Progress toward New Public Governance in Romania

Cristina Maria Stanica (Joseph R. Jr Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)
Maria Aristigueta (Joseph R. Jr Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Publication date: 12 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

New Public Governance is becoming an important framework for managing the public sector in the era of collaborative governance. The purpose of this paper is to explore the extent to which New Public Governance as a framework is limited to the political and administrative context of Romania and to create a connection between good governance and New Public Governance through operationalizing the concepts and clarifying their inter-dependency. New public leadership skills are required from both horizontal and vertical approaches, in order to tackle the country’s wicked problems.

Design/methodology/approach

Through the use of qualitative methods, such as document analysis of Cooperation and Verification Mechanism reports of the European Commission on Romania, and expert interviews with a focus on governance aspects, the paper seeks to clarify the challenges that Romania faces in terms of democratization given the current political and administrative context.

Findings

Findings in Romania reveal little agreement on progress in government effectiveness, regulatory quality and implementation of the rule of law. However, progress has been noted on voice and accountability and strengthening democracy.

Research limitations/implications

The authors discuss the uncertainty that the concept of good governance has created from an international organizations’ perspective in developing countries, and define the good governance infrastructure as a means of bringing governance closer to the complex and changing context of each country. The paper aims to clarify the connection between good governance and New Public Governance, by assessing contextual factors in developing countries.

Practical implications

The practical implications of the study are related to the possibility of this paper to inform other developing countries on the conditions that are necessary in order to adhere to New Public Governance. The paper has implications in proposing the use of the good governance infrastructure as a helpful concept when considering democratic frameworks for research and practice.

Social implications

The social implications of this paper are connected to the current political, administrative and social context of the Central and Eastern European region and its component countries. Improving democratic practices, through advancing the importance of good governance indicators in switching to a public governance perspective in public administration, is the main outcome of New Public Governance-style reforms.

Originality/value

The paper’s originality stands in designing the premises for the “good governance infrastructure” as a new concept that aims to bridge the gap between good governance and New Public Governance, and bring more conceptual clarity. Being supported by evidence, through the use of primary data generated by expert interview analysis, the new concept can improve and encourage further research on this topic.

Keywords

Citation

Stanica, C.M. and Aristigueta, M. (2019), "Progress toward New Public Governance in Romania", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 189-206. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPL-01-2019-0004

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited


1. Introduction

New Public Governance is viewed as the answer to cope with complexities of government and provides a variety of beneficial practices to expand capacity for the delivery of public services. Governments in the twenty-first century require problem-solving capacity that can no longer be delivered by only one entity (Rittel and Webber, 1973). As Pollitt and Bouckaert (2004) and Bouckaert et al. (2010) indicate, greater coordination and collaboration is required. However, the growing literature on New Public Governance has done little to clarify what are the actual conditions that are necessary in order to define the presence of New Public Governance in post-communist political and administrative contexts.

Pierre and Peters (2000) make the distinction between state-centric old governance and society-centric new governance. There is more research needed on addressing New Public Governance, especially for Central and Eastern European countries, where the state exercises a highly structured and controlled governance regime. The greatest challenge to New Public Governance is to increase society’s ability to govern itself, begging the question of what are the necessary conditions for implementation.

Romania is a semi-presidential representative democracy that still struggles with the shadow of its past. Given the public administration reform context, the country lacks a long-term vision for development of governance practices. The European Commission periodically evaluates Romania’s progress toward good governance indicators under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM). In order to better understand the application of New Public Governance in states with an authoritarian and “Rechstaat” governance culture, the authors introduce the concept of “good governance infrastructure” developed from a variety of sources as discussed in the next section of this paper. The study answers two research questions:

RQ1.

What are the conditions necessary for good governance?

RQ2.

How is good governance influencing Romania’s progress toward New Public Governance?

The paper is divided into three sections. In the first section, the literature on good governance is reviewed, followed by a discussion on how “good governance infrastructure” emerged as a pre-condition for New Public Governance, while addressing the relationship between the two concepts. The second section of the study is focused on Romania’s context, methodology, and progress findings, both for the good governance infrastructure and New Public Governance. In the last section, the paper presents the findings, challenges and implications for practice of the conditions that encourage New Public Governance-style reforms. The ultimate goal of this paper is to contribute to the implementation of New Public Governance literature and necessary conditions for its success.

