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Summer 2003

The International Review of Administrative Sciences is a journal of comparative public administration that has examined the major debates in public administration for more than 75 years. The June 2003 issue of the Review focuses on the theme of Creating Self-Confident Government: Reflections and New Frontiers. These papers were initially presented at the biennial conference of the Commonwealth Association of Public Administration and Management held in Glasgow in September, 2002.

Professor Yehezkel Dror presented the keynote speech to the conference. He interpreted the theme as "justified" self-confident government - "as feeling, knowing and making known that one is doing a good job." He emphasized the need for systematic and "cold" self-evaluation and warned that a good dose of self-doubt is needed because self-confidence can repress learning and innovation as well as encourage them. Professor Dror's advice on how to improve "the capacity to govern" set the stage for the conference's examination of three major sub-themes under the heading of self-confident government, namely, Organizing Self-Confident Government, Getting Service Delivery Right, and People at the Centre of Government. This issue of the International Review includes a symposium composed of conference papers dealing with each of these sub-themes.

In the first paper dealing with the theme of organizing self-confident government, Stephen Giacchino and Andrew Kakabadse discuss successful policy implementation as the route to building self-confident government. Their definition of "success factors" includes both controllable and uncontrollable factors with the power to influence a successful outcome. On the basis of research conducted in Malta, the authors identify eighteen factors of success involved in policy implementation. They elaborate on three factors which they note are often overlooked in scholarly writings but which were central to success in this case - commitment, location of political responsibility, and the project management dynamic.

The second paper, by Clare Batty and John Hilton, examines the transition from command and control to self-confidence in government, with particular reference to the Borough of Doncaster, a large metropolitan authority in the UK. After reviewing certain theoretical writings on organization and management, the authors suggest that what is needed is a synthesis of command/control and self-confidence founded on levels of trust that permit the use of appropriate management techniques for each organizational challenge. The "Doncaster model", which is used to test this proposition, indicates that the transition is unlikely to be a rapid one and requires sustained attention.

The first of the papers on the theme of getting service delivery right is John Wilkins' examination of the concept and practice of "alternative service delivery" (ASD). ASD refers to the many and diverse forms of organization and delivery mechanisms that governments use to accomplish their objectives. While ASD is frequently described as a Canadian invention, Wilkins explains how it has been popularized "under many names in many different forms" in countries around the world, including, for example, Tanzania, Latvia, and New Zealand. Among the ten major learning points he provides for successful application of ASD are the importance of cultivating leadership through local, corporate and political champions and the need to model entrepreneurship in innovation and risk management. Finally, he calls for renewed emphasis on innovative ASD to cope with emerging public management problems in both the national and international realms.

A valuable complement to John Wilkins' paper is the paper by Muhammad Rais on the impact of information and communication technologies on improved service delivery. After explaining some basic terms associated with e-government, Dr. Rais reviews current challenges to effective government service delivery and the various methods and channels, especially the Internet channel, by which services can be delivered. He then examines Malaysia's experience with e-government in such areas as e-service, e-procurement and an electronic labour exchange. Next, he provides guidelines to encourage higher use of e-services by business and public users and he concludes his analysis by drawing out lessons for other governments.

The final two articles in this symposium focus on the sustainability of the Westminster model of government, with particular reference to the issue of unified public service. Paul Carmichael and Robert Osborne provide a case study of Northern Ireland to illustrate the extent to which the smaller constituent units of the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) have moved away from the traditional Westminster model. The authors examine this theme for both the period of Direct Rule (1972-99) and that of "Devolution-plus" (1999-the present). They note the efforts to ensure that the recent devolution measures do not endanger the cohesiveness of the UK in vital policy areas and they anticipate a continuing strong role for central institutions, notably the civil service. However, they foresee the emergence of separate civil services for each of the devolved administrations as "a distinct possibility."

In a related paper, Brian Brewer examines the sustainability of a unified public service in Hong Kong - a country with a civil service system that has been significantly influenced by Westminster principles of public administration. He sets the forces affecting Hong Kong's civil service over the past fifteen years within a framework of "differentiation" (e.g., the creation of new independent agencies) and "differential" (changes affecting civil service structures and management processes). He notes that it is difficult to predict whether the Hong Kong civil service will continue to operate with the structures, processes and especially the values characteristic of governments based on the Westminster model. He concludes by sketching a future scenario in which the traditional civil service system would differ substantially from the current regime.

In addition to the symposium on Creating Self-Confident Government, this issue of the Review contains three articles on other issues. Edmond Orban, Chen Xiaoyuan and Peter H. Koehn contrast China’s recent decentralization experience with that of Germany and the United States. The authors argue that the effective participation of Chinese subnational entities in transterritorial economic undertakings is especially striking. China’s experience suggests that the requisite energy and capacity to tackle transnational economic challenges may lie at the subnational level. The authors also argue that given the shifting nature of global pressures and priorities, the extraorganizational sensitivities and linkages of subnational managers must include proximate and distant economic conditions, central government overseers, and transnational actors. The conclusion is drawn that in this dynamic context the most fluid forms of federalism, like that of China, are likely to have and edge.

Michael Cole and John Fenwick examine a recurring theme in discussions about local government in the United Kingdom, namely, the issue of departmentalism. They focus on the implications for departmentalism in local authorities of the Labour Government’s modernization agenda. In particular, they consider the potential effects of the political management reforms, Best Value, the rise of the regulation agenda, and community governance and partnership. The authors conclude that the modernization agenda is exerting pressure towards more cross-departmental models of working.
In the final article of this issue, Virginie Verdier discusses Italy as an atypical case in respect of regulation of the telecommunications and audio-visual sector. She notes that the exercise of regulation in these fields by an independent administrative authority is recognized by the institutions and member states of the European Community and that the roles and powers of this authority differ from one country to another. Agcom, the Italian regulatory authority in the communications sphere, is the only structure among member states that incorporates the principle of convergence. The fact that Agcom has been subjected to much criticism has once again provoked discussion of the role of independent administrative authorities.

Upcoming Debates

The major theme to be examined in the next edition of this web page is “Evaluating the Quality of Governance.” The papers in this symposium, together with other papers, will be briefly summarized on this web page and published in full in the International Review of Administrative Sciences. Information on the Review is available at http://www.iiasiisa.be/iias/airisa/airisa.htm).

 



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