The Construction of Agency in Practice
Edited by Göran Sundström, Linda Soneryd and Staffan Furusten
Chapter 5: Public Purchasing of Complex Services. Balancing Democratic and Market Values
Staffan Furusten The past two decades have seen increased expectations on public organizations to become more market oriented in organizing their activities. Yet the simultaneous demand of the citizenry that public organizations be agents of democracy has not diminished. Thus along with the marketization of the public sector and the transformation of bureaucratic government structures into business relationships in networks, public organizations are being increasingly clever about specifying their needs and selecting the best supplier in the market to fulfil these needs. Marketization is expected to construct a win–win situation, with more relevant services delivered at lower cost and with better quality. As an ideal this seems unproblematic, but in practice how do actors balance the dual claims for them to be both business minded and democratic? The process of purchasing is of particular interest from a democratic point of view. National legislation for the purchasing of goods and services in the public sector has been adopted in many countries worldwide over the past 10 to 15 years, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the European Union (EU) have developed guidelines for the content of such national acts. The basic idea behind these acts is to influence public organizations to consider values such as equality and transparency in purchasing production goods and services. Thus the goal of these acts is for public organizations to be more disciplined in implementing a marketing orientation, which can be seen as the attempt of states to exercise government in governance structures. The...
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