Chapter 1: The Management of Public Services: What Goes Wrong?
Most modern governments face diﬃculties in meeting the expectations of their citizens. The public sector takes up between a third and a half of the ﬁnances of most developed economies. It tends to be referred to as if it is a single homogenous whole although it is made up of widely diﬀering institutions. It can absorb people and money like blotting paper. Its scope extends beyond activities which are technically ‘services’. The provision of personal services, personal, domestic and international security, defence, economic and social development, transfer payments and regulation take up the lion’s share of what many governments do. They operate either through their directly managed organisations or under some form of agreement or contract with other organisations or through other tiers of elected authorities. The most well-intentioned politician ﬁnds bringing promises to reality diﬃcult. A familiar plaint of many a disillusioned Minister is: ‘I pull the levers and nothing happens’. While it is diﬃcult enough for oﬃcials to explain to a senior and distinguished Minister that pulling levers is no longer, if it ever was, the way to get a decision implemented, the remark itself explains how far from understanding management most politicians are. I have heard frustrated ministers use the same phrase on three continents and in many countries. The internal workings of the public sector baﬄe most people – politician, business person or citizen – who are not part of the inner circle which runs the government day-by-day and year-by-year. Its scale,...
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