How public affairs are run depends upon the degree of authority and control central government decides to relinquish to regional and local governments, and the extent to which it favors citizen involvement in the governing process. Public administrators do not operate in a vacuum. The context within which decision-making takes place greatly influences public administrators' approach to public issues. Consequently, what government decides to do and how it decides to carry it out affects the lives of people and how people perceive their role in the unfolding of public affairs.
While public administration varies from one country to another, public administrators inevitably face similar challenges. Running a government is not easy; it is complex, dynamic, contested, supported, subject to special interests, both demand- and supply-driven, just to name a few. In executing government functions, public administrators unsurprisingly contend with major decision-making questions. While obviously not exhaustive, this book addresses some key issues challenging practitioners. These challenges include questions on what gets included in the policy agenda, questions on policy response to problems through adoption and/or adaptation of exogenous policies, questions on the dangers of displacing policy goals, questions on transferring government activities to specialized agency, questions on decentralizing powers to regional and local governments, questions on combating corruption, and questions on managing public resources.
It is widely recognized that policy implementation is much more challenging than its design. Nonetheless, it is the manner in which public administrators address these challenges that creates opportunities for a more effective long-term policy prioritization, design and coordination, a more effective and inclusive public governance, and a more effective use of public resources for the delivery of needed public services.
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PUBLIC ADMINISTRATIONKey Issues Challenging Practitioners
By Michael Anthony Tarallo
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Michael Anthony Tarallo
All right reserved.
How public affairs are run depends upon the degree of authority and control central government decides to relinquish to regional and local governments, and the extent to which it favors citizen involvement in the governing process. Public administrators do not operate in a vacuum. The context within which decision making takes place greatly influences public administrators' approach to public issues. Consequently, what government decides to do and how it decides to carry it out affects the lives of people and how people perceive their role in the unfolding of public affairs.
In Valuing People: Citizen Engagement in Policy Making and Public Service Delivery in Rural Asia (2012), I argue, echoing what many scholars sustain, that it is by creating an environment where citizens are given democratic space to exercise 'voice' that government can truly reflect the will of the people, even in between elections. While the institutionalization of the electoral mechanism is by all means a fundamental pillar of democratic society, it is certainly not enough. Despite its merits, in fact, the mechanism falls short of truly empowering and engaging citizens in the decision-making process in matters that matter to the people rather than the elected representatives alone. But can citizen engagement fare well in a country where basic public institutional systems are not fully developed? Or is it the reverse case – can citizen involvement, instead, bring about functional public administration systems? What are really the core principles of the more recent democratic awakening we have witnessed around the world just in the last year? Are the 'awakened' people calling for a change of and in government with better run institutions and better provided public services alone or are they really demanding to have a direct say, a voice, in decision-making in addition to just voting in elected officials? The events represent a great opportunity for citizen engagement; anything less, however, would constitute a half-baked solution. Even if government is better run and public services are provided more efficiently, where does that leave the ordinary person? Are elections and more efficient governments alone truly reflective of the spirit of democracy? When do ordinary individuals cease to be regarded as customers, recipient of services, and when do they begin being citizens, co-designers of services needed? This is exactly what sets Public Value Management abysmally apart from the New Public Management philosophy in running government and public administrations. Just as individuals can and, more importantly, should be more engaged in public affairs, even government needs to see it this way. In fact, it is certainly up to the government to create an environment where ordinary citizen can play an influential role in decision-making both at the policy level and the delivery of public services.
While government remains central to society, scholars and practitioners have debated over which public administration approach best addresses public issues. In so doing, they draw, to varying degrees, from experiences from past and existing models. The Weberian bureaucracy, though tendentially out of style, is still practiced around the world. With regards to New Public Management (NPM), some authors go as far as saying it 'is dead' while others, instead, argue that while 'on the defensive by now ... NPM is very much alive and very much kicking'. NPM remains ingrained in the operationalization of government but under a highly contentious debate vis-à-vis the principles of Public Value Management (or New Public Value, Public Value, or New Public Service, to name a few). The commonality among these models is that they each 'reflect different circumstances, different needs and different philosophies about the role of government in society.'
While the compliance-driven Weberian model (or 'old' or 'traditional public administration') focuses primarily on rules and processes, New Public Management model is concerned with efficiencies and business-like effectiveness. Drawing from a number of theories – public choice theory, principal-agent theory, transaction cost economics and competition theory – NPM is regarded more of 'an umbrella term', or more of a kind of 'shopping basket' of public administration reforms than 'a coherent analytical framework'. What connects these definitions, however, are a set of guiding principles widely agreed among scholars. Shifting away from the rigidities of traditional public administration (Weberian model), Hood (1991) argues 'that NPM offers an all-purpose key to better provision of public services' and it does so by relying on principles of (i) hands-on and free-to-manage professional management, (ii) formulation of explicit standards and measures of performance, (iii) greater emphasis on output controls, (iv) disaggregation, (v) competition, (vi) private-sector style of management with greater flexibility in hiring and rewards, and (vii) greater financial discipline and parsimony. In essence, the perceived role of government shifted from a direct service provider to more of a coordinator, a concept Osborn and Gaebler (1992) refer to as 'steering not rowing'.
