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International Journal of Public Administration

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Accountability and Performance Management:

The Norwegian Hospital, Welfare, and Immigration

Jostein Askim, Tom Christensen & Per Lægreid

To cite this article: Jostein Askim, Tom Christensen & Per Lægreid (2015) Accountability
and Performance Management: The Norwegian Hospital, Welfare, and Immigration
Administration, International Journal of Public Administration, 38:13, 971-982, DOI:

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International Journal of Public Administration, 38: 971–982, 2015
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0190-0692 print / 1532-4265 online
DOI: 10.1080/01900692.2015.1069840

Accountability and Performance Management:

The Norwegian Hospital, Welfare, and
Immigration Administration
Jostein Askim and Tom Christensen
Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

Per Lægreid
Department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

This article addresses the following questions: How are administrative and managerial
accountability combined, and to what extent does it depend on agency characteristics? We
study the performance management between parent ministries and five state agencies in
Norway in the area of hospital administration, welfare administration, and immigration.
Four combinations of administrative and managerial accountability are examined: accumula-
tion, substitution, persistence, and absence by applying a structural and a task specificity
perspective. To understand the hybrid forms of public accountability in performance
manage- ment, we have to look at how the tasks agencies perform as well as at their
structural affiliations to parent ministries.

Keywords: Administrative accountability, agencies, managerial accountability, performance

management, welfare administration
I accountability: holding
N subordinates to account
T for their achievement of
R ex-ante defined
O performance targets
D (Bovens, 2007;
U Byrkjeflot, Christensen, &
C Lægreid, 2014;
T Christensen & Lægreid,
I 2001).
O Performance
N management is said to be
able to deliver
Traditionally, under Old managerial
Public Administration accountability, but only
(OPA), lea- ders based as long as (1) targets are
the state’s legitimacy relevant, precise, limited
primarily on inputs— in number, and
appropriate decision- internally consistent and
making procedures and (2) managers are
formal struc- tures. Rules liberated from traditional
were to be followed and
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input controls. Without

