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The Centralization/Decentralization Paradox in Civil Service Reform: How Government Structure Affects Democratic Training of Civil Servants


Eva M. Witesman is an assistant professor of public management at the Romney Institute of Public Management, Brigham Young University. Her primary research interest is the impact of structural arrangements on democratic outcomes.

Charles R. Wise is Founding Director of the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University and Director of the Parliamentary Development Project for Ukraine. He is a three-time recipient of the William E. Mosher and Frederick C. Mosher Award for the best academic article published in PAR.


We hypothesize that the structural characteristics (i.e., centralization versus decentralization) of government affect the availability of training in values and skills that are fundamental to democratization. We test our hypothesis in statistical models predicting anticorruption training and policy skills training, using a model of technical skills training for comparison. We find that centralized government structure significantly increases the odds of receiving both anticorruption training and policy skills training. In contrast, we find no statistical correlation between government structure and receipt of technical skills training. In light of these empirical results, we describe a theoretical paradox in civil service reform associated with democratization: While the end goal of such reform is decentralized government with local services and a professionalized civil service, reform itself may best supported by a centralized environment to achieve the democratic value and skills training needed to support transition to democracy.