NPM stands for a 'leaner, and increasingly privatized government, emulating not only the practices but also the values of business'. In line with NPM approach, with small government comes disaggregation – meaning the act of decentralizing government functions to arms' length agencies (a process known as 'agencification'). The irony is that the NPM approach results in an increased number of administrative units and an enlarged scope of government. Furthermore, with agencification, NPM has also created duplication of expenditures and more bureaucratic leadership positions. As a case in point, in the United Kingdom, a '2004 efficiency review conducted for the Treasury concluded that £20 billion of cost savings could be made within four years from a range of measures, including a shift to smarter procurement, carried out by few major procurement centres instead of independently by 270 departments and agencies at the national level'.
In view of complexities inherent with agencification, there is also evidence of a government's move towards the recentralization of decentralized functions. One of such efforts was the recentralization of 'major departmental amalgamations at central or federal levels such as the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the United States ... [to address] deficiencies of agency fragmentation highlighted by the 9/11 terrorist [attacks]'. Another is 're-governmentalization' which 'involves the reabsorption into the public sector of activities that had been previously outsourced to the private sector[, e.g. the] de facto re-nationalization of Railtrack's infrastructure provision functions in the U.K. railways after the company went bankrupt in the summer of 2000'.
In sum, 'in the general quest for greater precision and technical certainty,' Gregory (2007) argues, 'NPM has a strong inherent tendency to generate unintended consequences that approximate the obverse of what was intended.' As a result, NPM's 'wave has now largely stalled or been reversed'. This does not mean, however, that NPM is either 'dead' or 'has [entirely] moved into the shadows of history'. In fact, 'NPM practices are extensively institutionalized and will continue just as NPM itself did not displace large elements of previous public administration orthodoxies'. Particularly, 'because of the lag in transferring administrative knowledge and techniques from the developed world to developing regions, ... countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are still in the process of pursuing its remaining elements'. For this reason, Dunleavy et al. (2005), go as far as saying that 'in previously laggard areas ... [NPM is] apparently flourishing.'
While New Public Management principles (efficiency, economic effectiveness, economizing) remain important and essential, the paradigm has been heavily criticized over the last twenty years, on behalf of 'doing business' in a more inclusive and equitable fashion. This is captured by the Public Value Management paradigm. Public Value Management is particularly concerned with ensuring that whatever procedures and processes are being followed or whatever targets have been met, they all lead to a net benefit to society as whole. We know that just meeting targets not necessarily leads to intended results which, for government, should unqualifiedly be the wellbeing of citizens. PVM's underlying principle is that citizens should actively engage and allowed to engage in decision-making and service delivery, as decisions made affect citizens' lives in a very direct manner.
Public Value Management, however, does not come without criticism either. The public value approach raises a number of concerns over definition and measurement. Talbot (2008), for instance, questions whether it is 'possible to have a single public value, in a world of conflicting public values and institutionalized competition between values system', particularly when 'there are conflicting views in society about what might constitute 'the good life' and how we get to it'. Added to the mix, is the notion that 'individuals do not have stable preferences, or even stable ways of thinking about them, but 'flip-flop' between different desires and even ways of thinking about them' simultaneously. Talbot (2008) further contends that even if it would be possible to establish a single concept of public value, it would be quite challenging to measure it.
While Alford and Hughes (2008), recognize that 'what constitutes public value ... is much debated ... it should be understood that value is not public by virtue of being delivered by the public sector. In fact, it can be produced by government organizations, private firms, nonprofit or voluntary organizations, service users, or various other entities. It is not who produces it that makes value public. Rather, it is a matter of who consumes it', meaning, "consumed' collectively by the citizenry rather than individually by clients'.
That said, in considering approaches, practitioners should not pose the question of 'either/or' (rules and processes or efficiency and economic effectiveness or citizens participation and value) but rather they should embrace an approach based on inclusion and complementarity, built on a continuum of practices and values. While different circumstances will call for different approaches, it should be possible to sustain a form of government and governance that carries out plans and services based on sound and practical rules (traditional public administration), streamlined processes, business-like practices rather than its values (new public management), designed as efficiency measures to promote effectiveness, all geared towards one single focus – that of the welfare of citizens and their values as citizens themselves see them (public value management), rather than imposed or perceived. This means that, while there is value in old and new public administrations, the citizen rather than the customer should remain sovereign. While co-existence between principles of NPM and values of PVM should be possible, scholars and practitioners' efforts should have been directed all along at focusing on doing more with better, meaning with a better governance, rather than of doing more with less.