decisions made by the operational authority and
formally correct actors flexibil- ity in using
with the appropriate resources, managers
competence (March & cannot be held accounta-
Olsen, 1983). As long as ble for their agencies’
this was the primary logic performance in producing
of legitimation, controls outputs and meeting
were designed to secure outcome targets (Bevan
administrative & Hood, 2006; Boston
accountability: in other et al., 1996; Moynihan,
words, holding sub- 2006a, 2008; Verhoest,
ordinates to account for 2005). This is where
their compliance with performance
rules and other standards management clashes with
of practice and for their controls that deliver
degree of success in administrative
transforming inputs into accountability. Leaders
outputs. Advocates of and reformers in the
New Public Management public sector face a
(NPM) reforms urged dilemma: they can
leaders to change their increase managerial
mindsets and practices accountability but
and to base state probably not without
legitimacy on outputs reducing administrative
rather than inputs. Many accountability. Or the flip
of the NPM-associated side of the coin: they
reforms introduced may strengthen
controls designed to traditional hier- archical
secure managerial control, but in the process
probably lose the focus
Correspondence should be on results.
addressed to Jostein Askim,
Department of Political Science,
University of Oslo, PO Box
1097, Blindern, Oslo, 01370,
Norway. E-mail:
Since there are large in terms of the presence or research questions
AND PERFORMANCE to represent205a
variations within and absence of a mandate for using a study of gov- spectrum of the
between coun- tries, and the parent ministry to ernance relationships characteristics men-
since many NPM reforms instruct the agency to between parent tioned in the second
have not been imple- make specific decisions in ministries and five state research question: in
mented as intended, the individual cases or to agencies in Norway: the other words, a range of
situation in most places is overturn agency Norwegian Directorate of different tasks and
a layered or hybrid decisions. An agency’s Immigration (NDI), the different kinds of formal
system of government, fiscal autonomy is defined Immigration Appeals affilia- tion to parent
with several contradictory here in terms of the Board (IAB), the ministries with respect to
control tools in operation presence or absence of a Directorate of Integration decision-making rights
simultaneously mandate to supplement and Diversity (IMDi), and fiscal autonomy.
(Christensen & Lægreid, ministerial funding with the Norwegian Labour We first describe the
2011; Pollitt & external funding (e.g., and Welfare Agency, and research setting—the
Bouckaert, 2011). Hybrid user fees) and to use that the Northern Norway governance of state
is not a very satisfactory funding to produce goods Regional Health agencies in Norway in
label, however. What does and services, to transfer Authority. The agencies general and the five case
hybrid account- ability surpluses and deficits were agen- cies in particular.
mean, for example? More between fiscal years, and Second, we describe the
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in-depth empirical studies to decide by itself how data basis and method.
are needed to show much funding should be Third, we present our
exactly where the used for operations and theoretical framework
struggle between investments, respectively focus- ing on
competing principles of (Moynihan, 2006b; accountability dynamics.
public organization leaves Lægreid, Roness, & The five agencies’
public- sector Rubecksen, 2006; adminis- trative
accountability. What is Pandey, Coursey, & accountability vis-à-vis
the significance of Moynihan, 2007). parent ministries is
adminis- trative vis-à-vis Ministries’ ability to presented here in order to
managerial accountability secure high manage- rial develop expectations
today (Lægreid, accountability vis-à-vis about managerial
2014)? Under what agencies depends, in our accountability patterns.
conditions can hybrid conceptualization, on Fourth, we present our
accountability forms ministry–agency findings on ministry–
function well, and what performance man- agency performance
might they look like? agement practices. High management practices.
We pose two research managerial accountability Finally, we analyze these
questions: How are is under- stood to require findings in light of our
administrative and a limited number of theoretical expecta- tions,
managerial accountability prioritized objectives discuss their limitations,
combined, or balanced? (goal density), precise and draw some
And: To what extent and unambiguous conclusions.
does the mixture of objectives opera-
administrative and tionalized with a
managerial accountability measurable variable and a
depend on agency precise perfor- mance
characteristics, such as target (goal
the formal affiliation operationalization),
between ministry and performance objectives
agency and the tasks oriented toward
agencies perform? controlling agency outputs
In our and outcomes (as opposed
conceptualization, to agency inputs and
e of State
ministries secure high processes) (per- formance
adminis- trative orientation), and high
accountability vis-à-vis transparency on actual
agencies if they limit per- formance in meeting
in Norway
agen- cies’ decision- goals and targets (goal-
making rights and fiscal results transparency) The Norwegian central
autonomy. We define an (Askim, 2015; Moynihan, government is organized
agency’s decision-making 2008). into 16 ministries and
rights (Verbeeten, 2008) We address the 168 state agencies,
206 fourET AL.
ASKIM health otherwise rather informal
authorities. The state executive governance,
agencies are part of the with dialogue and
state as a legal entity discussion as important
while the health features. In the quasi-
enterprises are legally contractual model, parent
independent and are ministries allocate
regulated by a special resources and set perfor-
law. Agencies have been mance targets for each
part of Norway’s civil agency via an annual
service since the 1850s, steering docu- ment called
and today state agen- cies the letter of allocation, a
employ about 140,000 soft performance contract.
full-time equivalents All Norwegian state
compared with about agencies receive one
4000 in the ministries. such performance
(Norwegian Government, contract per year, after
2013; Norwegian Social the state budget has
Science Database, 2015).
Narrowly defined,
agencies are government
entities directly subordi-
nated to ministerial
control. Each Norwegian
state agency reports to
one ministry (the parent
ministry), and the
principle of ministerial
responsibility is strong
(Bezes, Fimreite, Le
Lidec, & Lægreid,
2013). State agencies
are structurally
disaggregated from their
parent ministries and face
less hier- archical and
political influence on their
daily operations than
ministerial departments
do, but some have
more formal autonomy
than others. During the
last two decades, agencies
and state-owned
enterprises have been
given more autonomy
from the ministries
(Lægreid, Roness, &
Rolland, 2013). For
example, financial
regulations have become
more flexible, with more
frame-based budgets.
The price public bodies
have had to pay for their
increased freedom is to
accept a more rigid
performance management
system. A formal, quasi-
contractual steering model
has been introduced to
supplement the
been passed
ASKIM ET AL. by and Care Services. The Directorate (NLWD) using data from the
parliament. As a result, ministry established five was established as a result Norwegian Social Science
performance man- regional health enterprises of a large welfare Data Service (2015). This
agement, or to own hospitals and other administrative reform in source categorizes state
management by local health enterprises. 2005–2006, merging two agencies according to
objectives and results We have looked into the state agencies in charge of how they are structurally
(MBOR), has been governance of one: The employment and and financially “affiliated”
integrated into the Northern Norway pensions. NLWD, which to their parent ministries
budgetary process and the Regional Health reports to the Ministry of (Rolland & Roness,
financial regulation Authority (Health Labour and Social 2011). Agencies cate-
system. The system is North). This agency Affairs, administers about gorized as “core” or
thus a mixed one that employs 289 full-time a third of the national “ordinary administrative
prescribes both employees (FTEs). A budget. It employs 13,000 units” have less fiscal
centralization and regional health authority FTEs, of whom only 516 autonomy than agencies
decentra- lization— is a legal entity separate work in the central categorized, for example,
combining the principles from central govern- ment agency; the rest are in as “units with special
of “let the managers but owned by the Ministry regional and local offices. autonomy,” “public sector
manage” and “make the of Health and Care administra- tion
managers manage.” Services. companies,” “special
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Research has revealed The NDI, established in DATA statute enterprises,” or

