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Peer evaluation to develop benchmarking in the public sector

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Abstract:

Purpose ‐ The urgency to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of public administrations has led to the adoption in the public sector ‐ in Italy as well as in other countries ‐ of tools and models inspired by the total quality management (TQM) approach, such as the common assessment framework (CAF). A parallel need was felt within public structures to train people, the "peers", who aside from being able to implement the self-evaluation activities of their own administration, also needed to be equipped with the necessary skills to complete external evaluation activities, namely "peer evaluations", with the ultimate aim of spreading quality management culture and best practices in the field through an approach based on benchmarking. The purpose of this paper is to present the results of a survey designed to determine the training requirements that a "peer" should acquire in order to perform "evaluation" activities. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper has strong empirical connotations and is essentially based on, first, a questionnaire given to evaluators/self-evaluators to identify the problems emerging with the application of the CAF model in administrations that have adopted it. In this sphere a great deal of attention has been paid to ‐ in addition to the preparation of the questionnaire ‐ the delicate task of codifying the answers to open questions proposed to interviewees; and second, the investigation inherent in the current educational choices in Italy in the TQM arena, specifically addressing the public sector. Findings ‐ Apart from the analysis of data obtained from the investigation, presented with descriptive statistics, the paper identifies the training content necessary: first, to place "peers" in a position to be able to autonomously and fully carry out their evaluation work on the basis of the CAF model; and second, to render the evaluation activities systematically comparable among the various administrations. Research limitations/implications ‐ At the present time the research deals with the Italian context. However, future investigations involving different European countries could be carried out, taking the present results as a starting point for a benchmarking activity. Practical implications ‐ The paper puts forward the creation of a "network" of actors who manage all the "peer evaluation" activities, from the provision of the training pack and monitoring the "peer" exchange process, up to benchmarking initiatives and the dissemination of best practices. Originality/value ‐ The paper presents original data and information in order to identify the training needs of individuals that actually use CAF, starting from the assumption that the training of evaluators is the primary condition for promoting the adoption and diffusion of CAF in Italian public administrations and thus maximizing its benefits.
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