The Collaborative Public Manager

By Rosemary O'Leary; Lisa Blomgren Bingham | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Collaboration and
Relational Contracting

David M. Van Slyke

In this volume, the role of the collaborative public manager is the central theme. Government contracting is one area in which collaboration is both praised and vilified. Contracting is a pragmatic tool of governance and the most frequently used form of privatization in the United States. It involves government agencies entering into formal relationships with a third party for the production of goods and/or provision of services. Governments at all levels have increasingly used contracting with other governments, nonprofits, and for-profit firms to deliver a wide range of public goods and/ or services. Fundamentally, the argument is that contracting benefits the government because of competition and market forces (Savas 2000). The associated outcomes are cited as lower costs, higher quality, expertise, and innovation. Those opposed to contracting express concern about government's heightened exposure to opportunism, gaps in accountability, and a loss of public management capacity (Sclar 2000).

Recent news stories advocating more collaboration in contracting relationships suggest that “top acquisition managers develop [and be encouraged to develop] tight bonds with industry”; that “the process [of contracting] involves close interaction between acquisition officials and contractors, … [recognizing] that there's no way to be successful without working together”; and that “the focus [of government contracting officers] should be on creating a long-term relationship between vendors and government officials.”1 Opponents of this approach to contracting suggest that vendors cannot be trusted to execute government's goals without very specific legal contracts and to engage in less than highly specified contractual relationships would be a dereliction of duty and a failure to protect

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