both progress and 1988, is responsible for AND “public enterprises.” We
challenges in the processing METHO measure decision-making
development of the applications from foreign DS rights using data from
Norwegian agency nationals who wish to visit the Norwegian
governance model and its or live in Norway, running As mentioned above, we Directorate for Public
perfor- mance asylum reception centers, conceptualize Management and e-
management elements and handling expul- sion administrative Government. We were
(see e.g., Anderson, cases. It is subordinate to accountability in terms of given access to the raw
Curristine, & Merk, the Ministry of Justice and agencies’ decision- data that formed the
2006; Askim, 2015; Public Security. The making rights and fiscal basis for a report on
Christensen & Lægreid, agency has six regional autonomy. We measure the autonomy of all
2007; Lægreid et al., offices and employs 960 agencies’ fiscal autonomy Norwegian state agencies
2006). FTEs (of which (Norwegian Directorate
about 700 are in for Public Management
the central and eGovernment,
T agency). 2012). The report shows
h The IAB was that decision-making
e established in 2001 to rights vary considerably
handle appeals lodged between agencies; about
F following rejections by half have been granted
i the NDI pursuant to the exemptions from the
v Immigration Act. Like official main model,
e NDI, IAB is subordinate which says that ministries
to the Ministry of Justice shall have a mandate to
C and Public Security and it instruct their agencies to
a employs 349 FTEs. make specific decisions in
s The IMDi was individual cases and also
e established in 2005, to overturn agency
having split off from NDI. decisions.
A The agency, which is We conceptualize
g subordinate to the managerial accountability
e Ministry of Children, as a product of ministry–
n Equality and Social agency performance
c Inclusion, is responsible management practices.
i for settling and We measure ministry–
e integrating those granted agency performance
s asylum. The agency has management prac- tices
A 2002 reform six regional sub-offices using document studies of
centralized ownership of and employs 211 FTEs ministerial letters of
hospitals from the directly (with about half in the alloca- tion (performance
elected regional level to central agency). contracts) and agencies’
the Ministry of Health The Norwegian Labour annual reports for the
and Welfare
year 2012. Both are picture of the ministry– ACCOUNTABILITY AND PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT 209
publically available agency relationship, but
documents. Letters of they are not covered by
allocation for 2008 were this study. Still, the
also studied, but the performance contract and
analysis focuses primarily the annual report should
on evidence from 2012. represent the essence of
When counting important performance
performance objectives in management practices.
these contracts, we The per- formance
recorded all formulations contract, for example, is
explicitly denoting supposed to display the
performance objectives,
including objectives that
appear only implicitly
specified. We also
evaluated objectives in
terms of opera-
tionalization and precision
and categorized them
according to the value
chain approach: each
objective in a performance
contract was recorded as a
measure of organizational
inputs, processes, outputs,
or outcomes (Moynihan,
2006b; Binderkrantz
Holmand & Korsager,
2011; Pollitt & Dan,
2013; Van Dooren,
Bouckaert, & Halligan,
2010). Next, we read the
steering documents and
recorded whether annual
reports documented
agency achievement of
objectives in their
performance contracts.
One limitation of the
data should be noted.
Obviously, publically
available documents like
performance contracts
(letters of allocation) and
annual reports tell only a
partial story about
performance management
practices. The state
budget may contain
more objectives for the
agency, agency-ministry
reporting outside the
annual report may be
important, and ministries
and agencies may discuss
performance in various
formal and informal meet-
ings throughout the year.
Such details are clearly
important to get a fuller
“prioritized [rather than] accountability and high A structural perspective
ACCOUNTABILITY accountability
all objectives and areas of managerial account- assumes that the formal (Christensen & Lægreid,
activity” (The Norwegian ability, which means a structure of public 2007; March & Olsen,
Government Agency for strong focus on output- organizations channels 1983). More specifically,
Financial Management, and outcome- oriented and influences models of a structural perspective
2011, p. 4). control by performance thought and the actual leads us to expect one of
management, but limited decision-making the two outcomes in Table
traditional hierarchical behaviour of civil 1.
T control over agency servants, whether the First, persistence: we
H inputs and pro- cedures. focus is on process or expect agencies with
E Finally, persistence results (Egeberg, relatively high
O represents high 2012; Simon, 1957). The administrative
R administrative degree of formal accountability vis-à-vis
E accountability and low affiliation between parent ministries (as
T managerial accountability, ministry and agency is defined above) to be
I i.e., rather traditional therefore assumed to steered with a
C steering. Obviously, all influence agency performance man-
A cells are combinations; in governance practices, agement practice that
L a setting where agencies’ including the balance supports managerial
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F decision-making rights between forms of accountability to only a

