Research Methods & Research Design
Information And Accountability
Governments use different regulatory instruments to ensure that businesses owners or “inspectees” comply with rules and regulations. One tool that is increasingly applied is disclosing inspectees’ performance information to other stakeholders. Disclosing performance information has consequences for street‐level bureaucrats because it increases the visibility of their day‐to‐day work. Using a survey (n = 507) among Dutch inspectors of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, this article shows that the disclosure of performance information has an impact on enforcement style at the street level. Findings show that perceived disclosed performance information positively enhances all three dimensions of street‐level bureaucrats’ enforcement style (legal, facilitation, and accommodation). This effect is strongest for facilitation and accommodation and weakest for the legal style. Perceived resistance by inspectees partly explains this effect. Contrary to expectations, more perceived disclosure does not result in more but in less perceived resistance of inspectees by street‐level bureaucrats.
This study investigates the extent to which inspectors perceive government transparency as impacting regulatory performance. It theorizes that when inspectors perceive an increase in transparency, they find that the perceived relational distance between themselves and their inspectees rises and this, subsequently, increases regulatory performance. The findings from a survey among Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority inspectors (n = 466) confirm that inspectors view an increase in transparency as enhancing regulatory performance. This study further investigates this mechanism by comparing two divisions with different levels of factual relational distance (i.e., frequency of inspector–inspectee interactions). The findings reveal that only in the division with small factual relational distance does perceived relational distance mediate the effect of transparency on regulatory performance. More specifically, in divisions with small factual relational distance, more perceived transparency increases perceived relational distance; this in turn, increases perceived regulatory performance.
This study investigates street-level bureaucrats’ enforcement style and its underlying dimensions by developing and validating a multidimensional measurement scale. Developing a measurement scale for enforcement style is relevant because the number of underlying dimensions is contested and studies developing measurement scales are scarce. This complicates cross-sector and cross-national comparisons. Using a survey among inspectors of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, street-level enforcement style is found to comprising three dimensions: (1) legal, (2) facilitation, and (3) accommodation. This study contributes to more validated measurement instruments by presenting a 13-item measure that can be used to study street-level bureaucrats’ enforcement style.