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Administrative reform and unintended consequences : an assessment of the EU Cohesion policy ‘audit explosion’

Mendez, Carlos and Bachtler, John (2011) Administrative reform and unintended consequences : an assessment of the EU Cohesion policy ‘audit explosion’. Journal of European Public Policy, 18 (5). pp. 746-765. ISSN 1350-1763

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This paper investigates the effects of administrative reform in the Commission on policy implementation and outcomes through a study of EU Cohesion policy auditing. It argues that the growth in audit has taken a distinctively compliance-oriented form, in contrast with the performance audit model adopted in other countries that have embraced administrative modernization agendas. Further, the link between organizational efficiency and governance effectiveness postulated by other studies of Commission administrative reform is challenged, as the underlying audit and control problem in Cohesion policy – the high error rate – remain unresolved. Lastly, the proliferation in Cohesion policy auditing is presented as a classic example of unintended consequences: originally intended to improve policy performance and accountability, it has in fact undermined the strategic performance of the policy and is even threatening its sustainability.