R and fund- ing are granted very limited extent (as
A by ministries, and where defined above). We
M performance man- expect to find this
E agement is an obligatory A pattern in IMDi,
W practice, “values” for B NLWD, and NDI. IMDi
O either type of L and NLWD are both
R accountability are never subject to strong
K zero. administrative account-
The next question is: Combinations ability mechanisms vis-
As a starting point for Does the mixture of of à-vis their parent
examining how administrative and Administrative ministries. The agencies’
administrative and (AA) and
managerial accountability Managerial fiscal autonomy is
managerial accountability depend on agency A limited, and they have
are combined, Table 1 character- istics? Two c limited decision-making
shows four possible perspectives inform our c rights. Their parent
combinations, with labels o
expectations, a struc- u ministries have man-
that assume that arrange- tural perspective and a n dates to instruct IMDi and
ments defining task perspective. t NLWD to make specific
administrative a
deci- sions in individual
accountability are in i cases and also to overturn
place before ministries S l their decisions. NDI has
consider how to shape t i slightly lower
the ministry– agency r t
y administrative
performance management u accountability vis-à- vis
practices that define man- c its parent ministry
agerial accountability. t M compared with the two
Accumulation denotes u A other agen- cies. NDI’s
cases where ministerial r )
fiscal autonomy is
leaders emphasize both a
A limited, but it enjoys
administrative and l A more extensive decision-
MA: High
managerial Accumulation
accountabil- Substitution :
making rights. The parent
ity Low
in their steering Persistence
of P Absence
i ministry does not have a
subordinate agencies or e g mandate to instruct or
enterprises. Absence r h overturn NDI decisions in
represents the opposite, s
individual cases, but the
meaning a governance p L
ministry can instruct NDI
arrangement that scores e o
w on how to interpret
low on both c
legislation and it can
administrative and t
instruct NDI decisions to
managerial i
v be tried by IAB.
accountability. Second, substitution:
Substitution represents We expect to see
low administrative
212 with ET
ASKIM relatively
AL. s
low administrative p
accountability vis-à-vis e
par- ent ministries c
subjected to a t
performance management i
practice that supports v
managerial e
accountability. We A task perspective
expect to find this assumes that
pattern in Health North requirements and con-
and IAB. Health North is straints inherent in the
generally subject to tasks of public
weaker administrative organizations influ- ence
accountability the decision-making,
mechanisms vis-à-vis its regulation, and control of
owner than the other these units (Bouckaert &
four agencies are to Peters, 2004; Lægreid,
their parent ministries. Roness, & Rubecksen,
The 2008; Pollitt, 2008;
2002 Act on Regional Pollitt, Talbot, Caulfield,
Health Authorities & Smullen, 2004;
defines deci- sion-making Rubecksen, 2010;
rights for the ministry as Verhoest, Roness,
owner, the health Verschuere, Rubecksen,
authority’s board, and its & MacCarthaigh, 2010).
management. IAB’s One para- meter for
administra- tive defining agency tasks is
accountability vis-à-vis how well-defined and
its parent ministry is narrow agencies’ tasks
more mixed. The are. We assume well-
agency’s fiscal autonomy defined agency tasks with
is limited but it enjoys few internal
even more extensive inconsistencies, as in the
decision-making rights case of service provision,
than does NDI, since the to be most suitable for
ministry can neither performance con- trol and
instruct IAB on how to managerial accountability.
interpret legislation nor Agency tasks other than
instruct agency decisions
to be tried by other





Combinations of Administrative and Managerial Accountability (AA and MA): Expectations from the Structural Perspective (Left Column) and Task
Perspective (Right)

AA: High Low AA: High Low

MA: High Accumulation: N.A. Substitution: IAB, Health MA: High Accumulation: NLWD Substitution: Health North
Low Persistence: NDI, IMDi, Absence: N.A. Low Persistence: NDI, IMDi Absence: IAB
service provision
ASKIM tend to be more ambiguous, often asso-
ciated with professional autonomy, and less suitable for Summary of Agencies’ Administrative Accountability vis-à-vis
performance control. Another parameter for defining Parent Ministries
agency tasks is whether tasks’ consequentiality or political Health
is high, as defined, for example, by whether or not they IMDi NLWD NDI IAB North
involve major financial resources (Pollitt, 2003; Pollitt et
2004) and whether or not they receive much media attention Fiscal autonomy Low Low Low Low High
(Epstein & Segal, 2000). Decision-making Limited Limited Medium Extensive Extensive
For agencies with relatively high administrative account- Overall High High Medium- Medium- Low
ability vis-à-vis parent ministries, we expect to find the administrative high low
accountability mix denoted by accumulation (high-high) in accountability
cases with fairly easily defined tasks and high political
salience and by persistence (high-low) in cases with
harder-to-define tasks and lower political salience. That accountability vis-à-vis parent ministries and NDI as
means that we expect to find accumulation in the case of
to-high. IAB and Health North are classified as agencies
NLWD, which has high administrative accountability, rela-
with, respectively, medium-to-low and low administrative
tively easily defined tasks (being a service provider), and
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account- ability vis-à-vis ministries (see Table 3).

very high political salience (Table 2). NLWD administers
The remainder of this section focuses on ministry–
one third of the total government budget and it is subjected
agency performance management practices. We focus on
to very strong media and parliamentary scrutiny.
numbers of objectives (“goal density”), how objectives are
Furthermore, we expect to find persistence in the case of
operationa- lized, where they are oriented in the value
the immigration agency NID and the integration agency
chain (“orienta- tion”), and to what extent annual reports
IMDi. Both have high administrative accountability, but
document agency performance toward objectives in the
neither has very high political salience, relatively speaking,
performance contracts (“goals-results transparency”). Table
and neither has easily defined tasks.
4 sums up the findings.
For agencies with relatively low administrative account-
ability vis-à-vis parent ministries, we expect to find substi-
tution (low-high) in cases with fairly easily defined tasks
and high political salience and absence (low-low) in cases The Northern Norway Regional Health Authority
with harder-to-define tasks and lower political salience. That (Health North)
means that we expect to find substitution in the case of Goal density
Health North. Its tasks may not be that ambiguous, but
like the rest of the health sector the agency administers Health North’s 2012 performance contract lists 167 per-
enormous public resources, which means its political sal- formance objectives, disaggregated into three levels.
ience is high. Furthermore, we expect absence in the case of Twenty top-level objectives are operationalized into 69
IAB, which compared to the other four agencies has fairly second-level
low task specificity and political salience. IAB’s decisions
Summary of Ministry–Agency Performance Management Practices

are occasionally subjected to public debate, but it adminis- IMDi NDI North IAB NLWD
ters very limited economic resources.
Goal density Medium Low High Medium Medium
Goal High High High Medium Medium
RESULTS Goal output High Medium High High High
To sum up factual information from the preceding section, we Goals-results High High Medium Low Low