While public administration varies from one country to another, public administrators inevitably face similar challenges. Running a government is not easy; it is complex, dynamic, contested, supported, subject to special interests, both demand- and supply-driven, just to name a few. In executing government functions, public administrators unsurprisingly contend with major decision-making questions. While obviously not exhaustive,thisbookaddressessomekeyissueschallengingpractitioners. These challenges include questions on what gets included in the policy agenda, questions on policy response to problems through adoption and/or adaptation of exogenous policies, questions on the dangers of displacing policy goals, questions on transferring government activities to specialized agency, questions on decentralizing powers to regional and local governments, questions on combating corruption, and questions on managing public resources.
Chapter TwoPolicy Agenda
Agenda-setting is of significant importance in the policymaking process. 'At its most basic,' Howlett and Ramesh (2003) sustain 'agenda-setting is about the recognition of a problem on the part of the government' and '[w]hat happens at this early stage has a decisive impact on the entire process and its outcomes.' It is because of this centrality in the policymaking process that government and non-government actors are actively involved. Agenda-setting, as in the case of the remaining stages of the policy making process, is not straight-forward but rather characterized by complexities, convoluted interactions, and constraints, involving institutional structures and a series of influential political actors.
This chapter will address the context within which policy agenda lies and means available for issues to reach the policy agenda, and organizes the analysis into a technical and political setting. The technical setting analysis reviews available models and theories while the political setting analysis reviews how relevant actors and institutional frameworks play a fundamental role in the institutionalization of societal problems.
Agenda-setting does not exist in a vacuum and it must be viewed within the context of the policy making process. Policy making is complex not only for the reason that it involves many actors but also because any policy is the result of 'a set of interrelated decisions' that cuts across different government agencies and interconnected fields of operation. To complicate matters, trying to understand why a particular decision is made by governments is sometimes obscured by the fact that governments may not necessarily provide a reason, and when they do announce it, it may not necessarily be the actual one.
To make sense of the complexities of policy making from an analytical perspective, a number of models were developed that broke down the process into analytically-manageable stages. The first of such models, Lasswell's (1956) model predominantly focuses on the internal decision-making process, thus excluding 'external or environmental influences on government behaviour'. Brewer's (1974) model, instead, expands the analysis 'beyond the confines of the government' and recognizes the indefinite life cycle of a policy, with no clear beginning or end. A more recent five-stage model (agenda-setting, policy formulation, decision-making, policy implementation, and policy evaluation) allows for a more in-depth analysis of actors involved at all stages of the policy making cycle. Its simplistic framework, however, represents also its main disadvantage. Jenkins-Smith and Sabatier (1993) argue that the model can be misinterpreted to suggest that problem-solving is a systematic and linear exercise. Policy making is in reality complex where 'the stages are often compressed or skipped, or followed in an order unlike that specified by the model'. More importantly, the five-stage model 'offers no pointers as to what, or who, drives a policy from one stage to another'. These elements are fundamental in addressing agenda-setting.
Making it to the policy agenda
It is at the stage of the agenda-setting that the list of pressing issues and problems advanced by governments and outside actors is narrowed 'to the set that actually becomes the focus of attention'. The following analysis considers the dynamics involved in agenda-setting within a technical and a political setting.
The technical setting addresses types of agendas, models, and initiation patterns. They provide opportunities and means for policy actors to get involved at the early stage of the policy making process, make their concerns heard and, in so doing, exert necessary pressures to advance their own interests.
The starting point for this analysis lies in what constitutes a problem. Its 'recognition is a socially constructed process ... [that] ... involves definitions of normalcy and what constitutes an undesirable deviation of the status'. This leads to clashes among policy actors that reveal more about their 'abilities and resources ... than ... the elegance or purity of the ideas they hold'. Problems can range from issues that reached crisis proportion to issues that raise legitimacy and power concerns, from issues of a human interest to issues that have a wide impact on the people. The viability for issues to make it to the policy agenda is contingent upon opportunities and the promotion of pressing issues by powerful actors involved in the process as well as the constraints and opportunities provided by institutional structures.
Problems reaching agenda-setting stage can be grouped, as per Cobb and Elder (1972), into social problems recognized by the public requiring government action. These problems include societal issues, such as crime and health care and become part of the systemic or informal public agenda. The shift from systemic to institutional or formal government agenda occurs when the state recognizes issues raised by the public to be a problem, and it includes other issues the government itself announced it will address that warrant serious consideration. Other problems that make it to the agenda but do not receive much attention are part of the so-called pseudo-agenda. The mere recognition of a problem, however, does not necessarily mean that policymakers 'share the same understanding of its causes or ramifications' particularly because they may not necessarily agree on a clear definition of the problem.
Excerpted from PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION by Michael Anthony Tarallo Copyright © 2012 by Michael Anthony Tarallo. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
2. Policy Agenda....................7
Making it to the policy agenda....................8
3. Policy Transfer....................17
Opportunities and limitations....................19
4. Goal Displacement....................27
Causes, consequences, and inevitability....................28
Definition, causes, and consequences....................57
Theories on combating corruption....................59
Theories that work in practice....................61
8. Public Resources....................67
Public expenditure management....................75
About the Author....................111