This article examines the agencification of public service in Tanzania. This is discussed with reference to the New Public Management (NPM)-inspired reforms of which the creation of executive agencies is one of its core features. The article attempts to understand the extent to which executive agencies in Tanzania display characteristic features of an ideal-agency model as propagated by the NPM reform doctrines. Key features of the ideal-agency model have been described as structural disaggregation, autonomy and contractualisation. It questions views held by many NPM-minded reformers, such as the EU and World Bank that this model is universally applicable and can be emulated in different parts of the world. The article's assumption is that the NPM-agency model is based on a weak empirical foundation and its universal applicability is questionable. To illustrate our arguments we confront the NPM-agency model with the empirical data drawn from the agencification of public services in Tanzania. Findings indicate that agencies in Tanzania display hybrid characteristics in terms of their autonomy and control. Our conclusion is that the universality of NPM-agency model is illusive. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.