classify IMDi and NLWD as agencies with high transparency

objectives, which in turn outputs are clearly most objectives. A comparison with the 2008
are operationalized into prevalent (and the performance contract
78 third- level objectives. majority of output-type suggests that the overall
Goal density is hence objectives refer to number of performance
very high in this case, qualitative rather than objectives has remained
and a glance back at quantitative aspects). stable but that the parent
Health North’s 2008 ministry has clarified
performance contract Goals-results NDI’s priorities over time
shows that the number of transparency —the agency had far
performance objectives fewer top-level objectives
Health North’s 2012
has increased by almost in 2012 than in 2008.
Annual Report reports on
500% in 4 years. Also, the
64 of the performance
agency’s priorities appear Goal
contract’s 78 third-level
to have become less clear, operationalization
performance objec- tives.
as the number of top-level
For about half of these, it All third-level
objectives has almost
is relatively easy for the performance objectives
reader to glean from the in NDI’s 2012
text whether or not the performance contract
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performance target was identify both a
attained by the agency. measurable variable (e.g.,
If we focus on the Moreover, Health North the number of
third-level performance is most transparent applications for residence
objectives in Health about goal attainment permits pro- cessed by the
North’s performance on the goals whose agency) and a precise
contract—presumably the targets were most performance target (in the
most precise ones—they ambiguous. Targets that same example, that the
all identify a measurable were unambiguously agency should process
variable (e.g., the defined in the 87,000 applications). We
ambulance service shall performance contract therefore conclude that
have expertise to treat (with clear targets in NDI’s goal port- folio is
and transport both addition to clearly well operationalized.
mental and somatic operationalized variables)
ailments). However, only are underrepresented Performance
about a third is precise among the most orientation
performance targets transparent results (e.g.,
About half of NDI’s
(e.g., the target “no patients
performance objectives
20% of patients who being placed in
refer to work processes,
suffered cardiac arrest corridors” is not reported
and the rest refer to
have received upon).
agency outputs and
thrombolysis treatment).
outcomes. The ministerial
For many other
The Norwegian steering’s orientation
objectives, the target is
Directorate of toward agency processes
that some quality “shall
Immigration was even stronger 10 to
increase,” which in our
(NDI) 15 years ago, when NDI
view falls short of being a
was integrated with IMDi
precise target. Overall, we Goal density
(Christensen, Lægreid,
none- theless conclude
Equaling the average & Ramslien, 2006). The
that Health North’s 2012
among Norwegian dominance of process
goal portfolio is relatively
agencies (cf., Askim, objectives sets NDI apart
well operationalized, and
2015), NDI’s 2012 from the general pattern,
more so than in 2008.
performance contract lists not only among our five
21 performance cases but also among
objectives. These are Norwegian agencies in
disaggregated into three general (Askim, 2015).
Surveying Health levels. Two top-level The focus on work
North’s performance objectives are processes is, however, no
objectives, 24% refer to operationalized into eight surprise in this case, as
agency inputs or work second-level objectives. NDI is essentially a case-
processes and 76% refer Seven of these are proces- sing agency. The
to outputs or outcomes. operatio- nalized further, focus has also paid off: in
Objectives referring to into 11 third-level 2010 NDI received a
quality management
award from the Agency
for Financial Management
for its efforts to improve
the quality of case

NDI’s 2012 Annual
Report documents agency
perfor- mance on all 11
third-level performance
objectives in the
performance contracts. In
all instances, bare one, the
report is clear on whether
or not goals have been
reached. The Annual
Report therefore
contributes to transparent
govern- ance and
accountability for results.

Goal density
IAB’s 2012
performance contract lists
11 performance
objectives, disaggregated
into three levels. Two
top-level objectives are
operationalized into six
second-level objec- tives.
Four of these remain non-
operationalized (e.g.,
regu- lated family
immigration that upholds
privacy rights); only two
are operationalized
further, into three third-
level objec- tives. A
comparison with the 2008
performance contract
suggests ministerial
MBOR of IAB was fairly
stable between 2008 and
2012. One noticeable
development was the
introduction of the third-
level objectives, called
steering parameters.
Goal a minority of the performance target. The reader to glean from the
operationalization objectives were objectives we judge as text whether or not the
operationalized in the precise typically define a performance target was
The three third-level
performance contract, percentage (e.g., 90% attained by the agency. It
performance objectives
and it is difficult to [the target] of refugees should also be noted that
in IAB’s
measure performance if shall be resettled in a the Annual Report
2012 performance
the objectives are municipality within 6 includes several instances
contract are all clearly
ambiguous. However, the months after a residence of IMDI critically
operationalized in the
Annual Report also fails permit has been issued discussing whether
sense that they all
to document goal [the parameter]). The reaching pre-set targets
identify a measurable
attainment for any of the other, less precise half actually consti- tutes good
variable and also define
three third-level includes many instances performance.
performance precisely.
performance objectives where the target is that a
The fact that only a
clearly specified in the parameter “shall increase”
minority of the agency’s The Norwegian
performance contract. (e.g., the share of
second-level objectives Labour and
government employees
are oper- ationalized Welfare
with an immigrant
nonetheless leads us to The Directorate of Directorate
background). All in all,
conclude that the goal Integration and (
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we nonetheless judge the

