Organisation and management of regulation (2007-2011)
- More information about this project within the Policy Research Centre - Governmental organization in Flanders: Organisation and management of regulation (2007 - 2011).
- Date of defence: June 25th 2012
- Publications of Jan Rommel
Regulation is an important task for governments and is frequently used to steer both economic and social activities. In recent years, the literature has described the rise of the ‘regulatory state’, which uses a particular set of instruments (e.g. licensing, inspections) to regulate private actors. The tasks are often allocated to newly created organisations that are placed at arm’s length of the minister (e.g. sectoral regulators in liberalized sectors such as energy, telecommunications, post). Such proliferation of the number of regulators has been said to lead to fragmentation, so that a single organisation no longer has full authority over a particular sector. Instead, sectors are regulated by entire ‘institutional constellations’: networks of regulators in different sectors, on different governmental levels and with different regulatory mandates. Each of these bodies has at best a partial authority over a sector.
This doctoral research aims two answer two research questions.
- First, how do these institutional constellations look like? To answer this question, a mapping of regulatory bodies is performed to shed a light on the core characteristics of regulators (e.g. amount of autonomy, extent of fragmentation, tasks,…).
- The second research question is: what is the effect of such constellations on individual regulators? By performing comparative case studies the research explores whether the proliferation and fragmentation may hollow out the factual autonomy of regulators.
The dissertation focuses on the effects on a micro-level, where it has been said to affect the discretion of specific regulators. Following NPM-reforms, administrations have become myriads of highly-specialized organizations with overlapping mandates, instead of large bureaucracies. Actors increasingly become interdependent and are forced to co-ordinate with each other. Outcomes are no longer determined by single actors, but rather by complex multi-actor multi-level constellations.
In order to study such micro-level effects, the dissertation developed a ‘relational perspective’ on the autonomy of regulators. The central idea behind this perspective is that the factual autonomy of organizations is influenced by its relations with other actors. Specifically, we looked at relations with the parent minister (i.e. autonomy and control) on the one hand, and at relations with the actor constellation (i.e. coordination) on the other hand.
The relevance of the relational perspective is that it provides an expanded and more dynamic view of autonomy, compared to previous literature: when fragmentation is taken into account, organizations can have a different extent of factual day-to-day discretion than what would be concluded if we only looked at autonomy from the minister. The causal mechanism of our case studies points to a positive effect of the legal status (i.e. relations with the minister) and a negative effect of fragmentation (i.e. relations with constellation) on the discretion.
The theoretical underpinning of the perspective is formed by the concept of trust. The dissertation sheds a light on the antecedents of trust, as we distinguished between three dimensions (competence, routine, identity). Organizations can score high on one dimension and low on another. In addition, the dissertation explored how trust impacts the relations between actors.
The dissertation applies this perspective on two case studies. We find that trust facilitates coordination between actors, especially for the coordination on strategic and policy affairs. It does not appear to be a necessary condition for sharing information concerning daily activities. Also, trust provides a venue for agencies to increase their factual autonomy vis-à-vis the parent minister.