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Agencification in Public Administration  

Koen Verhoest, Sandra van Thiel, and Steven F. De Vadder

Agencification is the creation of semi-autonomous agencies: organizations charged with public tasks like policy implementation, regulation, and public service delivery, operating at arm’s length from the government. Although not a new development, agencification became very popular from the 1980s on as part of the New Public Management reforms. Three types of agencies can be distinguished, based predominantly on their formal legal features. Type 1 agencies have some managerial autonomy but do not have their own legal identity separate from the state or their parent ministry. Type 2 agencies are organizations and bodies with managerial autonomy that have their own legal identity separate from the state or their parent ministry. Type 3 organizations have their own legal identity vested in, and defined by, private law and are established by, or on behalf of, the government in the form of a private law corporation, company, or a foundation, but they are predominantly controlled by government and are at least partially involved in executing public tasks. Specific characteristics of agencies differ between countries and findings show few systematic patterns: similar tasks are charged to different types of agencies. A crucial element in the functioning of agencies is the formal and de facto interplay of autonomy and control, and how this can be explained in a static and dynamic way. Studies about agencification list three main categories of its effects: economic, organizational, and political effects. However, there is still a lot that needs to be studied about agencification, its forms, and its effects.