Skip to main content
×
×
Home

When Reporting Undermines Performance: The Costs of Politically Constrained Organizational Autonomy in Foreign Aid Implementation

  • Dan Honig
Abstract

Bureaucracies with field operations that cannot be easily supervised and monitored by managers are caught between two sources of dysfunction that may harm performance. The first source of dysfunction is straightforward: field workers can use operating slack and asymmetric information to their own advantage, thwarting an organization's objectives. The second source of dysfunction is often overlooked: attempts to limit workers’ autonomy may have deleterious effects, curbing agents’ ability to respond efficaciously to the environment. I find that the parliaments and executive boards to whom International Development Organizations (IDOs) are accountable differentially constrain IDO organizational autonomy, which in turn affects management's control of field agents. Tight management control of field agents has negative effects, particularly in more unpredictable environments. Attempts by politicians to constrain organizations in an effort to improve performance can sometimes be self-undermining, having net effects opposite those intended.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      When Reporting Undermines Performance: The Costs of Politically Constrained Organizational Autonomy in Foreign Aid Implementation
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      When Reporting Undermines Performance: The Costs of Politically Constrained Organizational Autonomy in Foreign Aid Implementation
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      When Reporting Undermines Performance: The Costs of Politically Constrained Organizational Autonomy in Foreign Aid Implementation
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Footnotes
Hide All

