An examination of the relationship between Special Operating Agencies and ministerial responsibility in the government of Manitoba

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Markham, David J.
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The agency model is a form of government organization that is quickly gaining credibility throughout bureaucratic circles. The Government of Manitoba has subsequently embarked on its own agency model program; it has created 16 Special Operating Agencies (SOAs) and has granted these agencies certain managerial freedoms that allow them to function in a more "business-like" manner. In effect, the reforms have replaced direct ministerial control with operating charters, business plans, annual reports and performance measurement designed to keep ministers apprised of agency activities without intruding into the daily workings of the agency. Critics contend that this arrangement represents erosion of traditional principles of ministerial responsibility, and base their criticism on similar agency model programmes implemented by governments in Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada. This thesis reviews the Manitoba SOA initiative and pays specific attention to the measures implemented by the Government of Manitoba to secure ministerial responsibility. Drawing on interviews with relevant agency figures, the inner dynamics of the new reporting procedures will be considered with particular attention paid to ministers' bility to answer before the Legislative Assembly, agency officials compliance with roles and responsibilities outlined in operating charters, and perceptions of performance measurement as tools of prospective and retrospective control. The thesis will argue that the agency model has been cautiously applied in Manitoba thereby muting concerns associated with the loss of accountability. However, the thesis will also argue that several critical components of the SOA model have not been implemented to the extent that creators of the SOA model had envisioned, and that such lapses could result in confusion should the SOA project be expanded in the future.