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Public Administration: Bertelli’s and Riggs’ Views Report (Assessment)

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Bertelli’s position on the debate between Finer and Friedrich about the sources of responsibility for public managers

Finer and Friedrich had contrasting opinions on responsibility. Finer asserted that elected officials should ensure that non-elected public managers are responsible for their actions (Bertelli, 2012, p.147). On the other hand, Friedrich proposed that public managers should view their positions as careers and ensure that they offer credible service without depending on external pressure for motivation. According to Friedrich, bureaucrats are often better at making decisions because they are well-informed (Bertelli, 2012, p.147-148). Bertelli concludes that public managers should maintain personal and professional accountability. He also maintains that elected officials are responsible for ensuring that non-elected officials perform their duties as desired. In essence, Bertelli combines both Finer and Friedrich’s theories in his description of responsibility.

Importance of the “hollow state” and the growth of the public sector

The hollow state is a term used to describe the increasing dependence on third-party institutions, usual non-profits in the delivery of public service (Bertelli, 2012, p.143). The hollow state operates as a proper government with all structures including the military. However, such governments do not serve the interest of citizens. The hollow state is undesirable because it leads to dictatorial rule, marred by corruption. The public sector growing too large (relative to the whole economy) is worrying because it increases the wage bill and leads to unnecessary competition for power. Countries with large public sectors are usually poorly administered and have slow economic growth.

Usefullness of Bertelli’s “fire alarm oversight”

Fire alarm oversight is useful in keeping members of the legislative on their toes. In this kind of oversight, members of the public, the media and other interest groups ensure that elected officials offer desirable services by constantly reporting on elements of their performance that do not meet expectations (Riggs, 2980, p.112). Fire alarm oversight is most useful in countries where power is not well decentralized. For instance, in most third-world countries, politicians are allowed to make some critical decisions without public consultation and it is only through fire-alarm oversight that any misdeeds can be reported (Riggs, 2980, p.113).

Bertelli’s propositions for public managers facing a “make-or-buy” decision for contracting out

Managers facing make-or-buy decisions need to be prepared for the failure of the decisions they make. These decisions can be subject to market failure, voluntary failure, government failure and contract failure (Bertelli, 2012, p.125). Market failure occurs when entrepreneurs are not interested in government offers because such deals are prone to free ridership (Bertelli, 2012, p.125). Voluntary failure occurs when the government depends on non-profit organizations for the success of its projects only for the latter to opt-out because of the costs involved. Government failure occurs when the public is not satisfied with the quality of service offered by the government, while contract failure occurs when the public is not given proper mechanisms for policing service providers (Bertelli, 2012, p.125).

Themes in the field of Comparative Public Administration (CPA)

Among the themes that keep reappearing in different contexts is the role of public managers in enhancing the work of the civil society. Most scholars of public administration believe that public managers serve as an intermediary between elected officials and civil society groups.

New governance is another theme that most authors agree is relevant in public administration. New governance occurs when individuals do not agree with top-down governance structures.

The public choice theory is one that most authors say is universally relevant in public administration (Bertelli, 2012, p.48). This theory asserts that members of the public decide on who will lead them and the kinds of services they need. Niskanen’s theory of bureaucratic behaviour is also one that most scholars agree explains the relationship between bureaucrats and the political class (Bertelli, 2012, p.43-72).

References

Bertelli, M. (2012). The political economy of public sector governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Riggs, F. (1980). The ecology and context of public administration: A comparative perspective. Public administration review, 1(1), 107-115.

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