I thank the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for its support under grant #DGE-1144152. Matt Andrews, Sam Asher, Nancy Birdsall, Mark Buntaine, Andreas Fuchs, Peter Hall, Conor Hartman, Bob Keohane, Chris Kilby, Steve Knack, Aart Kraay, Jane Mansbridge, Sheila Page, Woody Powell, Lant Pritchett, Simon Quinn, Steve Radelet, Tristan Reed, Alasdair Roberts, Bill Savedoff, Evan Schofer, Ryan Sheely, Beth Simmons, Vivek Srivastava, Martin Steinwand, Mike Tierney, Dustin Tingley, Eric Werker, Michael Woolcock, anonymous reviewers at IO, and many others have all provided helpful comments on earlier versions of these ideas and/or this work. Many thanks to Yi Yan, Smriti Sakhamuri, Grace Chao, Kyle Kessler, and the World Bank Archives staff (particularly Sherrine Thompson) for their research assistance. I thank the European Commission, the UK's Department for International Development, the Asian Development Bank, the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and the German Development Bank for providing data. Because World Bank data used in this analysis are publicly available the World Bank deserves perhaps the greatest thanks. Data for the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the German Society for International Cooperation (GiZ), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development were assembled from individual project-completion reports by Odesk-contracted research assistants under my supervision, with the compiled data then sent back to the originating agency for comment and/or correction. GiZ was kind enough to respond with corrections, which were incorporated; these data were generated by me rather than by JICA and JICA is not responsible for them. The case studies would not have been possible without the hundreds of hours spent by a diverse group of interviewees listed in the online appendix who talked to me and answered odd questions, for which I am very grateful.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Aghion, Philippe, Bloom, Nicholas, Lucking, Brian, Sadun, Raffaella, and Reenen, John Van. 2017. Turbulence, Firm Decentralization and Growth in Bad Times. NBER Working Paper 23354.
Aghion, Philippe, and Tirole, Jean. 1997. Formal and Real Authority in Organizations. Journal of Political Economy 105 (1):129.
Axelrod, Robert. 1984. The Evolution of Cooperation. New York: Basic Books.
Barnett, Michael N., and Finnemore, Martha. 2003. The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations. International Organization 53 (4):699732.
Bozeman, Barry, and Kingsley, Gordon. 1998. Risk Culture in Public and Private Organizations. Public Administration Review 58 (2):109–18.
Brehm, John O., and Gates, Scott. 1999. Working, Shirking, and Sabotage: Bureaucratic Response to a Democratic Public. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Buntaine, Mark T. 2016. Giving Aid Effectively: The Politics of Environmental Performance and Selectivity at Multilateral Development Banks. New York: Oxford University Press.
Buntaine, Mark T., Parks, Bradley C., and Buch, Benjamin P.. 2017. Aiming at the Wrong Targets: The Domestic Consequences of International Efforts to Build Institutions. International Studies Quarterly 61 (2):471–88.
Bush, Sarah Sunn. 2015. The Taming of Democracy Assistance: Why Democracy Promotion Does Not Confront Dictators. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Calvert, Randall, McCubbins, Mathew, and Weingast, Barry. 1989. A Theory of Political Control and Agency Discretion. American Journal of Political Science 33 (3):588611.
Cameron, A. Colin, Gelbach, Jonah, and Miller, Douglas L.. 2006. Robust Inference With Multi-Way Clustering. NBER Technical Working Paper 327. Cambridge, MA.
Carpenter, Daniel P. 2001. The Forging of Bureaucratic Autonomy: Reputations, Networks, and Policy Innovation in Executive Agencies, 1862–1928. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Carpenter, Daniel P. 2010. Reputation and Power: Organizational Image and Pharmaceutical Regulation at the FDA. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Center for Systemic Peace. 2014. State Fragility Index. Conflict, Governance, and State Fragility. Available at <www.systemicpeace.org/vlibrary/GlobalReport2014.pdf>.
Chandler, Alfred D. 1977. The Visible Hand: the Managerial Revolution in American Business. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
Clist, Paul. 2016. Payment by Results in Development Aid: All That Glitters Is Not Gold. The World Bank Research Observer 31 (2): 290319.
De Weijer, Frauke. 2012. Rethinking Approaches to Managing Change in Fragile States. Center for International Develoment, Research Fellow and Graduate Student Working Paper No. 58. Harvard University.
DFID. 2010. Working Effectively in Conflict-affected and Fragile Situations (Briefing Paper H: Risk Management). DFID Briefing Paper March 2010. Available at <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67697/building-peaceful-states-H.pdf>.
Dunleavy, Patrick, and Hood, Christopher. 1994. From Old Public Administration to New Public Management. Public Money and Management 14 (3):916.
Gailmard, Sean, and Patty, John W.. 2007. Slackers and Zealots: Civil Service, Policy Discretion, and Bureaucratic Expertise. American Journal of Political Science 51 (4):873–89.