2. The good governance infrastructure and New Public Governance

The definition of good governance has left room for a great deal of critique and debate. Anyone who is interested in what good governance represents faces difficulties choosing from among the multiple sets of definitions. Yet, the popularity of good governance has increased over the last decade and the concept gained a significant momentum in international public policy. Good governance has brought some uncertainty to Central and Eastern European countries (Van Doeveren, 2011). The European Union keeps adding new requirements and introduces new criteria toward its application; however, there is no consensus regarding the measurement of good governance criteria (Van Doeveren, 2011). The author identifies five common principles for good governance found in multiple definitions of the concept: accountability, efficiency and effectiveness, openness and transparency, participation and the rule of law, but these principles are not fully implemented in CEE countries (Van Doeveren, 2011). Rather than limiting good governance to a series of principles, Kettl (2005) argues that the public management reform movement “builds on the notion that good governance – a sorting out of mission, role, capacity, and relationships – is necessary (if sufficient) condition of economic prosperity and social stability” (p. 6). In addition to this, Osborne (2010) emphasizes the role of supranational bodies and international organizations in the promotion of norms of governance that are essential to good governance. The author mentions that rather than trying to agree to a common definition of good governance, it is important to look at governance “in its wider and original sense of steering, rather than as a synonym for government” (Osborne, 2010, p. 92). This includes creating frameworks based on democratic principles, rules for leading and managing organizations and public service systems, and thus solving societal problems through putting an emphasis on citizen participation. New Public Governance can be considered a tool for improving good governance, by addressing not only internal management processes, but also the relationships between organizations and the political and administrative context in which they function.

For this purpose, the paper proposes to use the term “good governance infrastructure” as an initial step to understand the development of New Public Governance and conditions that are necessary in order to efficiently, effectively and equitably implement the model in developing democracies. The creation of this framework is justified by the need to reach a common agreement on how international organizations’ principles and norms are respected and implemented in specific countries prior to adhering to New Public Governance that requires a more sophisticated management system, as it crosses boundaries to deliver services to communities.

The literature review on good governance indicates the need to bring this concept closer to each country’s context in order to trace its evolution and study progress. This paper attempts to do so by clarifying the terms and evaluating Romania’s progress toward governance indicators.

The “good governance infrastructure” therefore aims to steer international organizations’ agendas toward considering the political and administrative context of developing countries, by ensuring that democratic principles are respected and grounded in the concepts of citizenship and shared interests of citizens. In support of this definition, the good governance infrastructure is operationalized as a series of democratic principles promoted by the World Bank and the United Nations: ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law, strengthening democracy, promoting transparency and capacity in public administration, ensuring voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness and regulatory quality and control of corruption (Weiss, 2000). Assessing Romania’s progress from the perspective of these indicators is necessary for understanding the main challenges that the transition toward New Public Governance involves. The main reason for this is that the society at large and the international community desire a new kind of public “authority” that uses the good governance infrastructure to increase the level of democratization in developing countries. This implies creating frameworks for self-governing autonomous networks of actors, blurring the boundaries between the state and society, and between public and private actors, and guiding and facilitating citizens’ engagement and activities in order to create public value (Osborne, 2010).

According to Osborne (2010), the emerging trend of New Public Governance refers to the shift from a “somewhat ‘defensive’, anti-democratic, centralizing, homogenizing and hierarchical former regime ruled by elites toward a more ‘open’, communitarian, non-centralizing, pluralistic, and distributed governance regime” (p. 110). Contrasting traditional public administration theory and New Public Management, New Public Governance derives from organizational sociology and network theory (Osborne, 2010). New Public Governance puts much greater emphasis on citizen participation and third-sector services provision. Coproduction is employed in the context of multi-purpose and multi-stakeholder networks (Pestoff, 2011). Moreover, Pestoff (2011) reveals that it takes place in a political context, being coordinated within the structure of political institutions. While this study assesses New Public Governance for the overall political and administrative system of Romania, research on local and regional levels should incorporate coproduction processes especially when it is employed as a strategy for smart city initiatives. Despite the fact that coproduction is usually limited by law and centralized service delivery oftentimes poses a barrier for citizen participation (Pestoff, 2006), coproduction can be used under any managerial or governance model (traditional, NPM, NPG), given its focus on the active involvement of citizens in service delivery (Alford, 2009).

In order to contribute to the governance dialogue, this study addresses the difference between New Public Governance as a framework and as a set of practices, the former being employed for the current research and theoretical discussion. New Public Governance as a framework includes five fundamental dimensions: socio-political governance, public policy governance, administrative governance, contract governance and network governance (Osborne, 2010). However, when considering New Public Governance as a set of practices, one can explore systemic, organizational or social behaviors, institutional dynamics, resource coordination, political support or strategic policy formulation and implementation (Potůček, 2004; Papatas et al., 2014). For this purpose, the following analysis refers to the overall political and administrative system in Romania.

