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ICN Seminar on competition agency effectiveness

Summary Report

This paper reports on the discussions that took place in January's seminar in Brussels devoted to competition agency effectiveness, highlights the main points that were made and raise ideas as to the future ICN work. Though it does not constitute minute of the meeting, it is structured on the four main themes of it, completed by an overall assessment on the continuing pursuit for better practices and the main issues identified.

The first part of the report deals with the strategic planning and prioritisation of the work of competition agencies, which broadly consists in three steps: definition of strategy/strategic objectives; plan to implement this strategy and prioritisation of tasks. In the conduct of prioritisation, the right balance has to be found between potential impact and significance of each task on the one hand, and its potential risk and resource intensity on the other. The degree of autonomy of agencies in setting their objectives however varies, and may impose obligatory enforcement activity. In any cases, the need for adequate information in this phase is emphasised.

The second part of the report concerns effective project delivery regarding three topics: case and project management, agency structure and human resources management. Regarding the first one the report deals with the determination of clear prioritisation criteria. With regard to agency structure, this part analyses why, beyond the choice between sectoral-based organisation, instrument-based one or hybrid structure, flexibility in re-allocation of resources internally is essential. Concerning human resources issues, recruitment and retention of staff is at stake, in the context of competition with private sector employers.

Part three is about evaluation, which appears to be challenging for competition agencies for a number of reasons. However, this paper highlights the basic types of evaluation used by them regarding the efficiency of the procedures, the impact of cases on the directly affected market, the one on other markets (deterrence) and beyond-cases evaluation (advocacy, communication). Beyond the methodology and actors of the evaluation (internal vs. external), it also raises the question of the uses of evaluation (accountability and improvement).

Accountability and communication are dealt with in the fourth part of the report. It shows how accountability is to be looked at as a parallel to independency in order to achieve credibility. Regarding communication, the emphasis is put on the fact that it is a requirement for effective advocacy and deterrence, and needs to be addressed jointly by dedicated teams and casehandlers.

Fifth part of the report summaries the conclusions of consultations in the context of the "FTC at 100" project, stating the general characteristics of good administrative practice for competition agencies.

Eventually, taking into account the general constraints of public administrations and the specific ones face by competition agencies, the last part of the report identifies the main issues to be addressed by them from an overall point of view. Some specific areas of relevance for agency effectiveness on which the ICN could have a look in the future are also listed, and include: tools and procedures used for optimal case management; recruitment retention and motivation of staff; evaluation of competition agencies actions; and communication policy.