Gailmard, Sean, and Patty, John W.. 2012. Learning While Governing: Expertise and Accountability in the Executive Branch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Garicano, Luis, and Rayo, Luis. 2016. Why Organizations Fail: Models and Cases. Journal of Economic Literature 54 (1):137–92.
Gelb, Alan, and Hashmi, Nabil. 2014. The Anatomy of Program-for-Results: An Approach to Results-Based Aid. Working Paper.
Ghani, Ashraf, Lockhart, Clare, and Carnahan, Michael. 2005. Closing the Sovereignty Gap: An Approach to State-Building. Overseas Development Institute. Available at <https://www.odi.org/resources/docs/2482.pdf>.
Gilardi, Fabrizio. 2002. Policy Credibility and Delegation to Independent Regulatory Agencies: A Comparative Empirical Analysis. Journal of European Public Policy 9 (6):873–93.
Government of the United Kingdom. 2002. International Development Act 2002.
Government of the United Kingdom. 2006. International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006.
Government of the United Kingdom. 2014. International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014.
Government of the United Kingdom. 2015. International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015.
Grossman, Sanford J., and Hart, Oliver D.. 1986. The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration. Journal of Political Economy 94 (4):691719.
Gulrajani, Nilima. 2011. Transcending the Great Foreign Aid Debate: Managerialism, Radicalism and the Search for Aid Effectiveness. Third World Quarterly 32 (2):199216.
Gulrajani, Nilima. 2017. Bilateral Donors and the Age of the National Interest: What Prospects for Challenge by Development Agencies? World Development 96:375–89.
Hart, Oliver, and Moore, John. 1988. Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation. Econometrica: Journal of the Econometric Society 56 (4):755–85.
Hart, Oliver, and Moore, John. 1990. Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm. Journal of Political Economy 98 (6):1119–58.
Hawkins, Darren G., and Jacoby, Wade. 2006. How Agents Matter. In Delegation and Agency in International Organizations, edited by Hawkins, Darren G., Lake, David A., Nielson, Daniel L., and Tierney, Michael J., 199228. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hawkins, Darren G., Lake, David A., Nielson, Daniel L., and Tierney, Michael J.. 2006. Delegation Under Anarchy: States, International Organizations, and Principal-Agent Theory. In Delegation and Agency in International Organizations, edited by Hawkins, Darren G., Lake, David A., Nielson, Daniel L., and Tierney, Michael J., 338. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hölmstrom, Bengt. 1979. Moral Hazard and Observability. Bell Journal of Economics 10 (1):7491.
Hölmstrom, Bengt, and Milgrom, Paul. 1991. Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 7 (Special Issue):2452.
Honig, Dan. 2018. Navigation by Judgment: Why and When Top-Down Control of Foreign Aid Doesn't Work. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hood, Christopher. 2004. The Middle Aging of New Public Management: Into the Age of Paradox? Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 14 (3):267–82.
Huber, John D., and McCarty, Nolan. 2004. Bureaucratic Capacity, Delegation, and Political Reform. American Political Science Review 98 (3):481–94.
Huber, John D., and Shipan, Charles R.. 2002. Deliberate Discretion: The Institutional Foundations of Bureaucratic Autonomy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Huber, John D., and Shipan, Charles R.. 2006. Politics, Delegation, and Bureaucracy. In The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy, edited by Weingast, Barry R. and Wittman, Donald A., 256–72. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hupe, Peter, and Hill, Michael. 2007. Street-Level Bureaucracy and Public Accountability. Public Administration 85 (2):279–99.
Johns, Leslie. 2007. A Servant of Two Masters: Communication and the Selection of International Bureaucrats. International Organization 61 (2):245–75.
Johnson, Tana, and Urpelainen, Johannes. 2014. International Bureaucrats and the Formation of Intergovernmental Organizations: Institutional Design Discretion Sweetens the Pot. International Organization 68 (1):177209.
Kauppi, Katri, and Van Raaij, Erik M.. 2015. Opportunism and Honest Incompetence—Seeking Explanations for Noncompliance in Public Procurement. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 25 (3):953–79.
Keiser, Lael R. 1999. State Bureaucratic Discretion and the Administration of Social Welfare Programs: The Case of Social Security Disability. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 9 (1):87106.
Kerr, Steven. 1975. On the Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B. Academy of Management Journal 18 (4):769–83.
Lipsky, Michael. 1980. Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. N.p.: Russell Sage Foundation.
Lynn, Laurence E. Jr. 1998. The New Public Management: How to Transform a Theme into a Legacy. Public Administration Review 58 (3):231–37.
Martin, Lisa. 2006. Distribution, Information, and Delegation to International Organizations: The Case of IMF Conditionality. In Delegation and Agency in International Organizations, edited by Hawkins, Darren G., Lake, David A., Nielson, Daniel L., and Tierney, Michael J., 140–64. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Meyer, John W., and Rowan, Brian. 1977. Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony. American Journal of Sociology 83 (2):340–63.