portfolio in IAB’s Diversity (IMDi) N
goal portfolio in IMDI’s L
performance contract is
Goal density performance contract to W
less than well
be well operationalized. D
operationalized. IMDi’s 2012
performance contract lists )
Performance 34 performance orientation Goal density
orientation objectives, disaggregated
into three levels. One IMDI’s performance NLWD’s 2012
IAB’s performance performance contract lists
top-level objective is objectives are
objectives refer, in equal 24 performance
operationalized into eight predominantly oriented
measure, to agency work objectives, disaggregated
second-level objec- tives. toward outputs, and the
processes, outputs, and into two levels. Among
All eight are then majority of these refer to
broader outcomes; none the eight top-level
operationalized into a quantifiable aspects of
refer to inputs. Objectives objectives, two remain
total of 25 third-level agency outputs.
referring to societal out- non-operationalized (e.g.,
objectives. A comparison Objectives referring to
comes did not figure in an economically and
with the 2008 perfor- IMDI’s inputs and work
the IAB’s 2008 socially sustainable
mance contract shows processes are virtually
performance con- tract. pensions system) and six
strong stability in the size nonexis- tent, suggesting
That suggests that the are operationalized further
and struc- ture of IMDI’s that the ministry leaves it
ministerial steering of into a total of 16 second-
goal portfolio, apart from to the agency to decide
IAB over time has level objectives. A
a reduction from three the means by which to
become more focused on comparison with the 2008
top-level objectives to achieve the ends. A
how agency-level results performance contract
one. compar- ison with the
affect broader societal suggests that ministerial
2008 performance
phenomena. performance management
Goal contract shows stability in
operationalization the value-chain of NLWD has become
Goal-results orientation of the less detailed in recent
transparency All third-level ministry–agency perfor- years, with a
In our reading, IAB’s objectives are clearly mance management 15% reduction in the
2012 Annual Report operationalized in the practice. number of performance
does not contribute much sense that they identify a objectives.
in terms of goal-results measurable variable (e.g., Goal-results
transparency. The report “The share [of transparency Goal
is a relatively integration program operationalization
participants] entering IMDI’s 2012 Annual
unstructured document Report strongly All of NLWD’s 16
that focuses more on into employment or
contributes to transparent second-level performance
documenting raw data education the year after
governance and objectives are
than on demonstrating participating in the
accountability for operationalized in the
and discussing whether program”). However, only
results. It reports on all sense that they identify a
the agency’s performance about half of them are
performance objectives measur- able variable
objectives have been clearly operationalized in
from the performance (e.g., the share of persons
realized. This is perhaps the sense that they
contract, and in most with work disabil- ities
unsurprising, since only define a precise
cases it is easy for the that have been followed
up on during the past 6
months). However, only
one is clearly
operationalized in the
sense that it defines a
precise performance
target. We
therefore judge NLWD’s Account NLWD High High substantial number of
goal portfolio to be fairly ability High Medium-low goals, NDI’s goals are
well operationalized, but less output- oriented than
In our analysis, we have Medium-low
less so than those of those in the other cases,
assumed that a ministry–
Health North and NDI. and Health North has a
agency performance
large number of goals, but
management practice that
Performance its Annual Report is
contributes strongly to
orientation somewhat lacking in
managerial accountability
transparency about
NLWD is similar to has the following
whether these have been
the case of IMDI in that characteris- tics: a set of
reached. It is difficult to
its perfor- mance performance objectives
judge which of the
objectives are that are prioritized (i.e.,
three best exemplifies
predominantly oriented not too many objectives),
toward out- puts, and the well operationalized and
majority of these refer to output oriented (so that
accountability (and for
quantifiable aspects of managers have the
our purposes, not
agency output. freedom to choose the
necessary); this would
means to achieve ends),
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depend on which practice

