clinton, when a law was adopted which set the parameters of federal bodies’ activity and supported initiatives ‘from below’. Then President Bush introduced a system of external evaluation for the work of governmental bodies. President Obama’s administration is trying to take into account the disadvantages of the existing system. If previously, the evaluation rating of ‘ineffective’ led to criticism, then today it is considered as a stimulus for improvement and development.
Karen Baehler, Scholar in Residence at the American University School of Public Affairs focused on the problem of bureaucracy’s counteraction to systems of effectiveness control over its activity. While an external effectiveness evaluation in a private company forces its management to alter its policy and look for some effective solutions to the problems, public officers act quite differently, since they understand that an external evaluation may lead to cuts in budget or staff of an institution. Of course, it creates tension in public institutions, which, according to Karen Baehler, should be prevented. One of the possible solutions is the development of a problem map, which describes in detail the potential defects of the work and the means to overcome this. Eventually such a system will be publicly accessible and the public officers will more actively promote its development.
Andrey Shcherbakov, HSE News Service
Photos by Nikita Benzoruk