Panel Paper: Policy Design and Accountability Mechanisms In Minority Preference Purchasing

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 10:05 AM
Pratt A (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jessica Terman, University of Nevada

It is estimated that states spend more than 40% of their budgets on the purchase of public goods and services. Since the 1960s, governments have been using this purchasing power to promote racial and gender diversity in the marketplace by adopting minority business preference programs that encourage or mandate public agencies to spend a certain proportion of their contracting budgets on minority businesses. While these policies are thought to have positive outcomes in terms of social equity, governments have struggled to design programs in ways that prevent legal challenges, overcome managerial hurdles and lead to intended outcomes. While the robust literature on representative bureaucracy has, to some extent, investigated the success of these programs, little is known about how to effectively design policies and accountability systems that encourage their efficacy. This research examines the effects of program design, accountability systems and implementation in one of the earliest preference programs implemented at the state level: The Florida Minority Business Enterprise Program.

Using extensive interview and archival data, this study identifies three major policy shifts in Florida preference purchasing. I examine how the policy adoption, implementation and accountability system behind each shift influences program effectiveness. As it stands, very little is known about how these programs are implemented and how policy design influences program success. This study goes inside Florida public agencies to investigate these questions. With its broad use of contractors, Florida is an ideal case to examine how policy design and accountability systems influence the success of these programs.

This research has theoretical implications in terms of understanding how policy design and accountability systems in social equity programs impact bureaucratic implementation and program effectiveness. This is also important because empirical research on the effects and outcomes of accountability mechanisms is sparse in the public management literature.  Furthermore, as the outsourcing of public responsibilities continues, research examining the effectiveness of preference programs is important to maintaining a diverse marketplace and business environment.