By Christine Neuhold, Sophie Vanhoonacker, Luc Verhey (eds.)
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Extra resources for Civil Servants and Politics: A Delicate Balance
The most important reason for criticising agencies is their lack of accountability. Ministerial accountability for the actions of independent agencies is limited. Other, more ‘horizontal’ accountability mechanisms are controversial because they have not proven to be a full-grown alternative. Some people call for a restoration of traditional political accountability. In 2004, for example, a commission in the Netherlands recommended to bring almost all the agencies back to the ministerial departments (Werkgroep Kohnstamm 2004).
The roles and responsibilities of politicians and civil servants are in this view fundamentally different. Civil servants are permanent functionaries that have to serve ministers of different political parties and backgrounds. To be successful and trustworthy in their role, civil servants have to be politically neutral. Obviously politicians are not. They have an electoral mandate to try to achieve their political goals. When politicians are in power and become part of the government, civil servants are expected to support them, but this does not mean that are doing the same job.
2004) ‘Politicisation of the Civil Service in France: From Structural to Strategic Politicisation’, in Peters, B. G. and Pierre, J. (eds) Politicisation of the Civil Service: The Quest for Control (London: Routledge). Royed, T. J. (2009) ‘Testing the Mandate Model in Britain and the United States: Evidence from the Reagan and Thatcher Era’, British Journal of Political Science 26: 45–80. Savoie, D. J. (1994) Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney: The Search for a New Bureaucracy (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press).