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Outsourcing Government: A Strategic Approach to Partnered Privatization (Part 2)

Part II: Public Administration Today

Public Administration deals with the governance of business operations at a local, state and federal level. Specifically, it includes planning, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling government operations through a combination of employees and contracted staff.

There have been at least six distinct stages of evolution of administration or management in the public sector, from the inception of the country as a Republic in 1776.

The Patrician Era (1789-1828) was the earliest form of civil service where public jobs were held by the elite who had gained freedom and established the national government. This led to the Patronage Era (1829-1882) where public jobs were awarded to party faithful and loyalists. The increased complexity and size of work required democratization of jobs which led to the Professionalism Era (1883-1932).

It is perhaps not coincidental that, during that period, President Woodrow Wilson wrote his famous essay on “The Study of Administration (Political Science Quarterly, 2 (June 1887); 197-222) where he stated that, “The principles on which to base a science of administration for America must be principles which have democratic policy very much at heart”. He was no doubt influenced by the works of Europeans, especially Max Weber. However, President Wilson clearly understood that “the cosmopolitan what-to-do must always be commanded by the American how-to-do-it”.

America represented The New Frontier, without the shackles of monarchy and patronage that its immigrants had left behind. Therefore it was essential that the methods that were to be established and employed within the country would follow the “American Way”.

The continuing evolution in the United States moved to the People’s Era (1965-1979) where collective bargaining entered federal government and the Civil Service Act was reformed to enforce anti-discrimination and allocate positions based on merit. It also professed to remove or replace incompetent officials.

With the election of Jimmy Carter in the White House, the Privatization Era (1980-Present) began with the purpose of reducing government, devolution of the federal government to the States and development of partnerships with the private sector. The phrase “do more with less” made the rounds in all forms of communication, policies and practice. Efforts to reduce government have continued through the Reagan, Clinton and Bush administrations with the intention of putting more resources in the hands of the private businesses.

The privatization movement has led to the Partnerships Era where federal services are being delivered through the States, who in turn are using Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to provide services funded through taxes, user fees and charitable contributions. Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) are an additional delivery channel. The other significant change that has occurred is the use of flexible employment methods through the use of contract and temporary employees to reduce the fixed position complement in the public sector. The chart below illustrates the changes in public personnel systems and some of the major characteristics and causes of change in those eras:

Government has a propensity to grow and it is instructive to observe the expansion of especially State Agencies over time, as shown in the table that follows:

A. First-Generation Agencies (1950s)1. Adjutant General2. Aeronautics3. Aging4. Agriculture

5. Alcoholic Beverage Control

6. Attorney General

7. Banking

8. Budgeting

9. Child Welfare

10. Corrections

11. Education (State School Officer)

12. Emergency Management (Civil

Defense)

13. Employment Services

14. Fire Marshal

15. Fish and Game

16. Food (Inspection/Purity)

17. Forestry

18. Geology

19. Health

20. Higher Education

21. Highway Patrol

22. Highways

23. Insurance

24. Labor

25. Labor Arbitration & Mediation

26. Library

27. Mining

28. Mental Health (& Retardation)

29. Motor Vehicles

30. Oil & Gas

31. Parks & Recreation

32. Parole

33. Personnel

34. Planning

35. Post Audit

36. Public Utility Regulation

37. Purchasing

38. Revenue

39. Secretary of State

40. Securities (Regulation)

41. Soil Conservation

42. Solid Waste (Sanitation)

43. Tourism (Advertising)

44. Treasurer

45. Unemployment

(Compensation) Insurance

46. Veterans Affairs

47. Vocational Education

48. Water Quality

49. Water Resources

50. Welfare

51. Workers’ Compensation

 

 

 

B. Second-Generation Agencies (1960s)1. Administration2. Air Quality3. Commerce4. Community Affairs

5. Comptroller

6. Court Administration

7. Criminal Justice Planning

8. Economic (Industrial)

Development

9. Federal-State Relations

10. Highway Safety

11. Juvenile Rehabilitation

(Delinquency)

