Autonomy and control of public bodies: legal and economic autonomy and parliamentary control on service provision by ZBOs

J.A.M. de Kruijf

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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The study focuses on a particular group of arm’s length public service providers in the Netherlands, Zelfstandige Bestuursorganen [ZBO]. A ZBO provides authoritative services outside the hierarchical structure of government. Autonomy and control on ZBOs has been debated for some 30 years and has resulted in a new form of standard legislation by 2008. Control of arm’s length organisations is not a particular Dutch issue, but is found in many other countries as well. The key issue in the study is whether or not legal and economic control tools imposed upon ZBOs by minister and Parliament match each other. If a mismatch is observed, actual control might be more or less restrictive than required for the services to be delivered. The main conclusion from the research is that in only 1 case, legal and economic control tools match both by design as well as in practice. In two other cases a match was observed in practice. Particularly the income transfer ZBOs were faced with restrictive legal control tools, whereas monitoring ZBOs had more degrees of freedom but most of them also faced more legal controls than might be expected from an economic perspective. Although the study does not allow for full generalisations, it was also observed that the intended improvement of information provision towards Parliament based on new legislation has not been realised. Furthermore it was observed that Minister-Principals do not act consistently both within their own ministry as well as on the level of central government as a whole. The study concludes with some recommendations on improved information provision, legislation and a model that contributes to decision making in case of autonomisation of public services.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Mol, Nico Pieter, Supervisor
  • Thiel, S., Advisor, External person
  • Zijlstra, S.E., Supervisor, External person
Award date16 Jun 2011
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-3193-1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2011


  • IR-77453
  • METIS-275412


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