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Usted está aquí: Inicio Acerca del CLAD Publicaciones Revista del CLAD Reforma y Democracia Artículos por número publicado 020, Junio 2001 The Role of Institutions in the Management of Public Administrations

The Role of Institutions in the Management of Public Administrations

Miquel Salvador Serna

In the debates on the change processes of Latin American public administrations’ management there is much talk about the need to adopt new techniques and instruments from other institutional contexts as an ideal solution to the problems identified. Such proposals ignore, on the one hand, diversity and complexity of State functions, and on the other hand, institutions which characterize public organisations and the specifics of their administrative tradition.

The purpose of this paper is to promote reflection into two issues. The role of institutions -viewed as a set of values, standards, rules, routines and processes that explain the particular layout and results of administrative systems- is stressed. Based on a brief revision of the major neo-institutional approaches to political sciences and administration, different concepts regarding the role of institutions in restricting and guiding the work of organisations are introduced.

The consideration of the institutions is complemented by the analysis of the impact of the administrative tradition -through a comparison of continental European and Anglo-Saxon referents- regarding both public administration layout and its modernisation processes.

Based on these arguments, there is a need to introduce -when analysing timing and feasibility of modernising programs and proposals- variables such as the reference context, the administrative tradition, or multi-dimensional character of institutions, particularly in a strategic context such as human resource management in public administrations.

From the reference to a process of institutional change -from sponsorship to meritocracy system- the main concepts of human resource management are introduced as the starting point of different initiatives to reform the public service, and are compared to public administration current principles, with the Spanish case as an example. The potential for change is analysed from different approaches and incremental change of present institutions is offered as an alternative to improve human resource management while keeping the principles and operation of the bureaucratic public service system.

Finally, change processes in Latin American public administrations are included in the debate. The discussion between management proposals, based on Anglo-Saxon and private sector models, and the proposals to develop Weber-style classical bureaucracies is reformulated by restating the role played by the State in the Latin American context.

The need arises to incorporate institutional, administrative tradition and contextual factors, including the role of State, into the analysis of the proposals to change and transform public administrations in general and human resource management in particular.

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