Loosely Coupled Results Control in Dutch Municipalities
Van Hengel, H.G., G.T. Budding, and T.L.C.M. Groot (2014); Financial Accountability & Management, Vol. 30 (1), February, pp. 49-74.
33 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2012 Last revised: 16 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 16, 2014
This paper analyses the implementation of the ‘dual system’ in Dutch municipalities. This instrument was part of a package of New Public Management-reforms, which implementation was stimulated by Dutch central government from the 1980s onwards. The ‘dual system’ called for more accountability for performance of municipal managers and the board of mayor and aldermen, as well as for the use of more output and outcome information for monitoring and evaluation purposes.
Interviews of participants on four different hierarchical levels in 12 Dutch municipalities show that the intention to use result information for control (which we call “result orientation”), the actual development of output indicators and the reported use of output information for performance evaluation is more developed in large municipalities than in smaller municipalities.
In most municipalities, the practices of output management are different across hierarchical levels. This leads to some degree of “vertical loose coupling”, which means that performance management practices at different hierarchical levels are only loosely connected to each other. We also found some degree of “horizontal loose coupling” at each hierarchical level between result orientation, the development of output indicators and the use of output information for performance evaluation. In our sample, vertical coupling appears to be looser in our sample than horizontal coupling, indicating that most municipalities implement performance management systems in isolated organizational units and policy areas. The paper also analyses the reasons why municipalities encounter difficulties in designing a comprehensive and coherent performance management system.
Keywords: loose coupling, performance indicators, municipalities, New Public Management
JEL Classification: M4
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