Although considerable resources and attention have been allocated to recent ‘good governance’ public management reform in low income and fragile states, there is little evidence as to what degree this agenda has been implemented nor as to whether it has led to improved services and outcomes for populations. To address this lacuna, we conduct a review of the large but almost entirely qualitative literature on good governance reform in the 49 countries classed as low income by the United Nations. We find only a small number of documents that link good governance public sector reform agendas with implementation. Fewer still assess outcome. We conduct an empirical analysis of the relationship between reform agenda (using data from the literature review), implementation, service delivery and outcomes, as measured by performance on Millennium Development Goals indicators. We report that there is little, if any, empirical evidence that reform enhances service delivery. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.