Too Complex to Deliver? Administrative Capacity, Governance, and Waste Management in Peruvian Municipalities

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[Bloomington, Ind.] : Indiana University


Global South cities vary in their ability to provide complex social services, like environmentally proper solid waste disposal, but typically perform better with simple services, like trash collection from the streets. This dissertation examines whether core local governance factors determine these performance disparities to help bring light to a consequential pattern of service delivery issues in Global South municipalities. Three crucial factors are studied to answer the following overarching puzzle: Why are some local governments successful at providing simple services while at the same time blatantly failing at providing complex services, when other, similar municipalities can do both? I focus on service-specific municipal administrative capacity, formal community-based civil society organizations (CSO) involvement, and local collaborative governance. In this dissertation, I make four principal arguments. The first argument is that it is insufficient to examine municipality-wide administrative capacity to understand what is happening to service performance in a particular policy area. Instead, the second argument states that it is more accurate to assess service-specific administrative capacity, and such capacity may differ across simple and complex tasks, even in the same service. Drawing on comparative quantitative and qualitative evidence, I show that similarly-resourced municipal waste suboffices that can do both simple and complex services differ from those that fail in that they have multilevel capacity tailored to service complexity level. The third argument is that CSOs can substitute for or complement local government in implementing simple service provision, but complex service provision requires strong, specialized capacity within the local government offices. CSOs are unlikely to be able to provide such complex services in the absence of administrative capacity. I show that, at least in Global South cities like those in Peru, organizationally strong CSOs can manage waste collection efficiently and effectively, but their missions, planning, operational, and leadership capabilities limit their involvement in disposal due to the complexity of disposal’s requirements. Moreover, most CSOs do not have the type of relationship with municipal government ––nor the respect of local officials–– needed to provide complex services. The fourth argument claims that local collaborative governance contributes to performance improvements if it addresses performance issues equally across services. I find that cogovernance venues matter locally, in the Global South, for improving simple service performance. This work employs a mixed-methods research design. It uses a unique panel dataset of all Peruvian municipalities across three years for quantitative analysis of the effect of municipal capacity, CSO presence, and cogovernance on simple collection and complex disposal. It also draws on qualitative interview and ethnographic data from four and a half months of intensive fieldwork in three municipalities, which was used for comparative analysis of the conditions in which municipal capacity and CSO participation affect both waste services.


Thesis (Ph.D.) - Indiana University, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Political Science, 2022


Administrative capacity; Civil society organizations; Collaborative governance; Global South; Peru; Service provision



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Doctoral Dissertation