Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

A National Assessment Project of Public Administration: Theoretical Framework and Preliminary Findings from Israel

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

A National Assessment Project of Public Administration: Theoretical Framework and Preliminary Findings from Israel

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper reports on a new venture for the study of public sector performance and on its implementation in Israel. The Israeli study is part of the "European Assessment Project of Public Administration" (EAPPA) that is aimed at a cross-cultural and cross-sectional examination of public administration agencies in various European countries using attitudinal-behavioral methods and tools. A sample of 345 citizens was used to assess the performance of the Israeli public administration and to draw conclusions about the levels of satisfaction with, trust in, and general attitudes towards public policies and personnel. The main findings of the study indicate that Israeli citizens are deeply critical of public institutions and governmental agencies. A correlation analysis further shows a strong and stable relationship between satisfaction and three separate constructs of citizens' trust: (1) trust in administrative and governmental institutions, (2) trust in civil servants, and (3) faith in citizenship involvement. Significant relationships were also found between citizens' satisfaction and most of the other indicators of performance. Finally, the paper presents a socio-economic and demographic analysis of the data. The paper ends with a discussion about the centrality of public opinion studies in the field of public sector performance. It is our expectation that this initiative will lead to more extensive studies throughout other European states that are struggling for improvement in their public service systems.

INTRODUCTION

The main purpose of this work is to develop a theoretical and methodological framework that will facilitate an attitudinal-behavioral analysis of public sector performance and that will lay the foundations for comparative studies in this field. This paper focuses on citizens' evaluations of public sector performance and is divided into three parts. The first part develops the theoretical framework for the study and discusses the rationale behind it. The second part details the results of a citizens' survey about the performance of the Israeli public sector. Our discussion focuses on three main aspects related to public sector performance: (1) satisfaction with public services, (2) trust in public administration, and (3) various other attitudes toward and perceptions about the public system and its employees. The third and concluding part of the paper analyzes the results with an emphasis on the Israeli context. It also presents future challenges for the larger European project (the "European Assessment Project of Public Administration - EAPPA" that is currently under development). The main benefit of this project, in our view, is its contribution to the strengthening of democratic structures and to the nurturing of citizen-government relations. As will be suggested throughout the paper, the EAPPA project's constructive criticism may enhance the government's awareness of citizens' needs and improve the operation of its services. In addition, the project stresses the need for increased citizen involvement in public administration improvement and development. Thus, the project should enhance the degree of collaboration between the government and its administrative agencies on one hand and the citizens of modern societies on the other.

THEORETICAL FOUNDATIONS

THE NEED FOR PUBLIC SECTOR PERFORMANCE STUDY

The study of outputs, products, and performance is an essential tool for the improvement of any organization and is a major challenge for the public sector1. Better understanding of public sector performance is of great importance, as it affects the daily life of each citizen and has unique political and social implications. Public organizations influence people's lives in a powerful and significant way, far beyond the impact of private organizations. The public sector provides services in areas in which the private sector is disinterested or is unable to operate. …

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