12. Law Enforcement (State

Police)

13. Natural Resources

 

C. Third-Generation Agencies (1970s)

1. Alcohol & Drug Abuse

2. Archives

3. Arts Council

4. Child Labor

5. Civil Rights

6. Consumer Affairs

(Consumer Protection)

7. Energy Resources

8. Environment (Protection)

9. Ethics

10. Exceptional Children (Special Education)

11. Fair Employment (Equal Opportunity)

12. Finance

13. Historic Preservation

14. Housing Finance

15. Human Resources/

Services

16. Manpower

17. Mass Transit

18. Medicaid

19. Occupational Health &

Safety

20. Public Lands

21. Railroad

22. Savings & Loan

23. Social Services

24. State-Local Relations

25. Telecommunication

26. Transportation

27. Veterinarian

28. Vocational Rehabilitation

29. Women’s Commissions

30. Information

 

D. Fourth-Generation Agencies (1980s)1. Boating Law Administration2. Emergency Medical Services3. Employee Relations4. Employee Services

5. Ground Water Management

6. Hazardous Waste

7. Horse Racing

8. International Trade

9. Licensing (Occupational/

Professional)

10. Small and Minority Business

11. State Fair

12. Training and Development

13. Underground Storage Tanks

14. Vital Statistics

15. Weights and Measures

 

E. Fifth-Generation Agencies (1990s)1. Building Codes2. Child Support Enforcement3. Crime Victims Compensation4. Development Disabled

5. Facilities Management

6. Fleet Management

7. Gaming (Regulation)

8. Lobby Law Administration

 

F. Emergent Agencies (1990s: Agencies present in 25 or more states, but less than 38)

1. Coastal Zone Management (30)

2. Lottery (37)

3. Latino Affairs (27)

4. Native American Affairs (35)

5. Public Broadcasting (34)

6. Public Defender (37)

7. Public Works (25)

8. Recycling (27)

 

 Source: Based on listing in Book of the States, Supplement 2, State Administrative Officials Classified by Functions, Council of State Governments, Lexington, KY: 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, and 1999. Agency names are listed if the agency existed in 38 or more states for the respective decades. Agency names/titles vary slightly from decade to decade.

With governments continuing to bloat, it is important to consider a flexible employment model where workers could be brought on based on approved programs but reduced at will. In some cases the positions can be lower in cost as they are based on lower compensation, without benefits. Contracted workers often cost more, but are hired for fixed periods, providing expertise that may not be easily available internally from employees, even with additional training.

There is a concern that these flexible employment methods may eventually cause harm because there is a lack of oversight on hiring practices with respect to equal pay, discrimination (physical, age, gender, etc.) and benefits. The cost of delivery may also increase based on the cost of contracted workers that persist in the workplace and the loss of intellectual capital when they are released. Finally, those in civil service may assume a position of appointment through patronage thereby limiting their effectiveness and compromising accountability.

There is a telling study on “Labor-Management Partnerships – A New Approach to Collaborative Management” on the reinvention of the delivery of urban services by the City of Indianapolis. A thorough reading of the Case Study provides considerable insight into the highly unusual and innovative approaches that were adopted by labor and management at the City. It is clear that there is a role for unions in government. However, they must show “skin in the game” along with management if game-changing advances are to be made. What does this say about future trends? Neither political party has espoused fresh thinking. While this represents reality, it does not take away from a need for instituting future models which provide improved public administration.

_____________________________________________________________________

Shami Dugal is a member of ASPA and on the SHHSA Board. He has Bachelor’s degree in Operations Research from University of Waterloo (Canada) and an MPA from Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa).He can be reached at [email protected]

 

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

2 Responses to Outsourcing Government: A Strategic Approach to Partnered Privatization (Part 2)

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