Comparing overseas civil service systems yields interesting results
Germany’s civil service has found it a challenge to move to a results-oriented approach, New Zealand puts the emphasis on personal, departmental accountability, and the US is flexible, but with a potential lack of continuity.
Those are just some of the findings in a recent comparison of four civil service systems around the world.
Over the past couple of years, the UK civil service has come in for stinging criticism from many ministers, including the prime minister David Cameron, who in March 2011 said civil servants were the “enemies of enterprise”, to Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, complaining in October 2012 about civil servants blocking ministerial plans.
In December 2012, as part of its hunt for new models of public administration, the UK government commissioned thinktank IPPR to analyse the working and accountability of civil service systems overseas. That report is due out soon; in the meantime, there are some fascinating insights to be had from comparing, for instance, New Zealand’s system, which has the merit of tight budgetary control, but which is weaker in implementing cross-sector policy-making, with that of the US, with its system of political appointees.