Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Neither Public nor Private: The Efficacy of Mixed Model Public Service Delivery in Two Canadian Municipalities

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Neither Public nor Private: The Efficacy of Mixed Model Public Service Delivery in Two Canadian Municipalities

Article excerpt

Introduction

The early 1980s saw the emergence of the New Public Management (NPM) philosophy and with it, a search for alternative service delivery (ASD) mechanisms (Wilkins 2003). ASD was seen as a way to remove service delivery from the public bureaucracy as part of a phenomenon referred to as the "hollowing out" of the state. The idea was to separate policy making, which remained the domain of the bureaucracy, and policy implementation. ASD differs from traditional forms of service delivery because it involves more private sector actors in the delivery process. Furthermore, ASD is considered to be more efficient, cost effective, and accountable because it increases managerial flexibility and introduces new forms of expertise in service delivery processes (Skelly 1996). Three commonly used forms of ASD are contracting out, privatization, and public-private partnerships. Contracting out occurs when a government contracts providers to deliver all or part of the production and delivery of goods to citizens (Korosec 1997). Privatization takes place when governments transfer or sell assets to the private sector so that they are no longer responsible for operating a program or delivering a service, while public-private partnerships involve any co-activity between government and the private-for-profit or not-for-profit (non-government organizations) sector (Zussman 2002).

Most western governments bought into this philosophy and implemented privatization and contracting out. By the late 1990s, however, it appeared that many of the promises of ASD had not been fulfilled. Consequently, many governments retreated from ASD and began searching for new ways to deliver services (Ohemeng and Grant 2011; Hefetz and Warner 2004). This search led to the adoption by many, of what has been described as the mixed model approach to service delivery. (1) This model combines both the public and private sectors in the delivery of a service. It is seen as an innovative and dynamic decision making process where city managers interact with both citizens and the private sector (Warner and Hefetz 2008). A number of governments around the world are now experimenting with this model (Warner and Hefetz 2008).

Studies of the model's application have suggested that it is indeed a more viable delivery option than the purely public or private modes (Savas 1977a; 1977b; 1981; McDavid 2001; Warner and Hefetz 2008). In spite of this consensus, however, there is little empirical evidence to demonstrate its full efficacy. In this paper, we examine the application of the mixed model approach to solid waste collection in two Canadian municipalities: Hamilton and Ottawa (2). The idea is to determine the usefulness of the model, as well as to contribute to the current debate about the appropriate mechanisms of service delivery in an era of fiscal constraint and austerity. As Savas (1977b) notes, "because of its impact on public health, refuse collection is a concern of government, particularly local government. Although this service does not share the life-saving characteristics of the local emergency services--police, fire, ambulance it has higher political visibility: garbage requires conscious action every day by every family and if service is unsatisfactory, the fact is quickly evident" (52). The question is: why are municipalities now embracing this approach to service delivery, specifically, in the area of solid waste collection? We argue that, compared to the purely public or private delivery models, the mixed model approach provides a better option for service delivery.

This study uses the comparative case study approach and involves a qualitative examination of the development, implementation and current state of solid waste collection in the two municipalities. They are located in the same province, which means that they are subject to the same provincial legislation. They also experience the same broader political dynamics, at both the provincial and national levels. …

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