When considering the implementation of the New Public Governance framework in various contexts, it is necessary to clarify the leadership framework as well (Reid, 2014). Given the current wicked problems that society faces, new leadership skills and capabilities are needed, that require problem solving from a collective perspective (Hartley, 2018). Public leadership therefore is defined as “mobilizing individuals, organizations, and networks to formulate and/or enact purposes, values and actions which aim or claim to create valued outcomes for the public sphere” (Hartley, 2018, p. 203). Shifting the leadership focus from individual actors to collective collaboration that creates, promotes and delivers public value is another condition for adapting New Public Governance to complex and changing contexts. This implies that leadership responsibility is distributed both vertically (intra-organizational), and horizontally (inter-organizational), taking into consideration community leadership, professional leadership, political leadership and private-sector leadership (Reid, 2014; Hartley, 2018).

3. The case of Romania

Romania’s political and administrative system has experienced shifts from monarchy to dictatorship, then to socialist totalitarianism and more recently democracy. The country is now a semi-presidential republic with a multi-party system (Sartori, 2003). However, it still bears the imprint of past events and this influences the development of reforms and the structuring of the political arena.

The World Bank analysis for progress toward good governance indicators between 2015 and 2017 is expressed in Table I[1].

According to the World Bank (2018) data, Romania progressed in terms of control of corruption, government effectiveness, political stability and absence of violence/terrorism, but shows regress in rule of law and voice and accountability. However, the country is still one of the poorest performing member states in terms of government effectiveness (World Bank, 2017). Romania is ranked 59th by Transparency International, with a Corruption Perception Index score of 48 for both 2016 and 2017 (Transparency International, 2018). Corruption is still considered a serious issue. According to the Sustainable Governance Indicators, Romania ranks 38th in terms of democratic quality, and the main reasons for this are the strong influence of the government over the public media, new controversial criminal-code regulations and a judicial reform package that undermines the principle of separation of powers in the state (Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2016). Hintea (2011) summarizes some of the main challenges of the Romanian public sector after more than 20 years of continuous change: a mentality that favors regulation over implementation, the lack of a managerial culture at all levels of government, a strong influence of politics in administration, vaguely defined performance indicators, lack of strategic planning capacity and coordination issues at local and central level.

3.1 Data collection and methods

This study assesses the level of progress that has been made in Romania toward New Public Governance as well as the conditions that are necessary in order to efficiently, effectively and equitably adapt the model to developing democracies. It also establishes the areas that are in need of progress related to the overall performance of the public sector in Romania. The research study uses qualitative analysis, more specifically, expert interviews and document analysis for data collection.

Bogner et al. (2009) mention that expert interviews can serve establishing an initial orientation for new theoretical concepts and can assist in developing a clearer understanding of the problem. The group of experts that were interviewed is faculty specialized in public administration and political science from Babes-Bolyai University, and the National University of Political Science and Public Administration in Romania, and also anti-corruption experts for the European Commission and the Council of Europe, and an executive director of the Progress Foundation in Romania. These ten governance experts possess experience working in public management reforms at European and national government level. The snowball technique was used to identify them. Snowball sampling is defined as “a technique for gathering research subjects through the identification of an initial subject who is used to provide the names of other actors” (Atkinson and Flint, 2011, p. 2). One advantage of using this technique, also known as referral sampling, is that it helps identify respondents where higher levels of trust are required to initiate contact (Atkinson and Flint, 2011). The Skype interviews were conducted between March 2016 and November 2018, given recent changes to the country’s political and administrative system, and also to the European context surrounding public governance practices. A qualitative semi-structured interview guide was designed in accordance with the good governance infrastructure and the New Public Governance framework. The interviews were analyzed through directed content analysis, as a data reduction technique using both pre-determined concepts (a priori coding). The list of a priori codes represents the full list of the good governance principles (both from the World Bank and the UN) and the five dimensions of New Public Governance. These initial codes were derived from the conceptual framework and the research questions. Direct quotes are provided to illustrate findings.

Document analysis is an unobtrusive method and in this study was used to identify the progress of Romania’s public sector toward the good governance infrastructure. The data represent text/content from The CVM reports from the years 2010–2017 published by the European Commission. These reports were published after Romania had joined the European Union in 2007. They have guided public administration reform in the country in terms of quality and pace. Overall, they have played an important role in consolidating the rule of law in Romania and report progress as well as specific recommendations in different areas.

3.2 Findings from document analysis

This section presents most findings on progress as established by the Reports from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Romania under the CVM 2010–2017. These reports assess the level of progress in terms of reform of the judicial system, ethics and fight against corruption. Table II presents the main conclusions and recommendations from the European Commission’s assessments. By focusing on the key institutions responsible for the anti-corruption campaign at the central level, reporters seek to obtain a certain degree of sustainability of reforms.

