Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Ethics of New Public Management: Is Integrity at Stake?

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Ethics of New Public Management: Is Integrity at Stake?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Since the late 1980s, public administration has moved to a more businesslike approach, commonly referred to as New Public Management or NPM. Output budgeting, privatization, competition and commercialization receive more attention. The question has been raised if too much identification with the style of the private sector might not generate undesired effect, for instance in the area of public integrity.

In this paper a theory, based on existing knowledge is provided about the possible negative, as well as the positive, effects on public integrity of the introduction of businesslike methods in the public service.

The overall conclusion of the paper is that the effect of introducing businesslike methods in the public sector depends more on the establishment of practical principles to ensure that these methods are exercised in an effective and ethical manner, than the introduction of businesslike methods as such.

INTRODUCTION

In this paper we work toward a theory on the effect of the introduction of NPM on public integrity. We define public integrity for this purpose in a negative way, that is the lack of integrity or, more specifically the level of integrity violations. The theory is based on a set of hypotheses, derived from the literature and existing knowledge. When the presented theory has been test in practice, it can contribute to a more ethical public administration by providing managers with guidelines how to manage integrity in an NPM environment.

First, the concept of New Public Management (NPM) is briefly explored. What are the main differences from the traditional Weberian concept of bureaucratic government? We conclude this paragraph with summarizing the four characteristics of NPM and the classification of integrity violations that we will use as a framework of reference.

In the next part of the paper, the possible relationship between NPM and Public Integrity is analyzed through concepts as public entrepreneurship, accountability, and productivity. Finally, hypotheses are formulated to construct a theoretical framework for empirical research.1

THE BASICS OF NPM

In this paragraph the concept of NPM2 will be explored in more detail starting with the principles of NPM as distinguished by Pollitt (1993) and Walsh (1995). After a brief detour along the Reinventing Government and New Public Service developments we will conclude this paragraph with summarizing the four characteristics of NPM that we will use as a framework of reference. To complete the framework of reference we will add the classification of integrity violations to be used as the concept to relate to the characteristics of NPM in the hypotheses.

The first principle of NPM is managerialism, defined by Pollitt (1993: 2-3) as involving:

* Continuous increases in efficiency.

* The use of "ever-more-sophisticated" technologies.

* A labor force disciplined to productivity.

* Clear implementation of the professional management role.

* Managers being given the right to manage.

Throughout its history the public sector has intermittently rediscovered the need for a focus on productivity, performance and control (Walsh 1995: xiii). In the United States all new political leaders - from the Taft Commission in 1910 to the National Performance Review in 1993 and the eight reform initiatives between them - assume in the opening statements of their reform visions that "....government is dysfunctional, fragmented, badly organized, and incapable of performing at a level acceptable to the public" (Huberts and van den Heuvel 1999: 6). Taylor had a significant influence on government services before the First World War (Nesbitt 1976: 284) and even Weber represented bureaucracy as a threat to parliamentary democracy. Once bureaucracy is established, he said, it becomes almost impossible to abolish. Moreover it serves as a "power instrument of the first order - for the one who controls the bureaucratic apparatus. …

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