Building public policy on shifting sands: the case of the National Asset Management Agency

Francis McGeough, Matthias Beck

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Over the last thirty years, there has been an increased demand for better management of public sector organisations (PSOs). This requires that they are answerable for the inputs that they are given but also for what they achieve with these inputs (Hood 1991; Hood 1995). It is suggested that this will improve the management of the organisation through better planning and control, and the achievement of greater accountability (Smith 1995). However, such a rational approach with clear goals and the means to measure achievement can cause difficulties for many PSOs. These difficulties include the distinctive nature of the public sector due to the political environment within which the public sector manager operates (Stewart and Walsh 1992) and the fact that PSOs will have many stakeholders, each of whom will have their own specific objectives based on their own perspective (Boyle 1995). This can
result in goal ambiguity which means that there is leeway in interpreting the results of the PSO. The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) was set up to bring stability to the financial system by buying loans from the banks (which were in most cases, non-performing loans). The intention was to cleanse the banks of these loans so that they could return to their normal business of taking deposits and making loans. However, the legislation, also gave NAMA a wide range of other responsibilities including responsibility for facilitating credit in the economy and protecting the interests of taxpayers. In more recent times, NAMA has been given responsibility for building social housing. This wide-range of activities is a clear example of a PSO being given multiple goals which may conflict and is therefore likely to lead to goal ambiguity. This makes it very difficult to evaluate NAMA’s performance as they are attempting to meet numerous goals at the same time and also highlights the complexity of policy making in the public sector. The purpose of this paper is to examine how NAMA dealt with goal ambiguity. This will be done through a thematic analysis of its annual reports over the last five years. The paper’s will contribute to the ongoing debate about the evaluation of PSOs and the complex environment within which they operate which makes evaluation difficult as they are
answerable to multiple stakeholders who have different objectives and different criteria for measuring success.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2016
EventIrish Accounting & Finance Association Annual Conference, 19th – 20th May, 2016. - Waterford Insitute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland
Duration: 19 May 201620 May 2016


ConferenceIrish Accounting & Finance Association Annual Conference, 19th – 20th May, 2016.
Abbreviated titleIAFA Conference 2016


  • National Asset Management Agency
  • Goal ambiguity
  • Housing Policy
  • Republic of Ireland


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