Public Service Efficiency
Reframing the Debate
Routledge – 2013 – 166 pages
The current economic and political climate places ever greater pressure on public organizations to deliver services in a cost-efficient way. Focused on the costs of service delivery, governments across the world have introduced a series of business like practices – from performance management to public-private partnership – in the belief that these will increase the efficiency of their public services. However, both the debate about public service efficiency and the policies and practices introduced to advance it, have developed without a coherent account of what efficiency means in this context and how it should be realized. The predominance of a rather narrow definition of the term – very often focused on the ratio of inputs to outputs – has tended to polarise opinion either for or against efficiency agenda.
Yet public service efficiency, more broadly conceived, is an inescapable fact of the public manager’s task environment; indeed in the past, the notion of efficiency was central to the emergence of the field of public administration. This book will recover public service efficiency from the relatively narrow terms of recent debates by examining theories and evidence relating to technical, allocative, distributive and dynamic efficiencies.
In exploring the relationship between efficiency and democracy, this book will move current debates in public administration forward by reflecting on the trade-offs between the different dimensions of efficiency that public organizations confront.
Andrews and Entwistle deliver an innovative approach to public service efficiency that carefully crafts theory and practice around a multifaceted concept of efficiency. Simplistic ideas of Economic and Pareto efficiency, that have dominated political aspirations for public administration for far too long, are dismantled using a critical and realist approach. This highlights the trade-offs and contradictions that public managers experience in their day-to-day practice. I commend their four faces model to practitioners and students, as it will aid understanding of the challenges managers experience when trying to improve services. Most important of all this books takes us beyond a preoccupation with productive efficiency to reconnect service improvements with democratic and public values.
Philip Haynes, Professor, University of Brighton, UK
Efficiency is a concept which has widespread use in everyday conversation. Andrews and Entwistle address the fallacy of the everyday understanding of this term by their discussion of the complexities of this concept in this book. This is a nuanced critique of efficiency in the setting of public management, an area of study which is highly contested and which is beset by `wicked` policy problems. The authors offer a powerful assembly of ideas of efficiency for both serious scholars of, and policy makers in, public management.
Irvine Lapsley, Editor, Financial Accountability & Management, and Director, IPSAR, University of Edinburgh Business School, UK
The book makes the case for rethinking how to apply public service efficiency in public administration. Compelling arguments are presented for a multi-dimensional approach that covers democratic and economic elements and the interaction between the dimensions.John Halligan, Professor, University of Canberra, Australia
Andrews and Entwistle also remind us in the conclusion that productive efficiency, distributive efficiency, dynamic efficiency, and allocative efficiency are not new ideas. However, putting them under the big umbrella called ‘efficiency’ may motivate scholars to find a better way to reconcile them, combine them, and balance them…this attempt to reconcile and balance the different faces of efficiency is probably another merit of Andrews and Entwistle’s book.
Chung-An Chen is an assistant professor in public administration and public policy at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
1. Introduction 2. What is Public Service Efficiency? 3. Technical Efficiency 4. Allocative Efficiency 5. Distributive Efficiency 6. Dynamic Efficiency 7. Managing for Efficiency in a Democracy 8. Conclusion
Rhys Andrews is Senior Research Fellow at Cardiff University, UK. His primary research interests are in strategic management, social capital, organizational structure and public service performance. He is co-editor of the International Public Management Journal
Tom Entwistle is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management and director of the Master’s in Public Administration at Cardiff University, UK. His primary research interests are in the areas of local governance, central-local relations, public-private partnerships and public service performance