University of Canberra, Australia
“Arm’s length body” (or “ALB”) is a new class-name for a large group of non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) that has been engaged in delivering services for governments virtually since the beginnings of modern governance.
This article begins by noting the rising interest in service delivery as a major issue in public administration and public management. It then reviews the field of non-departmental bodies as it stands after the first decade of the 21st century, noting the introduction of the new class-name and explaining how this has come about. To some degree at least, these bodies stand outside the central apparatus of government and are granted autonomy from the normal processes of government. Finding a balance between the need to preserve that autonomy and the need for some central monitoring and steering is vital in securing their successful operation.
This is a major challenge being faced by many governments today. The article concludes by noting and commenting on some recent inquiries of a policy nature in big and small jurisdictions that have sought to provide better order in this important area of governance with emphasis on service delivery.