Panel Paper: Contracting for Government Services: Using a Public Values Framework

Saturday, November 10, 2012 : 10:55 AM
Pratt B (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Amanda Girth, The Ohio State University and Jocelyn Johnston, American University

The expansion of alternatives to “pure” government service delivery raises critical issues for public managers and the implementation of public policy.  These alternatives are often pursued with the objective of improving citizen value.  Embedded in the concept of citizen value is the wide range of public values that have become increasingly important in considering governance and service delivery design (Beck Jørgensen and Bozeman 2007; Bozeman 2007; 2002; Frederickson and Stazyk 2010; Frederickson 1996).  For example, one of those values – accountability - is pursued through oversight of governmental and nongovernmental service providers and their performance in outsourcing arrangements.  Other relevant values in the U.S. context include constitutional and political values such as responsiveness, responsibility, due process, transparency, effectiveness, and equity (Beck Jørgensen and Bozeman 2007; Bozeman 2007, Rosenbloom and Piotrowski 2005, Cooper 2002, Warner and Hefetz 2002; Frederickson 1996; Moe 1987).  Indeed, many scholars have recently begun to reassess contracting through these alternative values while others analyze the rationale for contracting and other market-based reforms more directly with economic arguments (Frederickson and Stazyk 2010; Boyne 1998).  These critiques are relevant to analyses of the relationships between citizen/public value and alternative service delivery strategies, including contracting.

Using adaptations of the frameworks proposed by Bozeman (2007, 2002), this paper presents evidence on public service delivery and contract management in the larger context of public values.  The interactions of service delivery and public values are complicated by government contracts and other third-party dynamics.  Our interest in this paper is to examine specific relationships between government contract management and targeted public values such as accountability, and the “common good.”  To address our questions, we use primary data gathered from an original national survey and interviews with public managers from federal, state, and local agencies.  Our analysis will provide insights into the perspectives of government contract managers on contracts and their impacts on targeted public values. 

The paper will also address an additional special case of public value dynamics in the contracting arena: subcontracting.  Despite the associated complexities, subcontractors play an integral role in service provision; their impacts on program effectiveness can be profound.   Continuing our multi-method design, we will examine the effects of subcontracting and indirect oversight for accountability on citizen/public value, with a focus on information exchange, transparency, and service effectiveness.  Included are descriptive analysis of subcontractor dynamics and formal testing of relationships between subcontracting and selected public values.