Goals-results and a high level of
elements one chooses to
transparency transparency on actual
emphasize. For example,
achievement of goals and
NLWD’s 2012 Annual if goal density were
targets. Based on the case
Report is full of statistics emphasized, NDI would
descriptions, we judge
and makes rather tough be judged to be the most
reading, being both accountable, while IMDi
performance man-
densely written and and NDI would be judged
agement practice to
awkwardly structured, and as equally accountable if
support managerial
a comparison between the goal-results transparency
accountability stron- gest
performance contract and were emphasized.
in the cases of IMDi,
the findings of the Annual IAB and NLWD
NDI, and Health North
Report is almost deviate more than the
(all denoted “high” in
impossible. It is difficult other three cases in our
Table 5) and less in the
to find out whether or not sample from the
cases of IAB and
the agency reached its ministry–agency
NLWD (“medium-low”).
performance targets. In performance prac- tices
Note that the
three instances, the assumed to support
performance management
agency subjectively managerial accountability
practice appears to remain
concludes that targets —i.e., both exemplify
relatively stable on the
were reached, but these less than well-
items selected for
targets are constructed operationalized goal
comparison over time.
in the Annual Report and portfo- lios and also have
All three cases judged
do not feature in the relatively low goal-results
to have the strongest
performance con- tract. transparency.
managerial accountability
The Annual Report’s
have aspects of
contribution to managerial
performance management
accountability is hence
practice that deviate DISCUSSION:
limited. Similar
from the “ideal.” IMDi
observations of loose
coupling between key
steering documents—the
state budget, the T
performance contract, and A
B Performance
the Annual Report— have L
been made in existing E
studies of the NLWD
case (Christensen & 5
Summary of Ministry– Practices
Lægreid, 2014).
Agency Managerial
We have shown, first, that
performance management
Summar Accountability IMDi NDI has become an important
y of governance practice
Manager Health North IAB
between Norwegian
ministries and central resulting in unmanage-
agencies, thereby affecting ably heavy systems
accountability relations (Pollitt, 2013).
between the levels. Third, most
Performance management performance objectives in
has been integrated into the agencies’ per-
the Norwegian system of formance contracts focus
executive governance over on agency outputs and to a
a period of 20 years, to smaller extent on agency
the point where today, it outcomes. There are also
is a comprehensive some process objectives
system with detailed but very few input
performance contracts, objectives. This pattern is
specified reporting obliga- in
tions, and elaborate
annual reports
supplemented by a spe-
cified steering dialogue
and meeting calendar
during the year. Like in
many other countries,
performance manage-
ment has become an
institutionalized practice
in Norwegian government
(Bouckaert & Halligan,
Second, several
ministries appear to be
struggling to
prioritize goals and
targets, resulting in
several instances of
apparent target overload
on agencies. The best
example among our case
agencies is probably the
health enterprise Health
North, which in 2012
had to attempt to meet
no fewer than 167
objectives (a massive
increase from the 35
objectives set 4 years
earlier). The Norwegian
government elected in
2013 launched a reform
program in 2014 in order
to reduce the level of
detail in the goals,
objectives, and targets
regime (Ministry of Local
Government and
Modernization, 2014).
The problem of goals and
objective overload is a
general concern of
performance management
and the more complex the
services are, the more
difficult the choices of
what to measure become,
line with the general Halligan, 2008). Accountability: Results called accumulation. They
observation that very few AA: are both semiautonomous
performance- oriented High agen- cies and both
Structural Low
management reforms in appear to have a
and Task
Europe address outcome performance management
Perspectives MA: High Accumulation:
(Pollitt & Dan, 2013). IMDi, NDI Substitution: system that secures
Performance management Health North managerial accountability,
practices therefore do The next question is Low Persistence: so we see a potential
appear to change the whether we can predict Absence: IAB reinforcement or
balance in governance accountability mixtures accumulation of the two
toward managerial based on agency control systems. Agency
accountability, but more characteristics. Our characteristics of the sorts
so in some agencies than typology of different we have studied here are
in others. And there is combinations of evidently not sufficient to
still some way to go administrative and account for all account-
before the societal managerial accountability ability mixtures. This
outcome becomes a seems to work for might be due to the fact
primary concern. empirical distinctions. As that these two agencies
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Fourth, there is also shown in Table 6. our have been subject to a lot
significant performance five cases together of organizational reshuf-
reporting going on exemplify each possible fling. Over the past 10
showing that many of the combination. years, they have been
objectives and targets are Both perspectives used shifted between different
not achieved. What the to deduce expectations, ministries. This “merry-
implication of this is for the struc- tural and the go-round” delega- tion
perfor- mance steering task perspective, are (Hood, 2010) might
and the consequences for supported by the findings. produce some
the agencies can- not be Agency tasks successfully ambiguities, less mutual
documented by these predicted accountability trust between ministries
studies. But we know mixtures in two cases out and agencies, and thus
from other studies that of five—Health North and stronger managerial as
performance steering IAB, while agency well as administrative
might be the Achilles structures also provided accountability.
heel of performance two successful A more detailed
management (Breivik, predictions analysis reveals some
2010; Christensen et al., —NLWD and Health differences between the
2006; Lægreid, Roness, North (for which the two two. NDI has somewhat
& Rubecksen, perspectives had identical stronger autonomy and
2007). Evidence of predictions). thus less administrative
whether enhanced It is worth noting that accountability than IMDi.
managerial account- we could not predict two In contrast to IMDi, the
ability is likely to improve of the cases, the ministry cannot instruct
performance is scarce and immigration agency NDI NDI in single cases. NDI
incon- clusive (Bouckaert and the integration also scores a bit lower on
& Halligan, 2008). agency IMDi. Contrary to managerial account-
Fifth, there seems to be our expectations, these ability than does IMDi.
a rather loose coupling two agen- cies score high Thus, the most deviant
between goal density, on both administrative case is IMDi. The fact
goal operationalization, and managerial that IMDi’s goals are
performance orienta- tion. accountability, thereby better operationalized than
and goal-results displaying the mixture expected, and better, say,
transparency (Lægreid et we have than those of IAB, may
al., 2008). The still be linked to the types
performance management of tasks it performs,
system is still a rather A suggesting that we need
dis- connected affair B to look more closely at
which has yet to evolve L our understanding of the
into a systematic and influence of agency tasks
coherent performance on executive governance.
management or Combinations of Some aspects of the
performance gov- ernance Administrative and broader integration field,
system (Bouckaert & Managerial those for which IMDi is
responsible, may be easier are to some extent
to define and measure supported by the findings.
than others, such as It seems, therefore, that if
number of refugees settled we want to understand
in local communities, how hybrid forms of
number and types of public accountability
activities refugees parti- emerge in the era of
cipate in, etc. perfor- mance
management, we have to
look at how the tasks
C agencies perform as well
O as at their structural
N affiliations to parent
C ministries. Variations in
L delegation from parent

