New Public Management Reforms the Term Paper

  • Length: 14 pages
  • Sources: 10
  • Subject: Government
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #65984502

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Indeed, the reference to "institutional sclerosis" concerns the fact that virtually every conceivable interest in contemporary society is protected by a variety of laws that provide for extensive advising, participation and appeal procedures, a process that further exacerbates the inability of public administrators to remain responsive to their constituents (Klijn & Koppenjan 241). These authors emphasize that, "This results, among other things, in the Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) syndrome, where parties block the creation of arrangements of collective interest (such as the location decision concerning an industrial site, a road, an asylum centre, etc.) based on their own private interests" (Klijn & Koppenjan 241).

According to King and her associates, current public participation processes have four major components as follows:

The issue or situation;

The administrative structures, systems, and processes within which participation takes place;

The administrators; and,

The citizens (318).

This arrangement means that those with the most at stake - the citizens themselves - are placed the farthest from the issue under consideration with layers of bureaucrats standing between them and an active voice in the governing process. The impetus on streamlining and cost-savings by transforming the public sector has therefore been more advantageous for public administrators than it has for the citizens they are supposed to serve. In this regard, King et al. point out that, "Participation efforts are currently framed such that these components are arrayed around the issue. The citizen is placed at the greatest distance from the issue, the administrative structures and processes are the closest, and the administrator is the agent between the structures and citizens" (318).

This formidable bulwark of layer upon layer of unresponsive and increasingly ineffective bureaucracy is likely sufficient to dissuade all but the most ardent reform-minded citizen from seeking redress or offering alternatives to their public officials - all to the detriment of the democratic process. In this regard, King and her colleagues report that, "In the context of conventional participation, the administrator controls the ability of the citizen to influence the situation or the process. The administrative structures and processes are the politically and socially constructed frameworks within which the administrator must operate" (318). These frameworks provide public administrators with the restricted authority to develop alternative solutions, but only after the issue has been defined. As a result, administrators do not possess any true power to redefine the issue or to change administrative processes that would allow for greater citizen involvement (King et al. 318).

Furthermore, when public administrators assume an advisory or expert consultation role, then, the process is further constrained because of the power structures involved. In this regard, King and her colleagues note that, "Participation within this context is structured to maintain the centrality of the administrator while publicly presenting the administrator as representative, consultative, or participatory. The citizen becomes the 'client' of the professional administrator, ill-equipped to question the professional's authority and technical knowledge" (318). This structural change in the traditional role of public administrators has only added yet another bureaucratic layer between the individual and the public sector in a process that further isolates citizens from the public sector while insulating administrators from true accountability for their actions. "In this falsely dualistic relationship," King et al. add, "the administrator is separated from the demands, needs, and values of the people whom he or she is presumed to be serving (King et al. 318). Furthermore, this trend towards marketization wherein the citizen is transformed into a consumer of government products and services rather than an active participant in the political community has been on the increase in recent years.

Indeed, the last 25 years have witnessed a growth in industrialized economies and increasing efforts to restructure and reform the large public sectors that were characteristic of the old Soviet bloc countries and to a lesser extent the "welfarist" social democratic regimes such as in the European Union where NPM reforms have been increasingly popular, but have been met with mixed results (Ferlie & Steane 1459). For example, the transition to democracy in Greece and Spain resulted in changes in personnel in the senior bureaucracy as well as efforts to restructure the bureaucratic system with limited effectiveness; likewise, in Italy, a well-entrenched bureaucracy has managed to resist any attempts to reform it to transform it an effective tool for developing and delivering the policies of a modern welfare state (Page & Wright 266). According to these authors, "In Sweden perhaps the most important change has been towards a guiding role over agencies. In Britain the changes have been the most marked, incorporating a New Public Management approach and involving a greater sensitivity to politics analogous to that noted in Germany. In other countries changes in the bureaucracy have been less marked" (Page & Wright 266).

Generally speaking, then, the New Public Management reforms that have been introduced in recent years have sought a different model for public agencies in response to a changing political climate, and a number of traditional service deliveries in Europe, North America and Australasia have been reassessed and reorganized as a result; these changes have been most evident in:

Contracting-out, as a variant of the purchaser-provider type of relationship in which government retains the responsibility for ensuring a service is provided but does not itself deliver that service.

A greater concern for client-centered quality in service provision, assisted by the use of benchmarks and quality standards derived from the private sector or other governments.

Wide-spread financial reforms, heavily output and performance orientated, culminating in the adoption of accrual accounting procedures whereby more relevant financial data for planning and management purposes is used for assessing performance.

Reforms to inter-governmental policy development and coordination, and a focus on regulatory compliance for organizations that contract with government to provide a service with tax-payer funds, as well as selling services for a fee (Ferlie & Steane 1460).

As a result, the trend of New Public Management reforms has fundamentally affected the traditional role of professionals in public organizations at home and abroad in some unexpected ways (Sehested 1513). For instance, during the period when the European welfare states initiatively developed, public sector professionals became fully integrated in the large bureaucratic public organizations and professionalism became a priority as a governing principle; however, this author emphasizes that the New Public Management trend undermines professionalism as a governing principle and introduces managerialism as an alternative governing principle (Sehested 1513).

According to Klijn and Koppenjan (2004), "The aim of most of the New Public Management reforms was to transform governments into leaner but more effective steering organizations. Governments should be steering, i.e. setting goals and trying to achieve them, instead of rowing, i.e. doing all of the service provisions themselves" (103). This type of entrepreneurial government provides for clear specifications of both the desired products or services and the outputs that have to be achieved in relation to these services; however, it also implies a distinct separation of responsibilities between decision making and delivery, and between the political actors and providers involved (Klijn & Koppenjan 103). In this regard, Pierce (2005) reports that the typical NPR reforms seek to promote such entrepreneurial governments by focusing on eliminating red tape in order to be more responsive to citizens as customers by achieving results; other factors include public choice, increased government efficiency, and the notion that the way to achieve better governance is through increased productivity as defined in economic terms (Pierce 24). Critics of NPM reforms, though, maintain that these initiatives are not conducive to creating governments that are more transparent, representative, and open to public participation (Pierce 24).

According to Barzelay (2001), there are enough differences within the Western models of NPM to make across-the-board generalizations about what impact they are having problematic: "Differences in governmental systems are pronounced," he advises, "even within the so-called Anglo-American context (as between the Westminster-type parliamentary and the U.S. separation-of-powers systems)" (170). Although the specific public service sector in different countries is unique to their setting, all countries that have introduced NPM reforms have done so in response to current political challenges (Ferlie & McLaughlin 165). According to Ferlie and McLaughlin (2002), "The objectives that were pursued with the reforms varied significantly throughout European local governments. Sometimes NPM was introduced to save money, sometimes to fight the loss of legitimacy of public administration and on other occasions to deal with dissatisfaction of their public managers and politicians or the opacity of the bureaucracy" (165). There are some commonalities involved in the various reforms engendered by the NPM movement identified by these authors, and these are described in Table 1 below.

Table 1.

Generic Element Categories of NPM.




Organizational restructuring

Delegation of responsibility

Reduction of hierarchy

Political and managerial roles

City managers…

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