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Guest lecture

Shaping Culture to Enhance the Policy Influence of Advisory Agencies

Event series: 

The Treasury is pleased to sponsor the following Treasury Guest Lecture by Dr Joseph Wallis.


A social constructionist framework can be applied to evaluate the cultural health of an advisory agency in terms of the internal integration of its officials with one another and the other members of the government department in which it is embedded and its capacity to adapt to sustain and enhance the respect it commands from its external stakeholders – cabinet ministers, department heads, social actors and engaged members of the public. The adoption of a coherent policy paradigm can integrate the agency and allow its officials to take the lead in interpreting problems and suggesting solutions that reflect an identifiable policy line.  This can, though, lead to an attribution of agency bias that erodes the respect commanded by its officials particularly where they are perceived as interpreting ‘wicked’ problems as ‘tame’ in order to legitimate the application of its in-house expertise in generating solutions.  This risk is intensified where the agency operates in a deliberative rather  than delegative political culture and would explain why, for example, the Irish Department of Finance (IDOF) has been far more reticent than the New Zealand Treasury (NZT) in providing leadership in strategy formulation and public service modernization over the last twenty five years.  The corrosive effect such long term leadership avoidance can have on agency respect has been brought into focus by the findings of the 2011 ‘Wright report’ into the advisory performance of the IDOF.  The lessons it can learn from both the more assertive role the NZT played during the 1984-1993 reform era and its more recent strategic correction to perceived ‘over-reach’ will be considered in this presentation.


Dr Joe Wallis is Head of the Department of Management and Professor of Economics and Public Administration at the American University of Sharjah. Joe holds a PhD in Economics from Rhodes University in South Africa and has taught a wide range of courses in economics, management and public administration at universities in New Zealand (where he worked in the Department of Economics at the University of Otago between 1987 and 2003), South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.  He has also consulted for the Development Bank of South Africa, Local Government New Zealand, the Association of Supported Employment New Zealand, the Centre for Local Government in Australia and the Irish Institute of Public Administration as well as a number of UAE organizations.  Joe’s research focus is in the areas of public economics, public administration, leadership and policy reform.  He has co-authored 5 books including most recently The International Handbook of Public Management Reform (Edward Elgar 2009) and Reform and Leadership in the Public Sector (Edward Elgar 2009) and has written over 80 articles in journals including Governance, World Development, Public Administration, Local Government Studies and Public Money and Management.

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Last updated: 
Thursday, 21 February 2013