THE (LACK OF) DEMAND FOR PERFORMANCE INFORMATION BY THE CROATIAN PARLIAMENT.
|Toman, Romea Manojlovic
Performance management can be seen as consisting of three broad components: the pure measurement of various performance dimensions, the incorporation of information into the management and policy cycle, and the proper use of that information (Van Dooren, Bouckaert and Halligan, 2015). Although measurement alone does not ensure the use of performance information (PI), it is necessary for the information to be supplied to potential users (de Lancer Julnes and Holzer, 2001).
There are different potential users, who can generally be classified into three groups: public managers, politicians and citizens (Van de Walle and Van Dooren, 2011, p. 3). The literature offers a number of examples of research on the use of PI by public managers (see, for example, Moynihan and Panday, 2010; de Lancer Julnes and Holzer, 2001; Hammerschmid, Van de Walle and Stimac, 2013). Although some research has been conducted on the use of PI by MPs (Askim, 2009; Askim, 2011; ter Bogt, 2004; Raudla, 2012) this subject receives less attention than managers' use of PI (Pollitt apud Askim, 2011; Talbot apud Askim, 2011, p. 130; Raudla, 2012, p. 1000). A similar case applies to the research on the use of PI by citizens (Van de Walle and Roberts, 2011; Mason, Hillenbrand and Money, 2014).
Performance management has received considerable attention from researchers and practitioners, but research in Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian countries prevails (Boyne apud Hammerschmid, Van de Walle and Stimac, 2013, p. 3). The amount of research dealing with East and Central European countries is considerably smaller (for a review of research, see Dan and Pollitt, 2015, pp. 1321-1324).
This paper examines the demand for PI by MPs and its supply by the public administration. Given the above, it should contribute to knowledge about MPs as potential users of PI. Methodologically, the paper is based on data content analysis of all MPs' parliamentary questions and the answers of executives in the first six months of 2015. This methodology has already been successfully used in another research (see Van Dooren, 2004). After this introductory chapter, the research hypotheses, methodology, and research results are presented and discussed.
In the context of this research, the supply of PI is the task of public organizations which are responsible for setting up performance measurement systems and for providing MPs with adequate information which can, possibly, be used for different purposes. On the other hand, MPs can demand PI and possibly take action based on the information received. Ideally, there should be a perfect match between the demand and supply of PI--whenever MPs require the information, it should be provided. However, the mismatch between demand and supply of PI can happen in both directions. It is possible for the supply of information to be higher than the demand if the public administration measures the performance and provides information in various forms, even though the information was not requested by the MPs. If the demand is higher than the supply, the MPs require information on various performance dimensions, but do not receive it and thus do not use it (Van Dooren, 2004, pp. 513-515).
When it comes to performance measurement in Croatia, the recent 'Strategy for the Development of Public Administration 2015-2020' (Official Gazette 70/15) states that one of the basic problems of Croatian public administration is the lack of supervision over its functions. There is no coherent system of performance measurement, and therefore it is difficult to track whether the central state administration or local units have achieved the planned results.
Nevertheless, there are some policy documents and regulations which have introduced the obligation of performance monitoring. According to the Budget Act (Official Gazette 87/08, 136/12, 15/15), all central state bodies are obliged to prepare three-year plans that should contain output and outcome indicators. The Ministry of Finance (MF) publishes guidance on the structure of these documents, and semi-annual and annual reports on the execution of strategic plans have to be presented to the MF and the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds (MRDF).
The basic notion of the performance management doctrine requires the delegation of managerial responsibility to professional managers inside public organizations who are held responsible for the results they produce (Moynihan, 2008). Croatian public administration is characterized by a high level of political appointments (Kopric et al., 2014, pp. 381-382), which impedes the creation of a category of real public managers and the development of a proper performance management system. Consequently, although the Public Internal Financial Control Act (Official Gazette 78/15) requires organizations to introduce a financial management and control system and to strengthen managerial authority, according to MF reports (Ministry of Finance, 2012, pp. 8-11) there are many shortfalls: the system of managerial responsibility is still not functional, financial control is mainly input oriented, and the set goals are undefined and difficult to measure.
At the very end of 2017, the new 'Act on the System of Strategic Planning and Development Management' (Official Gazette 123/17) was enacted, requiring all public organizations to engage in a comprehensive strategic planning process which includes the use of performance measurement. However, most parts of the new law will become operational in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, the State Audit Office, apart from its regular financial revisions, is starting to conduct performance reviews of various issues, and these reports are submitted to Parliament.
Generally, the Croatian public administration is advancing in the performance measurement system, and is able to produce some PI. When it comes to the supply of PI to Parliament, according to the Standing Orders of the Croatian Parliament (Official Gazette 81/13), the Government has an obligation to submit annually an oral report on its work (art. 128). Additionally, Parliament or its working bodies are entitled to request additional information from all state bodies (art. 127), and individual MPs can pose questions to ministers.
However, the question is if there is interest by MPs to demand PI. Research examining types of accountability in Croatia (Lalic Novak, Manojlovic and Dzinic, 2015) has shown that accountability in the Croatian public sector is input oriented, and traditional models of accountability still prevail, with accountability for performance lagging far behind. This finding seems to indicate the potential low interest of MPs in demanding and using PI for accountability, but probably also for other purposes.
This conclusion can be supported by the results of other researchers. Although the topics examined vary and the countries in question differ considerably from Croatia, the results can give an indication of what to expect in Croatian circumstances. Research encompassing six western European countries (Finnish Ministry of Finance, 2013, p. 9) has shown that 'demand for high-quality evidence [including PI] is often a larger problem than its supply', and that the role of legislators in creating evidence-based policymaking has been rather neglected. Van Dooren, Bouckaert and Halligan (2015, p. 121) offered a review of research proving that parliaments, although supplied, have difficulties in using PI. Based on a comparative study of performance budgeting in seven OECD countries, Sterck and Scheers (2006, p. 60) listed four major conditions for the success of performance budgeting reforms, where the necessity to create legislative interest in performance (and consequently PI) is listed as the second one, providing evidence that there are problems with the demand side of PI. Only in Belgium has it turned out that demand for PI is slightly higher than its supply (Van Dooren, 2004). Thus, the following hypothesis is formulated:
(H1) Demand for performance information by MPs is lower than the supply of performance information by the administration.
The second question relates to the characteristics that differentiate MPs that demand PI from those that do not ask for such information. There are different ways to select the MPs' characteristics that can be examined. For example, when researching managers' use of PI, Moynihan and Pandey (2010) used the categories of individual beliefs, job attributes, organizational factors and external factors. Askim (2011) explains differences in PI usage by politicians, taking into account their political background, role characteristics, political ideology, polity characteristics, and policy sectors.
This paper follows Askim's division where two personal background characteristics of MPs (educational level and political experience) and one role characteristic (affiliation to a ruling or opposition role in parliament) are empirically examined.
Askim (2009) has shown that some factors are relevant for PI demand by Norwegian local councilors: frontbenchers and politically inexperienced councilors tend to seek PI, while the best-educated councilors search less for PI. Affiliation to ruling or opposition parties does not appear to be relevant...
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