Should public managers be trusted or evaluated? The performance evaluation of public managers in Portuguese public administration
European Group of Public Administration (EGPA) Conference
In public as in private organisations, change and consequently reforms depend on the transformations of the value systems and reference frameworks of everyone that works in them. In the case of Portuguese public administration, where pyramidal hierarchical structures prevail and where decisions and rules are dictated from the top, the role of managers in the reform process is decisive (Rocha, 2001; Madureira, 2004). However, they often appear as one of the most resistant groups to change, afraid of loosing personal importance or status and gaining accountability (Madureira, 2004). The Portuguese experience demonstrates that the proximity to the political power (the majority of managing positions are appointed by politicians) has inhibiting effects in managers’ behaviours. The excessively cautious way in which they issue advice, defend their positions or avoid objective responsibilities is an example of this (Ganhão, 1994). Some defend that political trust is critical and that individual choice is the most appropriate method. Others tend to consider top managers not only as executers of public policies but also as active agents of change. Moynihan (2005) believes that in order to turn public administrations into organisations that actively seek results, it is necessary that performance evaluation becomes part of a paradigm that is reproduced, multiplied and apprehended by the entire organisation. In Portugal, the implementation of the new Integrated Evaluation System for public administration (SIADAP) suggests that an effective evaluation implies the adoption of a cascading goals approach, from the hierarchy top to the operational base. Nevertheless, this system only applies to civil servants and intermediate managers, leaving top managers out. The presumption is that top managers are evaluated on the basis of the organisation’s results. Then a question arises: Why isn’t public organisations evaluation determined by objectives, goals and performance indicators? Legally, we have observed in recent years some developments in relation to the performance evaluation methods for top managers, with the introduction of an individual mission statement and a yearly definition of goals. . In fact, little sense would the existence of SIADAP have without a rigorous performance evaluation of the highest levels of management. The binding of objectives, goals and even performance indicators can only be possible in a scheme of linkage and interdependency between the performances of the different hierarchical grades. However, one must not forget that the absence of a sanction factor for top managers, assuming that they eventually may not attain the objectives, emerges as a relative injustice factor when looked upon by civil servants which have more adverse evaluation conditions in this matter.