Gov Accountability

Taking Politics Out Of Catalonia’s Public Services

Twitter Sept 8

In Catalonia, senior officials are currently determined by political appointment, thus granting those in government high levels of control over who fills civil service management positions. Institut Ostrom Catalunya (The Ostrom Institute)—an Atlas Network partner—has pointed out that this framework is highly politicized, as Catalonian government officials are able to make appointments without any legal obligation to technical training requirements and tend to favor those who share similar political leanings.

According to Guillem València, head of Global Programs at the Ostrom Institute, economic research has shown that significant bureaucratic politicization results in a greater prevalence of corruption, inefficient public spending, and a lower tolerance for innovation. Many observers, including those at the institute, wish to see Catalonian public management professionalized and reformed such that it prioritizes individual merits and competitive, transparent selection practices. If such changes are adopted, it would create a system of governmental appointment and promotion far different from the one in place today.

To advance this goal, the Ostrom Institute launched a campaign for the professionalization of the senior civil service in Catalonia. The institute’s efforts to raise public awareness contributed to their most recent success—the inclusion of their proposal in the newly elected Catalonian government’s 2021-2025 policy plan. This decision indicates a shift in the government’s approach towards professional public management—a shift towards a more open and equitable framework.

The rewards of professionalizing public management are promising. Several authors, including Dahlström and Lapuente, attest to the correlation between meritocracy and lower levels of corruption, a better quality of government, and greater effectiveness of public spending and management. Thus, the Ostrom Institute’s proposal has immense potential for positively impacting the organization and operation of the Catalonian government.

An article in El País, one of the most influential newspapers in Spain, highlighted the institute’s work and that it is a “part of the Atlas Network, which gathers over 500 prestigious think tanks around the globe.” The institute’s campaign has garnered attention from other prominent media outlets, such as Diari Ara, El Nació Digital, and Nacional. Members of The Ostrom Institute were also interviewed by TV3, a Catalonian television channel and public broadcaster with an average audience of 500,000 viewers.

The Ostrom Institute’s manifesto advocating for the reform of the executive civil service has already gathered the support of over 500 signatories, including university presidents, policymakers, and academic experts on public administration and institutional reform. Moving forward, the Ostrom Institute will evaluate how effectively their proposal was implemented by the Catalonian government and quantitatively assess the change in politically appointed public officials to further gauge the impact of their campaign.