The CVM reports from 2010 to 2013 point to the main problems of the political context that affect the reform of the judiciary system: insufficient political commitment (European Commission, 2010), a polarized political system (European Commission, 2012), the existence of concerns about the use of emergency ordinances and about the independence of the judiciary (European Commission, 2013). The reports issued between 2014 and 2016 indicate a steady progress in multiple areas and the resilience of important anti-corruption actors, together with impressive efforts in tackling high-level corruption. Nonetheless, corruption in public procurement at the local level is still an issue that has been acknowledged by integrity and law-enforcement authorities. Findings also reveal integrity issues related to appointing senior positions in the judiciary (European Commission, 2016). Despite the profound reform of the judicial system, year 2017 brought a series of political challenges in terms of respecting the separation of powers in the state. Widespread protests call for transparency and predictability of legislative processes, while the independence of the judiciary becomes the ultimate goal of democratic state powers. Overall, the evolution of the fight against corruption and the reform of the judicial system require more systematic changes in order to achieve irreversible outcomes.

3.3 Progress toward the good governance infrastructure

This section presents the interview findings with respect to the good governance infrastructure. Ten experts have been asked to evaluate whether they consider there is a progress for each indicator that is part of the infrastructure and to describe and provide short specific examples of how changes took place. The semi-structured interview guide contained four open-ended questions, two closed questions and other probing and clarifying questions. The guide is presented in the Appendix. All answers were recorded and transcribed in a Word format.

In terms of respect for human rights, the interview findings revealed minimal progress. According to eight experts, the European Court of Human Rights played a significant role in this dimension and pushed reforms. Romania ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. However, experts mention that reforms were focused on the institutional dimension and on creating an adequate regulatory framework, while a low sense of inclusion for the Roma population still exists.

Rule of law was related to the control of corruption and regulatory quality. Interviews revealed that in the last five years, along with anti-corruption measures, civil servants have started to pay more attention to the respect for the rule of law. The lack of regulatory coherence, contradictory laws and high levels of corruption are the main factors that, according to respondents, affected the respect for the rule of law. A certain mentality best described by one expert as “the art of evading the law” (personal interview, May 6, 2016) was developed in Romania. They believe this is due to the punitive and strict character of regulations.

According to experts, the strengthening democracy discourse cannot take place without referring to transparency, rule of law, human rights and openness. In the years 1995–2005, experts mention that Romania was most concerned with adopting European standards and implementing models required to join the European Union. Moreover, international development institutions and donors had a large impact on democracy in Romania. These institutions continue to monitor government’s performance in respect for human rights, rule of law and transparency. Respondents consider that there was a serious and increased demand for democratization. The Decisional Transparency Law (2003) and the Law on Free Access to Public Information (2001) are the two most important pillars for democracy in Romania, particularly as they pertain to the function of public institutions. The years 2000–2004 also experienced progress on the legal status of civil servants.

According to experts, progress on promoting transparency in public administration is notable. The present government has a number of departments for monitoring and regulating transparency and free access to public information. In the words of one expert, the European Union has reinforced the Law of Access to Public Information. This law is one of the major elements that compelled Romania toward the European Union standards. Without this law, Romania would not have started negotiations toward joining the EU. One respondent mentioned that a budgeting platform was created for citizens to check how public money are spent, but to date most users are NGOs and the press. Overall, these monitoring mechanisms, the way public procurement is conducted, and the transparency and free access to information laws are good examples of how transparency has been promoted in Romania.

Promoting capacity in public administration is being perceived in very broad terms. When considering managerial capacity in public administration, progress has been noticed. Nonetheless, in the words of the interviewee, the managerial system is considered to be a “hobby” or “managerial amateurism” (personal interview, April 22, 2016) and not professional. Another expert mentions that there is low regulatory quality, resulting in problems in implementing decisions and laws. Furthermore, experts also believe that there is no capacity for efficient implementation and one factor is the legalist perspective inherited from the French centralized system stating that “once you have a problem, you write a law” (personal interview, May 5, 2016). Moreover, some problems have been identified in managing the European Union’s funds. Romania’s absorption rate has been 13 percent through March 2018, for the period 2014–2020, having one of the lowest absorption rates in the European Union (International Monetary Fund, 2018).

With respect to voice and accountability, experts believe that given the multiple cases of prosecuted public officials, the level of accountability increased in the last five years. They consider that there are transparency mechanisms that started to put some pressures on public institutions, but there is also some degree of opaqueness, particularly at the central level.

Political stability and absence of violence have been a constant concern in Romania. Respondents consider that it is remarkable that the country blocked the entrance of far-right extreme parties into the Parliament, given the political situation in other Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland or Hungary. However, ethnic conflicts and claims took institutionalized forms in Romania in a non-violent manner, being determined by “political competition, collective rights, and access to resources” (Gherghina, 2014, p. 42). However, the latest anti-government protest in Romania, in August 2018, included a violent reaction of law enforcement against citizens, through the use of tear gas. The European Union has condemned these actions, but the government’s assault over democratic principles and the rule of law continues.

Government effectiveness was related to promoting capacity in public administration. Five experts evaluated it as a problematic indicator, but overall the managerial reform starts to include the use of performance management tools. Experts believe that the lack of regulatory coherence, fiscal policy and administrative and managerial capacity need to be improved. Moreover, the efficient cohesion and coordination of the laws are considered by experts to positively influence government effectiveness.

Regulatory quality is very much debated in Romania. Five experts consider that there is some progress, but the rest contend that the administration is over-burdened with rules and regulations, especially in terms of public procurement. Experts also pointed out the lack of regulatory coherence and of an integrated view toward the judicial system. Henderson et al. (2017) consider that the main challenges in administrative governance and policy implementation are related to discretionary behaviors exercised in street-level service provision, and this includes regulatory ambiguity and administrative abuses.

The control of corruption has highly increased in the last eight years. Romania made significant progress in establishing an anti-corruption framework, but its enforcement remains weak. The Romanian Government established e-procurement, e-commerce and e-taxation systems for public acquisitions, in order to reduce corruption. Experts state that the actual Romanian Criminal Code and other laws criminalize active and passive bribery. Petty corruption is problematic, especially when it concerns land, tax and customs administration (Global Legal Insights, 2017).

In summary, Table III presents each interviewer’s evaluation toward the level of progress with respect to the good governance infrastructure. Each mark (X) indicates that progress has been noted in the last decade.

Most of the interviewees identified problematic indicators where there is no common agreement on progress. These indicators are government effectiveness, regulatory quality and the rule of law. The coding process supports these findings, and reveals that there is an association between these three indicators. For example, interviewees mention the “war on corruption” when referring to the rule of law and consider the quality of regulations as influencing government effectiveness. The control of corruption, respect for human rights and promoting transparency and capacity in public administration are considered by five experts as being problematic indicators which have shown no sign of progress in the last decade. Promoting capacity in public administration might have influenced this assessment, given some negative insights about the quality of the civil service. However, with respect to voice and accountability and strengthening democracy, all interviewees agree on positive accomplishments.

3.4 Evidence of New Public Governance in Romania

We have explored the country’s context in terms of the good governance infrastructure and the evolution of certain indicators as assessed by the European Commission and the World Bank. This next section presents the experts’ evaluation on Romania’s progress toward the five dimensions of New Public Governance.

When it comes to socio-political governance, most experts pointed to the important role central government plays in controlling the process of institutional and policy reform. However, most of the socio-political governance involves actors working at the regional level together with regional development agencies and NGOs. Experts believe that the EU partnership is seen as a contributor to this kind of institutional relationship with the society, mostly by involving non-state actors in drafting Regional Operational Programs. These programs are part of the EU Cohesion Policy, and aim to address the country’s major development challenges in terms of regional competitiveness, sustainable urban development and economic and social infrastructure at the regional and local level. Actors include social and economic partners, civil society organizations, NGOs, regional, local and urban agencies, together with ministries and governmental agencies, regional chambers, public and private university centers and environmental regional agencies. These actors are usually involved in the process of assessing communities’ needs and their potential for development. Respondents suggested that offering a channel for decision making and support of their work in an integrated and formal manner could be the next step toward better socio-political governance.

From the administrative governance perspective, the hierarchical character of the governing process is preeminent at the central level. According to experts, at the local level, some managers understood the importance of becoming facilitators in their communities. One interviewee mentioned that one barrier to successful collaborative delivery is the assumption that better use of traditional government systems and processes will result in joined-up solutions. Traditional systems and processes are designed to deliver government services for centrally controlled, vertically organized agencies. However, experts highlight that these systems and processes become increasingly inappropriate as government agencies move away from traditionally organized service delivery toward more customer-centric joined-up approaches.

The governance of contractual relationships in the delivery of public services, described by Osborne (2010) as contract governance, shows minimal progress in Romania and is mostly found in the form of the public authorities contracting specific services at local and central levels. Experts stated that these services outsourced or privatized include waste collection, water distribution and sewer networks, specialized security companies to safeguard public institutions, the distribution of electricity and natural gas, a part of the railway transportation system, highways infrastructure, parking administration, a part of social services and cultural events. Recent amendments to the Law on Public–Private Partnership shaped an attractive and stable legislation that serves as a pillar for successful investment projects and strategic projects of national interest.

Network governance is assessed by the extent that public policy coordination is ensured, and contains intra-governmental coordination at the national level. Experts highlighted the importance of non-governmental actors in formulating public policies. At the same time respondents pointed to a shift in local-level public service delivery, because public managers became aware of their role as facilitators. This means that creating mechanisms for citizen participation not only in implementing public services, but also in initiating and designing them is mandatory for network governance.

With respect to public policy governance, experts revealed that NGOs have a role in formulating public policies, but not in their implementation. The government is still the ultimate decision maker, which means that the top-down approach is very consistent. Respondents consider that there is the need for greater cooperation and collaboration between networks and policy elites, and mechanisms for delegating decision making to NGOs. Findings have shown a good evolution and efficient emergence of intra-organizational civil society networks, but there is a shortage of inter-organizational network cooperation.

Table IV summarizes the experts’ opinions toward the five dimensions of the model. Experts have been familiarized with the meaning of each dimension and added their own insight based on their knowledge and experience regarding Romania’s evolution toward governance. Some areas of progress have been identified for each dimension.

Expert interviews noted that a good deal of progress has been influenced by attempts at European coordination in order to consolidate the administrative space. Nonetheless, additional steps are necessary in order to improve democracy in this country.

4. Challenges and recommendations for adhering to New Public Governance

Research conducted by Kaufmann (2000) shows that “countries embarking on governance and anti-corruption programs need to analyze in depth the specific institutional challenges they face” (p. 12). The purpose of using self-diagnostic data and involving stakeholders in dissemination processes such as participatory workshops is to mobilize broader coalitions (Kaufmann, 2000). These emerging networks can then help in the institutional reform process and support collective action (Kaufmann, 2000). This can be correlated to the use of coproduction, a process that is at the core of New Public Governance. Participative coproduction is related to the strategic level of service planning (Osborne and Strokosch, 2013). This means improving the quality of service delivery through participative mechanisms at the strategic planning and design phase of service production, aimed at empowering other stakeholders and increasing their level of participation. Policy making in Romanian public sector should move from cosmetic and limited forms of coproduction such as public consultations to forms where different stakeholders have a direct impact on service development. This would create opportunities for public service innovation and a more efficient, democratic, accountable and legitimate service delivery.

Progress on voice and accountability and strengthening democracy can be sustained by an increased use of collaborative digital platforms, where both the public, private and third-sector organizations can access information, and participate in decision making. Improving administrative capacity at the local level is crucial to establishing participatory mechanisms. Digital infrastructure in local public institutions and digital literacy should be enhanced in all local communities in order to increase citizens’ access to information, and create opportunities for coproduction. Correctness and respect for the rule of law should be the main values promoted through these processes.

Good governance infrastructure is a condition for considering New Public Governance in developing democracies. Findings revealed close inter-connections between all principles, and this means that the improvement of one indicator can lead to improvements in others. The fight against corruption must happen at all levels of government and equally impact all areas of governance. Mechanisms for open governance can reduce the level of corruption and increase transparency, which will increase respect for the rule of law.

Regulatory quality is determined by public consultations with businesses and the public to assess the potential impact of a regulation. Essential tools for improving regulatory decision making are: “regulatory impact analysis, public consultation, consideration of regulatory alternatives and compliance burden-reduction measures” (OECD, 2008).

4.1 Limitations

It is worth discussing a series of limitations of this research study. Qualitative research is based on information that depends on the personal characteristics of the researcher, and also on the opinions and judgments that respondents provided (Maxwell, 2005). It is difficult to investigate causality in this case, since the data are collected from ten experts, and findings cannot be generalized to a larger population. However, findings can be transferred to another setting. Further studies can focus on increasing validity through triangulation techniques such as contradictory evidence, respondent validation and constant comparison (Anderson, 2010).

4.2 Implications for practice and further research

The study aims to provide a deep reflection on how good governance and New Public Governance are inter-connected in Romania. Introducing the good governance infrastructure can serve as a conceptual framework for other countries that face the same level of development. Understanding the context in which reforms take place helps explain governance outcomes when it comes to democratic progress, but also governance failures. Further comparative international research on the application of New Public Governance dimensions in states with a strong emphasis on legal values and the rule of law can help bridge the gap between Western and Eastern European governance models, and support the democratic transition through the provision of accurate information and reliable data that can inform democratic practices. Central and Eastern European literature on public administration could also benefit from more qualitative and quantitative studies on coproduction and citizen participation, with an emphasis on the factors that lead to positive outcomes and a public interest orientation.

5. Conclusions

In conclusion, Romania’s progress toward New Public Governance has been slow and is mostly in its early stages. Findings reveal policy-making process as described by Osborne (2010) and elements related to the good governance infrastructure, with principles such as coordination and good governance embedded in the way public institutions function. However, corruption prevention, together with efficiency and effectiveness of public institutions, presents slow progress in Romania.

