Using Competition for Performance Improvement: A Resource for Practitioners Advising Governments and Not-for-Profits. (Book Reviews)

Article excerpt

Michael A. Crawford, CPA

New York: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Inc. (260 pp.)

Reviewed by Greg Condell, senior manager, GFOA Research and Consulting Center, Chicago, Illinois.

As a public finance professional, how often have you faced questions about comparable delivery options for a public service? How often has an election campaign or a disgruntled citizens' group directed criticism toward a service that might be sourced from the outside? Have collective bargaining agreements, specialized equipment needs, or limitations in staff skills created cost spikes or productivity bottlenecks in your organization? If your organization has faced any of these nagging seemingly insoluble situations, managed competition might be the answer.

Using Competition for Performance Improvement is a useful resource for public managers seeking an overview of the practice of managed competition. Published by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, its initial intent is to assist CPA firms in business development efforts aimed specifically at public sector clients. Despite this focus, the work is practical, well-organized, and rich in content useful to government finance professionals. It is not an academic textbook, but rather a "how-to" manual complete with step-by-step instructions from start to finish.

Public sector professionals will likely have some intuition as to which operations are best suited for managed competition initiatives. The author provides a brief, yet effective, discussion of goal identification and the various competition alternatives. Recognizing that performance monitoring is critical to the decision to offer competing solutions, the text provides a thorough introduction to performance measurement and follows with a set of examples to clarify the application of measurement techniques to competition initiatives.

Using case studies and tool sets, the text reinforces the need for a focused definition and the identification of competition opportunities. The case studies effectively illustrate presented concepts, and breathe life into a topic that can get lost in its own process. The tool sets include surveys to assess opportunities and identify costs, as well as sample documents such as recommendation reports, request for proposal templates, and contract documents. The public sector practitioner is well versed in solutions that do not "reinvent the wheel," and the author meets this expectation, even if inadvertently. The tool sets are complete enough to allow the practitioner to hit the ground running, yet flexible enough to meet individual needs. …