Public Administration after "New Public Management"

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Public administration has entered a new age. In the 1980s, “less” government was the prevailing idea; in the 1990s and early 21st century, “New Public Management” was the dominant theme. Today, public administration is moving in new directions. Reforms are focusing on the quality of services for citizens and businesses and on the efficiency of administration (the “back office” of government). The OECD is studying these new trends in a multi-annual, cross-country project called “Value for Money in Government”.

This is the first report in a new OECD series on the topic. The book examines four themes in nine OECD countries: the development of shared service centres, the steering and control of agencies, automatic productivity cuts, and spending review procedures. In addition, it contains a quantitative analysis of the size of employment in central government. The countries studied are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The book pays particular attention to the case of the Netherlands, the country that first proposed an OECD study on value for money in government.



Qualitative Assessments of Recent Reforms

This chapter presents qualitative assessments of the development of shared service centres, the steering and control of agencies, spending reviews, and automatic productivity cuts. Before 1990, support services, such as human resources, internal audit, procurement, and accommodation and facilities, were more concentrated. In the 1990s, under the influence of “New Public Management”, central control was gradually loosened. However, in the last few years some governments realised that the results were not as intended, as staff levels had increased in all task areas and especially in the area of support services. In addition, there were problems with output steering and control. This led to another change of direction and to a more pragmatic approach involving the re-concentration of central ministerial support services, ad hoc downsizing operations, and shared services. The chapter concludes with a list of questions that emerge from the qualitative assessments. They can serve as the basis for a follow-up review in which the organisation of central government will be studied more broadly. Issues such as policy development and regulatory/supervisory tasks could then be addressed as well.


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