Are Government Agencies a Good Way of Combining Entrepreneurial Dynamism and Public Policy? The Case of National Public Establishments in France
45 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2003
Date Written: November 15, 2002
1. By adopting the organic law relating to public accounts (Loi Organique sur les Lois de Finances - LOLF), in 2001 France modified its budgetary framework and introduced a results-oriented form of public policy management. This is a major new departure, which will not succeed without a profound change in the culture and practice of government departments. The long experience of government agencies - national public establishments constituted under French public law - shows that it is possible to combine the entrepreneurial dynamism of independent agencies with the power of government action. 2. The author piloted a survey conducted in 2001, the recommendations of which have been adopted since 2002 in "the implementation of public policy by national public establishments". As well as painting an encouraging picture, this survey sketched out areas of potential progress and lines of action, making a comparative analysis with the latest developments in public policy management and best practice in OECD member countries. 3. In all OECD Member countries, the 1990s saw the introduction of reforms - not yet completed - to move from a resources-oriented form of public management to one based on results. In France, the law of 1 August 2001 providing a framework for financial legislation (LOLF) lays down a five-year agenda for ministries to shift to a results-oriented form of management. From a legal standpoint, this marks a substantial change: Budgeting will no longer be based on category of expenditure but on "programmes" combining "a coherent set of actions dependent on a single ministry, which are linked to precise objectives defined on the basis of general interest outcomes and expected results, which will be subject to evaluation". These ministerial programmes are grouped together in "tasks" linking the programmes which form part of a particular public policy. Within a particular programme, the credits allocated are now fungible, i.e. the managers responsible can redeploy them among the different categories of expenditure. In return, they must commit themselves to targets, be accountable for results and submit an "annual progress report". 4. This will have considerable impact on the work of Parliament. Instead of voting on some 848 chapters, as at present, MPs will be required to approve between 100 and 150 programmes grouped together in roughly 80 tasks. Parliament should therefore no longer be in the position of having, for example, only three hours a year to devote to education policy, approving chapter after chapter of budgetary provisions, the overall coherence of which is by no means clear.
Keywords: Public policies monitoring, governmental agencies, strategic steering, public policies evaluation, performance monitoring
JEL Classification: H1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation