Intergovernmental Relations: Issues in Public Research Proposal

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Once more oriented to the minimal statistics gathering and funding assistance between more or less watertight compartments, intergovernmental relations (IGR) has evolved into dynamic and highly integrated sets of behaviors, not only between agents of government but among a host of non-governmental actors, non-profit and for-profit." (Agranoff, 2008) Agranoff states that intergovernmental relations appear to have started with "the territorial organization of states, often termed in international nomenclature as 'primary civil divisions'." (2008) However, changing and accelerating the IGR models was the 'rise of the welfare state' which resulted in "linking central and local governments in deep interdependency in such scope and breadth that the nineteenth century law and politics crowd could never imagine." (Agranoff, 2008)

At this time centralized government programs "began to become parachuted in to local communities by central governments, and in federal systems with connecting landings in constituent unit governments, that is states or provinces." (Agranoff, 2008) Agranoff relates that the intergovernmentalization has resulted in a model of governance that is described as the "overlapping authority model of governmental interaction." (Agranoff, 2008) Agranoff relates that in the 21st Century networks characterizes local government as well as business associations and economic development agencies. These networks have been defined as "structure of interdependence involving multiple organizations or parts thereof, where one unit is not merely the formal subordinate of the others in some larger hierarchical management." (O'Toole, 1997, in Agranoff, 2008)

However, study of intergovernmental networks state conclusions that these networks are "by no means replacing hierarchies, they are differentiated by function, they are non-hierarchical and self-functioning but managed, become knowledge builders and managers devoted to their primary purposes, can make a difference in terms of advancing public value, and while they change the way public managers work with NGOs, networks do not control public agencies." (Agranoff, 2008) Agranoff states that interesting to note concerning the intergovernmental networks which are emerging is that the "officials from central government, state/provincial government, local government, public and private universities, and NGO's representing the non-profit and for-profit sectors sit down with on another at the same table to discuss, explore, negotiate and solve issues." (Agranoff, 2008) Previously the transactions that were intergovernmental "were bilateral and focused on government to government or government-NGO matters..." however, the network approach is noted to be "clearly multilateral, collaborative and attack issues that transcend bilateral intergovernmental concerns." (Agranoff, 2008) the following figure lists the four intergovernmental relations areas or levels as stated in the work of Agranoff (2008).

Four Intergovernmental Relations Areas

Agranoff (2008)

The work of Zeemering (2006) entitled: "City Council Members and the Representation Function in Intergovernmental Decision-Making" states that it is shown in the research that the public administrator plays a role of a critical nature in intergovernmental collaboration." (Zeemering, 2006) Elected officials who are officers of the government with authority to vote are the representatives of the public on many contracts of an intergovernmental nature and the public budgets that fund jurisdiction service provision. Traditional conceptions of council-manager government have been challenged "by research that demonstrates the power distribution between administrative executives and elected officials" which varies across cities and is dependent on the "institutional structure and political dynamics within jurisdictions." (Zeemering, 2006) Today's public administration is stated to have developed "largely to address problems associated with the fragmented and disarticulated state problems that are multijurisdictional in nature require public managers prepared to form conjunctive solutions across the traditional political boundaries of local government jurisdictions." (Zeemering, 2006) Zeemering (2006) states that the conceptual mapping of federalism terminology in the work of Deil Wright (1990) can help in thinking about the elected official and their role in "inter-local collaboration." Zeemering relates that distinguished in Wrights work are: (1) federalism; (2) intergovernmental relations; and (3) intergovernmental management. (2008) in the construct as stated by Wright, the leading actors in federalism are the elected officials. Intergovernmental relations (IGR) and intergovernmental management mainly involve "administrative generalists" and "policy professionals" respectively... Elected officials are not the primary IGR actors..." And IGR is considered to be a "policy making and coordination activity." (Zeemering, 2006)

From this view intergovernmental management "...involves the implementation of networked programs and the problem solving associated with intergovernmental programs. Intergovernmental relations are characterized by middle-range involvement of elected politicians in contrast to intergovernmental management's minimal involvement of elected politicians. With this classification, elected officials might be expected to play a minimal role in managerial networks or implementation of an intergovernmental contract.
.." (Zeemering, 2006) Since intergovernmental relations are inclusive of policymaking decisions among jurisdictions of the government conceptualized might be a role for elected officials that is more active in decision making. This would not only make it more likely that the decisions made would be more adherent to the needs of the public at large but would ensure that the public at large be represented in actuality instead of merely in theory in relation to their desires and needs when decision making takes place.

The work of Kuye and Ile entitled: "Realizing the Full Potential of Public Service Reform Philosophies: With Particular Reference to the Nigeria's Servicom and South Africa's Bath Pele Principles" states that a study conducted of intergovernmental relations and government service delivery states findings that:

1) Services are not benefiting people as they are inaccessible and indifferent to customer needs;

2) Public confidence is poor and institutional arrangements are confusing and wasteful;

3) Service delivery program should rather respond to citizens and consumer demand;

4) Service entitlements and rights (including timeframes and fees) should be communicated to the people;

5) Information on performance should be published;

6) Services should be redesigned around customer requirements; and 7) Leadership commitment should be mustered from the top (along side values such as selflessness, integrity, accountability, openness, honesty objectivity and patriotism)." (Kuye and Ile, 2007)

Stated as necessary steps for improving the present situation are:

1) Improved communication and knowledge sharing among units of government and the public;

2) Create and strengthen monitoring and evaluation structures;

3) the public should be oriented and even re-oriented to the public services; and 4) the public should be educated about the philosophies of public service provision. (Kuye and Ile, 2007)


In understanding how the communication might be expanded as well as deepened in the intergovernmental relations realm there must be more transparency in government in that the public should be 'in the know' of both the structure and functions of governmental agencies and there must be a greater level of communication between elected officials and the government and between elected officials and the public. Education and orientation of the public in regards to public service provision is noted in the literature reviewed in this study to be of a critical nature in addressing the breakdowns in understanding due to communication errors in the governmental structure and processes.

Improving communication and knowledge sharing among units of the government and by and between the government and the public have been noted in the foregoing literature review to be critical in effective intergovernmental processes as well has the education of public related to intergovernmental activities. Effective intergovernmental relations are characterized by service delivery that is effective and efficient and the decision making processes are inclusive of all actors. Resulting is the absence of disputes among the various governmental spheres and the existence of mechanisms for resolution of disputes between spheres of government. IGR is a capacity that exists in all levels of government to develop IGR and to interact as equal partners in the process with mutual respect for decision making processes and time frames with a real understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each of these.


Key to implementation of successful IGR that is successful are meetings with stated purposes and agendas and a flow of communication within the government agencies and outward to the public at large. This type of face-to-face communication between representatives of the public in the form of elected officials and government agencies has the capacity to enhance and expand the information and knowledge that passes between the public and agencies of the government and to enhance intergovernmental relations.


Intergovernmental Relations - a Key to Good Service Delivery (nd) a Guide for Elected Members and Officials. An Output of Activity -IGR in the Free State. Australia South Africa Local Governance Partnership. Online available at

Agranoff, Robert2008) Toward an Emergent Theory of IGR Governance at the Dawn of the Network Era. Paper prepared for the 4th Transatlantic Dialogue, American Society for Public Administration/European Public Administration Group Milan, Italy June 12-14, 2008.

Zeemering, Eric (2006) City council members and the representation function in intergovernmental decision making. Working Group on Interlocal Services Cooperation. Political Science. 2006.

Kuye, J.O. And Ile, I.U. (2007) Realising the Full Potential of Public Service Reform Philosophies:.....

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