Why do Belgian public agencies use the Common Assessment Framework (CAF)


Public sector organisations throughout Europe are increasingly applying quality models such as the EFQM Business Excellence Model, the ISO 9000 or 14000 series, Balanced Scorecard approaches, Six Sigma, etc. Recently, the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) was added to this ‘hit parade’ of quality tools. It has been introduced as a self-assessment tool which will be widely used by European public agencies – and this shared nature means that it can give rise to interesting comparative analysis. It aspires to bridge the different quality models and to serve as a useful starter model before moving on to more sophisticated quality management models. However, why would a public sector organisation choose to introduce quality models? Sceptics of quality management often state that the use of such models is purely for window dressing, particularly when they are used in external assessments, as is the case in quality awards. Public agencies which are awarded a prize in such competitions may market this external recognition to justify their raison d’être, to protect them from budget cuts or to reduce the risk of being privatised. In these cases, the motivation for applying quality models is externally driven. Advocates of quality models, however, stress the benefits of quality models for the organisation. They assume that the internal use of quality models will lead to tangible improvements in the quality of public services through organisational learning. In other words, the use of quality models for self-assessment is driven by motivations internal to the organisation.

In Elke Löffler and Mirko Vintar (Eds.), Improving the quality of East and Western European public services. Ashgate: Aldershot