This study examines the transparency of the regulatory framework under which ministerial advisors exist within the politicized context of a Central and Eastern European perspective. We compare profiles and career paths of ministerial advisers under five different types of coalition governments and examine if variance across government types can be explained by type of party – established vs. new parties. Empirically, the article draws on a cohort of 162 ministerial advisers in Slovakia across five governments from 2010 to 2020. We arrive at multiple findings. Firstly, we suggest the limitation in the availability and reporting of data is an important finding as it highlights accountability gaps and lack of government transparency irrespective of the party in power. Secondly, within the low regulatory environment, ministers appoint multiple types of staff including both formal “visible” ministerial advisers and “invisible” ministerial agents that, if one could accurately measure, would likely demonstrate that the ministerial advisory system is more inflated than we currently present. The ad-hoc nature of the advisory system also creates fluctuations in the size of the ministerial adviser cohort across governments and across different ministries. This would also help to explain the next finding, which is that, contrary to the experience in many countries, the overall size of the advisor population does not grow, probably because executive politicians have other avenues of appointing advisory agents. Fourthly, the advisers have a fairly equal distribution of prior employment from both the public sector and the private sector, but we do see some evidence of more established political parties preferring to recruit from the public sector and newer parties preferring to recruit from the private sector. Lastly, the appointment process appears to be highly controlled by individual ministers, suggesting personal ties are essential (link between ministerial and advisor education) and party-political criteria are a low consideration. The research is conducted using a biographical approach in which freedom of information requests and open source data is scrapped and then triangulated via a dozen interviews with current and former advisers. It argues that regulation is weak, lacking public scrutiny, which provides loopholes for employing ministerial agents in informal ways that could create, at worst, the opportunity for corrupt behavior, or at least, lead to poor practices in good governance. Therefore, future research should focus on both the formal “visible” and informal “invisible” ways that ministers recruit their advisory agents, how their agents function, and whether existing regulatory measures create a transparent and accountable governance framework.

Publication timeframe:
2 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Social Sciences, Political Science, Local Government and Administration