Our first research question

was: how are
administrative and
managerial accountability
combined or balanced?
We pro- posed and tested
a typology of different
combinations between
administrative and
managerial accountability
and conclude that the
typology seems to work
for empirical distinctions.
Our five cases together
exemplify each possible
substitution, persistence,
and absence. This brings
us closer to understanding
what “hybri- dization” of
public accountability
might mean. An important
contribution of this article
is to give more insight
into the differences
between administrative
and managerial account-
ability and the interplay
between them.
Our second question
was: To what extent does
the mix- ture of
administrative and
managerial accountability
depend on agency
characteristics? Both
perspectives used to
deduce expectations—the
structural perspective and
the task per- spective—
ministry matter as well as in all agencies and ability does not happen One therefore has to be
task complexity and especially in the NDI and here, then where? cautious in generalizing
observability of outputs Health North cases. The There are some to other countries, policy
and outcomes (Wilson, performance management limitations on the data areas, tasks, and
1989). practice is there- fore not and method used in this administrative levels.
The fact that our a straightforward article which might Second, we have a bias
predictions are not enhancement of have some impact on toward formal mandatory
supported in two cases managerial accountability the conclusions that can arrange- ments that
indicates that it might be but more a mixed system be drawn from this exclude more informal
necessary to delve even combining admin- study. First, the case and voluntary relation-
deeper into the istrative accountability selection might not be ships between ministries
interconnections between with managerial representative. Our cases and agencies. Thus,
tasks and struc- tures to accountability. are central governmental potentially important
understand the This reasoning bodies in the core variations in
emergence of supplements and Norwegian welfare state, administrative culture,
administrative and elaborates our conclu- and all five score high on traditions, and trust are
managerial sion that our typology political salience. not part of the study. We
accountabilities. It is works. To some extent, know that links between
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also possible that we administra- tive and performance

made a wrong assumption managerial accountability management and
about the relationship are combined by adjusting accountability may vary
between accountability performance from one cultural
and performance management, the practice context to another
management. We started intended to secure the (Pollitt,
out by stating that “new” accountability, so 2013). Third, we have a
administrative that it secures the “old” bias toward procedures,
accountability, which is as well. Cases that may paying less attention to
related to input and look like substitution can dynamic processes and
process legitimation, can in reality be cases of the interactive dialogue
(only) be secured accumulation. Probably between ministries and
through “traditional” such “surface” or “fake agencies (Moynihan,
hierarchical controls, and substitution” is most 2008). We have
that perfor- mance common in politically compared 2012 and
management can (only) salient areas like NLWD 2008 experiences on
secure managerial —areas in which political selected items, but we
account- ability, which is principals can- not or will have not done a detailed
related to output not risk being caught ana- lysis of how the
legitimation. The analysis “with their hands off the performance
has shown that this is in wheel.” management system has
some respects a It is nonetheless evolved over time.
problematic assumption. surprising that “real” However, performance
The five cases in fact substitution of managerial management practices
display a mixture of for administrative appear to have
administrative and accountability is not remained relatively
managerial accountability more prevalent in the stable on the items
relations in the Norwegian cases. selected for comparison
performance management “Letting managers man- over time. This sug-
system. Performance age,” which is the gests that our results
manage- ment can secure essence of such reflect stable
administrative substitution, requires trust management features and
accountability too. The between ministry and that they can be
cases show performance agency leaders. Compared interpreted to reflect
management practices to other countries, stable agency and
clearly directed toward Norway scores high on ministry–agency
securing input and mutual trust rela- tions characteristics. Fourth,
process legitimation as between political and we have not examined
well as output administrative executives how politicians and
legitimation. Although the and between ministries citizens use the perfor-
output orientation is high and central agencies mance information (Van
in four of the five (Christensen, Lægreid, & De Walle & Cornelissen,
agencies studied, process- Stigen, 2006). If real 2014). Finally, we have
related goals are present substitution of account- not to any great extent
focused on the financed by the project
consequences and “Governance and
sanctions and learning Learning,” funded by the
aspect of the Research Council of
performance Norway (project no.
management system. 220567).
Further analyses of the
relationship between
performance R
management sys- tems E
on the one hand and F
managerial and E
administrative R
accountability relations E
on the other should N
take more account of C
such considerations. E

A Anderson, B., Curristine, T., &

Merk, O. (2006). Budgeting in
Norway. OECD Journal on
K Budgeting, 6(1), 8–43.
N doi:10.1787/budget-v6-art2-en
O Askim, J. (2015). The role of
W performance management in the
L steering of executive agencies:
Layered, imbedded, or
E disjointed? Public

The authors wish to thank

IJPA’s two anonymous
reviewers for their helpful
comments. Thanks also
for comments on earlier
drafts from participants in
workshops at ECPR Joint
Session of Workshops in
Salamanca, Spain 10–15
2014 and EGPA
Annual Conference 10–
12 September
2014. Thanks also to
Mari Heglum for
research assistance.


Data collection was

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