Even though previous research has pointed toward a high incidence of hierarchical procedures rather than cooperative ones, after joining the European Union, Romania’s national institutions became aware of the advantages of adopting a more network-oriented style of governance. The need for coordination at the national level is still a major condition for good governance, but it is not merely limited to inter-governmental coordination. The role of civic organizations is slowly increasing and their participation is needed for further progress toward a more democratic governance process. The latter is also reinforced by the European Union.

Public organizations are faced with multiple problems, both from internal factors such as structural elements (vertical and horizontal distribution of the institutional actors’ responsibilities) and regulatory style (hierarchical and vertical procedures), and external factors (being pressured to respond to these challenges in an efficient manner). Thinking strategically and shifting the focus of public reforms from a regulatory to a cooperative approach are just some of the requirements needed for better outcomes in the good governance infrastructure proposed in this study. Public institutions at all levels can facilitate citizen participation through the use of local referendums, public meetings, online tools and other participatory mechanisms. This points to the new role of public leadership discussed in this paper, to address the public value dimensions: “what members of the public most value in this specific context and also what adds value to the public sphere” (Hartley, 2018, p. 206).

It is hoped that the proposed good governance infrastructure advanced in this paper with the initiatives taken in Romania will assist others in assessing good governance and measuring progress toward New Public Governance. Additional research is needed to understand the role that context plays in implementation in other countries. This case will be of particular interest to those who are interested in developing democracies.

World Governance Indicators, Romania, 2015–2017

Indicator 2015 (percentile rank) 2016 (percentile rank) 2017 (percentile rank)
Control of corruption 57.2 56.7 55.3
Government effectiveness 51.4 47.6 46.2
Political stability and absence of violence/terrorism 54.3 56.2 49.0
Regulatory quality 72.1 70.7 70.2
Rule of law 61.5 63.9 63.9
Voice and accountability 63.5 65.5 64.5

Sources: Adapted from World Bank (2018). The World Bank Governance Indicators (WGI, 2015–2017)

Cooperation and Verification Mechanism reports findings

CVM report year Conclusions Main recommendations
2010 Insufficient political commitment
The National Integrity Agency (ANI) steps back in relation to EU accession commitments
Approval of civil and criminal procedure codes
Improve the relationship between political and judicial actors
Tackle high-level corruption cases
Evaluate public procurement legal framework
2011 New legal framework for the National Integrity Agency
Improvement of the efficiency of judicial processes (four new codes)
The National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) responsible for high-level corruption cases→impact analysis of the anti-corruption policy
Improve cooperation with the judiciary and civil society
Electronic publication of all jurisprudence
Prosecute and judge cases of fraud of EU funds
Improve cooperation between ANI and other administrative, judicial and political actors
2012 Polarized political system
The undermining of the constitutional court
Threats to the progress achieved so far
The need for a more transparent and efficient judicial process
The need to enhance the capacity and accountability of the Superior Council of Magistracy
Ambitious legislative agenda
Transparent process for nominating the General prosecutor and Chief Prosecutor of the DNA
Respect for the independence of judiciary
Refrain from appointing Ministers with integrity rulings against them
Introduce a comprehensive plan for implementing the codes
Create a monitoring group (multi-sector actors) for judicial reform
2013 Concerns about emergency ordinances
Concerns about the independence of the judiciary and pressures on judicial institutions
The need to accelerate progress on the EU Commission’s recommendations
Appointment of a new leadership for prosecution and the DNA
Protection of the judiciary
2014 Progress in many areas
Cooperation between judicial institutions and the Ministry of Justice
Resilience of important anti-corruption actors
Need for integrity and professionalism
Restructure the court system
Full and timely online publication of court decisions
Prosecute petty corruption
Develop national anti-corruption strategy
2015 Strategy for the Development of the Judiciary 2015–2020
Sustainability in progress
Impressive efforts in tackling high-level corruption
Code of Conduct for parliamentarians
Secure a stable criminal code
Improve fight against low level corruption
2016 Reform consolidation
Great efforts to tackle high-level corruption
Integrity issues related to appointing senior positions in the judiciary
Support for individual magistrates
Promote reforms for consolidating the professionalism of magistracy
Improve Asset Recovery Agency’s leadership
New public procurement strategy and implementation plan
2017 Profound reform of the judiciary
Growing tension between state powers
Widespread protests
National Agency of Management of Seized Assets (ANABI) is operational
Robust and independent system for appointing top prosecutors
Implementing the Code of Civil Procedures
Transparency and predictability of legislative processes

Source: Adapted from the reports from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Progress in Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, available at: www.ec.europa.eu

Assessment of the level of progress toward the good governance infrastructure

Good governance infrastructure Voice and accountability Political stability and the absence of violence Government effectiveness Regulatory quality Rule of law Control of corruption Respect for human rights Strengthening democracy Promoting transparency and capacity in public admin.
Respondent 1 X X X X X X X
Respondent 2 X X X X X X X
Respondent 3 X X X X X X
Respondent 4 X X X X X
Respondent 5 X X X X X
Respondent 6 X X X X X X X X X
Respondent 7 X X X X X
Respondent 8 X X X X X X X X
Respondent 9 X X X X X X
Respondent 10 X X X X X X

