In the absence of detailed steering. A governmental attempt to address the issues of recentralization and detailed performance control

Fredrik Svärdsten


One of the main unintended consequences of NPM-reforms is increased detailed -steering and recentralization due to attempts to decentralize the public sector, which, in turn, leads to restrictive hierarchical accountability relationships. This paper reports an attempt by the Swedish government to solve these problems by decentralizing the Swedish central agencies’ performance reporting and thereby broadening the possibilities of accountability in the Swedish central government. Whereas several studies have presented cases in which the “superior” (e.g., the government) is the main driver behind detailed performance control and recentralization, the findings in this paper show that centralized detailed control can be highly desirable for those accountable for their performance. In line with findings made in previous studies, the decentralization in the Swedish central government is now followed by a recentralization. However, this recentralization is mainly driven by the central agencies and not by the government. The paper suggests that to understand the dynamics between decentralization and recentralization in the area of public performance reporting, it is necessary to consider institutionalized reporting structures as well as the difficulties associated with defining performance. This allows for further insights into the possibilities of broadened accountability in the public sector.

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413