DIME Governance Program



Government organizations provide essential public services in key areas such as health, education, and infrastructure. The size of the public sector is especially large in developing countries. However, key determinants of effective governments are still largely unknown. For instance, which factor is most important to ensure effective delivery of public goods? Or, which mechanisms ensure a more transparent and accountable public procurement process? These are still unanswered policy research questions. Governance reforms are often long term, complex, and difficult to measure. Rigorous evidence on what works in the sector is, therefore, in short supply. In fact, the governance field represents less than 3 percent of registered impact evaluations.

DIME and the Governance Global Practice launched the ieGovern program in 2013 to produce rigorous evidence to improve governance project results and to push the frontier of available evidence on what works in governance reform. To date, the program has a portfolio of 31 IEs across the world that study four main themes: (i) civil service reform, (ii) public financial management (tax and procurement), (iii) justice, and (iv) decentralization/subnational public-sector management.

Over the last year, the program has reached maturity: most IEs in the portfolio have passed concept note stage and are currently being implemented. A conceptual framework centered on mechanisms of incentives, demand-side and top-down accountability, relaxing of constraints, and delivery mechanisms has been firmly established (see also the Governance and Accountability section in chapter 5.4). Lastly, important initiatives related to ieGovern have been launched: the Bureaucracy Lab and the Research Flagship report of the Global Tax Team (see more details below).

The Bureaucracy Lab (Civil-Service Reform)

IE research has mainly focused on studying performance incentives for frontline staff—such as teachers, nurses, and doctors—that address, for instance, problems of absenteeism or underperformance. To go beyond this, IE work in the civil service-reform pillar focuses on research questions related to those civil servants who work in core government core ministries, such as ministries of finance and education, and bear the responsibility for designing a county’s policies, collecting its taxes, and so on. Key policy questions being studied include how to motivate public-sector workers to perform better with different (monetary and mission-based) incentives (Liberia and Pakistan), how to improve the governance of maintenance of public infrastructure (Tanzania), how streamlined information flows within the public sector can improve project performance (Pakistan), and how a public-private partnership can facilitate access to public services for marginalized groups (India).

IE work on civil-service reform fits into a broader research program called The Bureaucracy Lab, which is an initiative co-led by DIME and the Governance Global Practice. The Lab is creating improved administrative data on the characteristics of public officials and their organizations to inform the operational design of public-sector organizations. In addition, the Lab is undertaking experimental work with large-scale surveys of civil servants to generate an evidence base on how to survey civil servants effectively.  The Bureaucracy Lab is also working with academic anthropologists and sociologists to create a detailed picture of civil services across the world.  Each of these elements uses the ieGovern program as a platform for research, while providing inputs that feed back into the design of the evaluations.

Tax and Procurement

Public Financial Management (PFM) reforms are a core of support in client countries, by the World Bank and other donors for a long time. Yet only few IEs exist on the effectiveness of different PFM systems. The IE research work under ieGovern tried to fill this gap with several IEs in the PFM subsectors of tax and procurement. Research questions being addressed include the impact of the adoption of e-procurement systems on competition and market entry of new firms, prices and value for money of government purchases (Bangladesh and Brazil), how centrally coordinated framework agreements affect the procurement process and quality of services procured (Colombia), and how behavioral nudges and facilitation measures can affect willingness to pay taxes and tax compliance (Tanzania and Colombia).

The ieGovern portfolio of tax research has helped spark the creation of a broader research program embedded in the Governance Global Practice focused on Innovations in Tax Compliance. The objective of the research program is to influence the design of World Bank tax operations through the development of a multifaceted approach to improving tax compliance. This approach explores strategies that are both i) technically appropriate and ii) lever the Bank’s broader governance operations to engage citizens and progressively build trust, reciprocity, and support for tax compliance.

To do this, the project will develop a framework that holistically looks at enforcement, facilitation, and trust as key mechanisms to improving tax compliance. The work recognizes that technocratic reform focused on enforcement and facilitation remains essential, but more substantial and long-term improvements are ultimately likely to depend on building relationship of mutual trust between government and taxpayers.  The project will serve as a convening force for research partnerships both inside the Bank and with outside academic/research institutions, including International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD), Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), and Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI). 

Data and Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE)

The Data and Evidence for Justice Reform (DE JURE) program is a collaboration between the World Bank’s Governance Global Practice and the Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) team. By leveraging the Bank's relationship with governments, the DE JURE program aims to harness the potential of recent changes in data availability to establish a global data infrastructure for the justice sector, and – through rigorous analysis and experimentation – expand the evidence base on the economics of justice reform.

The program has three objectives:

I. DATA: Work with World Bank operations and client governments to strengthen case management and administrative data systems, and pilot a public data depository that brings together key elements from these systems in the form of a series of ‘Doing Justice’ indicators;

II. MEASUREMENT: Use administrative and survey data, in conjunction with economic theory and literature, to develop an empirically-validated measurement framework that lays the foundation for research on the economics of justice reform;

III. LEARNING: Work with client governments to tackle priority policy research questions to understand the impacts of changes in laws and regulations, information and monitoring systems, and incentives and enforcement mechanisms, by embedding experimental research into the rollout and scale-up of justice sector interventions.

Subnational PSM/Decentralization

Transferring power and responsibilities to local entities is a very popular reform for many countries, including in OECD, middle-income, and poor countries. However, the evidence base of how decentralization reforms fare in practice has not kept up with the number of reforms. Unanswered research questions include how to measure and incentivize the performance of local governments, how to deal with potential elite capture at the local level, and how to ensure local governments have sufficient capacity to handle increasing responsibilities and collet their own revenues.

Our research programs explore several dimensions of the decentralization puzzle. In Cambodia, an IE is testing how to harness social-accountability interventions to improve service delivery of local governments. The impact of demand-side actors such as community officers and community-based organizations in making local governments more accountable is being studied in Burkina Faso and Solomon Islands. Transfers of resources from central government to local governments based on their institutional performances are being tested in Tanzania to assess whether this program-for-results type of incentive scheme is effective in improving local service delivery.

Governance Experts

Daniel Oliver Rogger

Senior Economist, Governance and Institution Building Research Program Manager, Development Impact (DIME)