The progress toward New Public Governance

Dimensions Areas of progress Challenges
1. Socio-political governance The relation between governmental agencies, local and central elected people, civil society groups
Increased civil society involvement
Increased role of social networks and social media in governing
The creation of the Ministry for Public Consultation and Civic Dialogue (objectives: bringing predictability and stability in public consultation and civic dialogue, the efficient use of public funds, transparency, collaboration between civil society and citizens)
The creation of an efficient and reliable institutional framework for cooperation between actors
The creation of collaborative processes and mechanisms for cooperation between actors
Simplifying the normative procedures and the regulatory processes for collaboration
Informing civil society groups and interested actors about possible cooperation and feedback mechanisms
2. Public policy governance At local and regional level: increased collaboration between actors in the strategic planning process
Central level: proper institutions and procedures, but follows a top-down approach
Local level: more progress, but hard to have a great impact by following a bottom-up approach
Bringing more coherence among laws and regulations
Increasing transparency at central and local level
Creating a more open and less hierarchical policy-making process
Creating the framework for a well-defined bottom-up policy approach
Reaching a proper level of training of the human resources at local level with respect to public policies
3. Administrative governance Collaboration with the private and non-governmental sector, but no sign of synergy (the administration is still the principal decision maker)
Sensitive to main issues raised by “The Street” and important civil society groups
Flattening the decision-making process (creating horizontal mechanisms for decision-making)
Empowering citizens and civil society groups in expressing their needs, and ideas
Educating the citizens toward principles such as collaboration and building social capital
4. Contract governance Good efforts toward privatization and public procurement The relationship between the public and private sector (changing the existing competition between them into cooperation)
Creating means for cooperation based on correctness and respect for public values
Reducing the administrative burden
5. Network governance Self-organizing networks in the strategic planning process
Non-governmental sector has a big role in formulating public policies
Local level: managerial shift- public managers become aware of their role as facilitators inside communities, not just in imposing a top-down approach (the local public administration became the main facilitator which steers the local economy)
Tremendous improvement of the activity of networks created inside the civil society
Creating self-organizing networks outside the civil society (formed out of various stakeholders) and managing them in a sustainable manner
Making the public sector more responsive and open toward the networks’ objectives and visions

Note

1.

Percentile ranks indicate the percentage of countries worldwide that score below Romania. A percentile score of 60 indicates that Romania scores above 60 percent of the countries in the world.

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Further reading

Dogaru, T.C. (2014), “The national policy-making process in the context of the international economic and financial movements”, Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 143, August, pp. 964-970.

EC (2010-2016), “European commission reports from the commission to the European parliament and the council on progress in Romania under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism”, European Commission, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/justice-and-fundamental-rights/effective-justice/rule-law/assistance-bulgaria-and-romania-under-cvm_en (accessed April 18, 2018).

EC (2016), “Council recommendation on the 2016 National Reform Program of Romania and delivering a council opinion on the 2016 convergence program of Romania”, European Commission, available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52016DC0343 (accessed April 20, 2018).

Klijn, E.H. (2008), “Governance and governance networks in Europe: an assessment of 10 years of research on the theme”, Public Management Review, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 505-525.

Law No. 544 (2001), “Free access to public interest information”, Bucharest, available at: www.cdep.ro/pls/legis/legis_pck.htp_act_text?idt=30060 (accessed April 20, 2018).

Matei, A. and Dogaru, T.C. (2013), “Coordination of public policies in Romania. An empirical analysis”, Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 81, June, pp. 65-71.

Matei, A.I. and Dogaru, T.C. (2011), “The reform of the national public policy process under the influence of Europeanization. Changes in the policy-making in Romania on institutional and legislative level”, Theoretical and Applied Economics, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 554-592.

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Osborne, S.P. (2006), “The New Public Governance?”, Public Management Review, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 377-387.

Rothstein, B. and Holmberg, S. (2012), Good Government: The Relevance of Political Science, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, London.

Runya, X., Qigui, S. and Wei, S. (2015), “The third wave of public administration: the New Public Governance”, Canadian Social Science, Vol. 11 No. 7, pp. 11-21.

Skocpol, T. and Morris, P.F. (1999), “Making sense of the civic engagement debate”, in Skocpol, T. and Morris, P.F. (Eds), Civic Engagement in American Democracy, Brooking Institution Press, Washington, DC, pp. 1-23.

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Corresponding author

Cristina Maria Stanica can be contacted at: cstanica@udel.edu