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October 28, 2009


Ken Levine

Well, Karl, I always wanted to be a policeman. I guess we fit that model, here at the Sunset Commission in Texas. However, we rely heavily on fire alarms to alert us to areas of executive branch agencies' problems. Public, usually interest group, participation is an important part of our process. Of course, Dr. VanLandingham is well aware of the police/fire models. I guess I missed that lesson somewhere along the line, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks for bringing this topic forward.

ned schneier

This is a most useful distinction that appears to apply in a number of settings. Oversight is too often overlooked in looking at legislatures, yet its effectiveness may be more closely related to democratization than any other institutional variable. Let me recommend the World Bank's uneven but very interesting collection of essays on Oversight and Budgeting edited by Rick Stapenhurst and published by the Wrold Bank Institute.

Karl Kurtz

Thanks for the comment, Ken. I did receive a correction from Gary Vanlandingham saying that what he told me was that the fire alarm/policy patrol typology was well known to academia, not necessarily to program evaluation staff.

And Ned, thanks for the reference. Searching on the Web, I didn't find the exact title that you referenced, but here is a collection of essays edited by Riccardo Pelizzo and Rick Stapenhurst on "Legislatures and Oversight:"

ned schneier

That's the early edition. The revised 2008 version has a few more essays, and I know that my own piece (on Indonesia) is updated. Full title is "Legislative Oversight and Budgeting: A World Perspective."

Karl Kurtz

Thanks for the info, Ned, but you're making me work too hard! Here's the link to the purchase site for the more recent report: If you just want to dip your toe in this international comparative study of legislative oversight and don't want to shell out $40 for the book, you might want to go with the shorter, earlier, free version on the Web.

Dave Adamson

Great information here. I found it very interesting as the police operate very differently here in Australia. I know a few police officers personally and their fire alarm and drill procedures are second to none. Great read.

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