F) infine, urge risolvere il problema della valutazione nel settore pubblico, ma allo stesso tempo è rischioso e pericoloso introdurre un sistema di valutazione senza un'adeguata preparazione, non informando i lavoratori su come saranno valutati e senza dare loro il tempo di prepararsi in vista del processo di valutazione.
Il nostro progetto di ricerca vuole esaminare tali questioni in tre contesti specifici:
3) Assenteismo dei lavoratori pubblici
In tutti i casi saranno utilizzati dati amministrativi raramente o mai analizzati in passato. Quando necessario, il progetto distinguerà tra la valutazione dei dipendenti pubblici e degli uffici pubblici e la valutazione dell'impatto prodotto da politiche specifiche che hanno interessato il settore. Questi due aspetti della performance della PA presentano problematiche specifiche da trattare separatamente. Tuttavia, sono accomunati dalle difficoltà evidenziate in precedenza che ne giustificano un'analisi coordinata e parallela.
Le tre unità coinvolte riuniscono alcuni dei ricercatori che oggi in Italia sono più attivi nello sviluppo di metodi e strategie per la valutazione della PA. Alcuni di loro hanno già collaborato su temi di ricerca specifici e se riceveranno il finanziamento potrà stabilirsi tra loro una cooperazione ancora più proficua in relazione alle linee e agli obiettivi di ricerca descritti in quanto segue.
Abstract in inglese
Evaluating the performance of the Public Administration (henceforth PA) is of fundamental importance for an advanced economy. At the macro level, national accounts do not reflect value added generated by the PA. At the micro level, we need measures of individual or team productivity in order to allocate resources efficiently and to provide correct incentives to public employees. This is an issue that raises interesting and difficult research questions.
The problem is particularly serious in Italy where several indicators suggest that the poor performance of public services and public employees is a burden that severely limits economic growth. A significant sign of how important the problem is for policy makers and the public opinion is that the only reforms introduced by the current government that passed almost without opposition in the Italian Parliament were those aimed at introducing some form of evaluation in the PA. As a result of this surprising convergence of the political spectrum, in most branches of the PA (education, research, justice, health, public services), the debate on "if and how to evaluate" is raving at all levels of the hierarchies: almost everybody agrees that some form of evaluation is needed but there is no consensus on how to do it.
The lack of consensus in the public opinion debate is partly determined by the absence of sufficiently consolidated results in the scientific literature on the best practices to evaluate workers, organizational choices, procedures and policies in the public services. These practices appear indeed more difficult here than in the private sector for several reasons that the present research project wants to study in detail with the goal of finding operational solutions. Specifically the most important of these reasons are:
A) The difficulty to define and measure the outcome of interest, given that in most public jobs output cannot be measured in monetary values, nor in other well defined units of measurement.
B) The need to address the ethical concerns that limit the use of conventional evaluation methods based on experiments. These concerns are stronger in the case of the PA inasmuch as an experimentally controlled differentiation of its services among citizens and different treatment for workers is less acceptable.
C) Practically everywhere, and more than in the private sector, the output of the PA is the result of teamwork, and this increases the difficulty of evaluating the contribution of individual workers and of designing their reward accordingly.
D) Related to point C, tournaments and relative performance evaluation methods which are largely used in the private sector, are more problematic in the public sector, inasmuch as they limit cooperation among employees and may foster sabotage of teamwork. Note that Law 15 of March 2009 (henceforth Brunetta Law) has selected relative performance as the main criterion for evaluating and rewarding individual workers in public offices.
E) In the case of some public employees (e.g. nurses, teachers, researchers, judges), it is often argued that their work is a "mission" that is rewarded by intrinsic motivation. In these cases, as extensively shown in the literature, evaluation, control and monetary incentives can produce opposite results than in other contexts, because they can de-motivate workers, kill intrinsic motivation, offend their cooperative spirit and produce adverse selection at hiring (i.e. they could attract a larger pool or workers with no intrinsic motivation but only monetary motivation).
F) Finally, it is urgent to solve the problem of evaluating the public sector, but at the same time it is risky and dangerous to introduce an evaluation system without adequate preparation, without informing workers about what will be evaluated and without giving them the time to prepare for the evaluation.
Our research project addresses these issues in the context of three specific applications:
3) Absenteeism of public employees
In all cases we will use new administrative data sources rarely or never analyzed before. Whenever appropriate and useful, the project will distinguish between the evaluation of individual public workers and offices in their normal daily functioning and the evaluation of the impact of specific policies and interventions by public authorities. These two different aspects of the performance of the PA have their own specific problems that require to be addressed separately, but also share many of the difficulties highlighted above. This justifies a parallel and coordinated treatment.
The three units involved in this project bring together some of the researchers who today in Italy are more actively involved in developing methods and strategies for the evaluation of the PA. Some of them are already cooperating on specific issues, and if this project is financed, more fruitful cooperation will emerge along the lines and with the goals described in what follows.