The (in)dependence of public managers from politicians in public sector organizations: a comparative research


The politics-administration dichotomy represents a formally accepted and frequently used model in many advanced countries, but, recently, it has proven incapable of capturing the reality of the public sector, where the distinction between political and administrative staff is more theoretical than real. This paper aims to investigate how politicians influence managerial activities in the Italian public sector contrasting three different segments: Regional Governments, Municipalities and Health-care. The research is based on a questionnaire completed by 916 managers (568 working for Regions, 241 for Municipalities and 104 for the Health-care sector), that includes a specific scale to measure political influence (Bellò and Spano, 2015). The results show some similarities and differences in the way politicians exert their influence on managers’ activity in the cited segments. Politicians mainly influence what objectives must be given priority and the setting of action plans even though in Municipalities and Health-care sector the political influence is perceived to be stronger than at Regional level. In addition, the article reports on the distribution of managers among four types based on a model that categorizes public managers on two dimensions related to a) managerial responsibility and b) managerial autonomy/power to act on this responsibility (Bellò and Spano, 2015) Practical implications and research future perspectives are also discussed.

Key-Words: Amministrazioni pubbliche, New Political Governance, Politics-Administration Dichotomy, Political Influence, Managerial Autonomy and Power, Managerial Responsibility