Modell, S. 2004. Performance Measurement Myths in the Public Sector: A Research Note. Financial Accountability and Management 20 (1):3956.
Natsios, A. 2010. The Clash of the Counter-bureaucracy and Development. Center for Global Development, 1 July. Washington, DC. Available at <https://www.cgdev.org/publication/clash-counter-bureaucracy-and-development>.
Nielson, Daniel L., and Tierney, Michael J.. 2003. Delegation to International Organizations: Agency Theory and World Bank Environmental Reform. International Organization 57 (2):241–76.
Oliver, Christine. 1991. Strategic Responses to Institutional Processes. Academy of Management Review 16 (1):145–79.
Organisation for Economic and Cultural Develepment (OECD). 1991. The DAC Principles for the Evaluation of Development Assistance. Available at <https://www.oecd.org/development/evaluation/2755284.pdf>.
Organisation for Economic and Cultural Develepment (OECD). 2000. DAC Criteria for Evaluating Development Assistance Factsheet: 2. Available at <https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/world-bank-projects-operations>.
Organisation for Economic and Cultural Develepment (OECD). 2005. The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Paris. Available at <http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/11/41/34428351.pdf>.
Organisation for Economic and Cultural Develepment (OECD). 2012. Aid Effectiveness 2011: Progress in Implementing the Paris Declaration. Paris: OECD.
Organisation for Economic and Cultural Develepment (OECD). 2016. OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: United States 2016. Paris: OECD.
Pepinsky, Thomas B., Pierskalla, Jan H., and Sacks, Audrey. 2017. Bureaucracy and Service Delivery. Annual Review of Political Science 20:249–68.
Perakis, Rita, and Savedoff, William. 2015. Does Results-Based Aid Change Anything? Pecuniary Interests, Attention, Accountability and Discretion in Four Case Studies. CGD Policy Paper.
Pfeffer, Jeffrey, and Salancik, Gerald R.. 1978. The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective. New York: Harper and Row.
Polanyi, Michael. 1966. The Tacit Dimension. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Prendergast, Canice. 2001. Selection and Oversight in the Public Sector, with the Los Angeles Police Department as an Example. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 8664. Available at <http://www.nber.org/papers/w8664>.
Rasul, Imran, and Rogger, Daniel. 2016. Management of Bureaucrats and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from the Nigerian Civil Service. The Economic Journal 28 (608):413–46.
Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Shavell, Steven. 1979. Risk Sharing and Incentives in the Principal and Agent Relationship. Bell Journal of Economics 10 (1):5573.
Singh, Jitendra V. 1986. Peformance, Slack, and Risk Taking in Organizational Decision Making. Academy of Management Journal 29 (3):562–85.
Stein, Jeremy C. 2002. Information Production and Capital Allocation: Decentralized Versus Hierarchical Firms. The Journal of Finance 57 (5):1891–921.
Swedlund, Haley J. 2017. Can Foreign Aid Donors Credibly Threaten to Suspend Aid? Evidence from a Cross-National Survey of Donor Officials. Review of International Political Economy 24 (3):454–96.
Tirole, Jean. 1994. The Internal Organization of Government. Oxford Economic Papers 46 (1):129.
US Congress Committee on International Relations, and US Congress Committee on Foreign Relations. 2003. Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2002. Available at <https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pcaab142.pdf>.
USAID. 2014. Public Financial Management Risk Assessment Framework (PFMRAF) Manual: A Mandatory Reference for ADS Chapter 220. Available at <https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1868/220mae.pdf>.
Williamson, Oliver E. 1983. Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications. New York: Free Press.
Wilson, James Q. 1989. Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It. New York: Basic Books.
Woods, Ngaire. 2006. The Globalizers: The IMF, the World Bank, and their Borrowers. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
World Bank. 2006. Engaging with Fragile States: An IEG Review of World Bank Support to Low-income Countries Under Stress. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.
World Bank. 2017. World Bank Projects and Operations Database. Available at <https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/world-bank-projects-operations>.
Wynen, Jan, and Verhoest, Koen. 2016. Why Do Autonomous Public Agencies Use Performance Management Techniques? Revisiting the Role of Basic Organizational Characteristics. International Public Management Journal doi: 10.1080/10967494.2016.1199448.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×
Type Description Title
WORD
Supplementary materials

Honig supplementary material
Honig supplementary material 1

 Word (1.5 MB)
1.5 MB
UNKNOWN
Supplementary materials

Honig supplementary material
Honig supplementary material 2

 Unknown (3.7 MB)
3.7 MB

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed