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Working paper

Why manipulate? Performance measurement and data manipulation in regional and local government

The problem of credibility of performance information is understudied in the public administration literature. Only a few scholarly articles examine the issue of (dis)honest performance reporting. Despite the widespread acceptance of the importance of public sector transparency and accountability, little attention has been devoted to examining the factors that promote or undermine honest performance reporting in government agencies. This articles presents the results of a survey of 177 municipalities who were asked to rate the credibility of 33 performance indicators used to evaluate performance of local governments. The survey demonstrates that some indicators are trusted significantly less than others. Statistical analysis shows that least trusted indicators exhibit a peculiar dynamics that Kalgin (2014) describes as “prudent data manipulation”. Theoretical explanations of this are presented based on different theories of bureaucracy.