Click here for search results

Conceptual Framework

World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No.2427

Public Officials and Their Institutional Environment: An Analytical Model for Assessing the Impact of Institutional Change on Public Sector Performance

A framework for understanding both bad public sector performance and good through surveys of public officials-and for presenting the results to policymakers in a format that leads to more informed choices about public sector reform.

To perform well, public officials must be confident enough about the future to be able to see a relationship between their efforts and an eventual outcome. Their expectations are shaped by their institutional environment. If the rules are not credible or are unlikely to be enforced, or if they expect policies to be contradicted or resources to flow unpredictably, results will be uncertain, so there is little point in working purposefully.

Manning, Mukherjee, and Gokcekus present an analytical framework used to design a series of surveys of public officials' views of their institutional environment and to analyze the information generated in 15 countries. They describe how survey results help map a public sector's strengths and weaknesses and offer an approach to identifying potential payoffs from reforms.

The framework emphasizes how heterogeneous incentives and institutional arrangements are within the public sector. It emphasizes how important it is for policymakers to base decisions on information (not generalizations) that suggests what is most likely to work, and where.

In building on the premise that public officials' actions-and hence their organizations' performance-depend on the institutional environment in which they find themselves, this framework avoids simplistic antigovernment positions but doesn't defend poor performance. Some public officials perform poorly and engage in rent seeking, but some selfless and determined public officials work hard under extremely difficult conditions. This framework offers an approach for understanding both bad performance and good and for presenting the results to policymakers in a format that leads to more informed choices about public sector reform.

Types of reforms discussed include strengthening the credibility of rules for evaluation, for record management, for training, and for recruitment; ensuring that staff support government policy; preventing political interference or micromanagement; assuring staff that they will be treated fairly; and making government policies consistent.

This paper-a product of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network-is part of a larger effort in the network to develop practical strategies for the reform of public sector institutions. The surveys were funded by the World Bank-Netherlands Partnership Program. The full report is available in PDF format (download 177 kb PDF)

The authors of this Policy Research Working Paper are Nick Manning, Ranjana Mukherjee, and Omer Gokcekus.