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Evaluation of Public Management: Concepts and Applications in the Latin American Case

Sonia Ospina Bozzi

Currently, there are major efforts at setting up management indicators throughout Latin America. However, few cases show the systematic use of such indicators to evaluate the management of organisations, programmes and public policies. This entails the use of evaluation tools covering micro and meso-management to a wider context as related to other State levels, both national and local, and their interactions with other players within civil society. The application of a systemic evaluation is an urgent part of the agenda, in the effort to advance State modernisation process in the region. Several countries have already progressed in the appropriate direction, they include Chile, Colombia and Costa Rica.

This paper uses two South-American cases to discuss the evaluative nature of public management and to explore whether this practice in Latin America, is merely an administrative technique and to discuss its role in State modernisation. A comparative analysis of Chile and Colombia is used, using three questions which show important dilemmas to be analysed, both in terms of their conceptual components and their effectiveness in a given context: what is evaluation for?, what should be evaluated and at which level? and what should be done with the data collected? In addition to the Colombian and Chilean cases, some examples from the United States are included. The United States has made significant practical and theoretical contributions to the evaluation of public management; based on its empirical study, as opposed to the lack of systematic research into existing efforts in Latin American cases.

From these questions and specific cases, this paper develops the concept that, given the close relationship between management and public policies, evaluation for public management will be more effective as a modernisation instrument as long as it covers the three levels of social action -macro, meso and micro-, and as long as it develops the ability to make connections among such levels. This ensures that decision makers at the macro level in State action use information from lower levels and vice versa, resulting in a greater coherence within the different levels of public administration. This paper also states the need to organise an empirical research agenda to delve into each country’s efforts at evaluating public management in the region.

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