Improving co-ordination of deconcentrated government agencies

Chile should also consider readapting the deconcentrated government agencies in the regions. The large presence of representatives of different public agencies in the region, and the fact that these representatives have a higher dependence from their line ministries or agencies in Santiago than from the intendente in the region brings challenges to the generation of inter-sectorial synergies and weakens the possibility of adapting national priorities to territorial realities. Some recommendations should be considered in order to improve the situation.

  • • First, the role of the intendente as co-ordinator of national public agencies and SEREMIS in the region should be strengthened, as a way to provide a coherent approach to national policies in the region.
  • • Second, in the current process for strengthening the regional councils - from November 2013 - democratically elected regional bodies-, national agencies should also have closer and institutionalise interactions with the regional government.
  • • Third, it would be important to set stable rural development co-ordination groups at the regional level, counting on the different main actors that deal with and have interventions in rural development, as a way to strengthen and to institutionalise inter-institutional interactions.

• Fourth, it should be considered to make an in-depth analysis of the possibilities and potential pros and cons of merging public agencies in the region, creating a reduced number of representatives of several national public agencies dealing with regional and rural development aspects. This will probably not be an interesting option for the bigger public agencies with important regional interactions (e.g. INDAP, CORFO), but it could be a valid option for smaller agencies, reducing the current fragmentation of public agencies in the territories and providing a more comprehensive public sector offer to the citizens (see the section on multi-service centres below). This would be in line with the reform that Finland recently carried out to rationalise the presence of national public agencies in its regions (Box 3.8). The case of Finland also highlights the importance of adapting national priorities to regional and territorial realities, ensuring that the regions are heard in the ministries.

Box 3.8. Consolidating central government agencies in the regions: Finland’s ALKU

Finland’s recent reform, ALKU (Reform Project for Regional Administration), was completed in 2010. It aimed at rationalising the system of regional state administration by clarifying and re-organising the roles, duties, steering and regional division of all regional administrative authorities. First, the powers of 18 regional councils, in charge of regional development policy in Finland, were increased to some extent. They were given more responsibility to co-ordinate regional development activities as well as strategic tasks. Second, existing - and numerous - regional state authorities were consolidated and merged. All state provincial offices, employment and economic centres, regional environmental centres, environmental permit agencies, road districts and occupational health and safety districts were phased out and their functions and tasks reorganised and streamlined into two new regional state administrative bodies: the centres for economic development, transport and the environment (ELY) and the regional state administrative agencies (AVI).

The 15 ELY regional centres manage the implementation and development tasks of the state administration. Their tasks are to promote regional competitiveness, well-being and sustainable development, and to curb climate change. They also focus on development of business and industry, the labour force, competence and cultural activities, transport and infrastructure as well as the environment and natural resources. The task of the six AVI centres is to foster regional parity by carrying out all legislative implementation, steering and supervisory functions in the regions. These agencies strengthen the implementation of basic rights and legal protection, access to basic public services, environmental protection and sustainability, public safety, and a safe and healthy living and working environment in the regions. The agencies work in close collaboration with local authorities.

The ELY and AVI centres exercise their influence at the national level with the national ministries as they negotiate and agree on the programme of work for the whole government period. The resulting strategy documents lay the foundation for the work of regional centres and national ministries. Regional councils influence the preparation of these documents and, in this way, bring the “voice of the region” into the centres’ strategic choices and ensure that the regions are heard in the ministries.

According to the interim evaluation of the ALKU project, the reform has been a good starting point for consolidating the administration and preventing fragmentation. The administration’s ideas on services have been clarified, but no clear commitment to improve the level of services has been made. With several ministries jointly steering the merged regional administration, there are more negotiations, but also some challenges related to co-ordination. However, it is expected that the focus in regional development policies will increasingly move to a policy that is based on interactive negotiation and agreement between the national and regional levels.

Source: Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

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