Government Business: Commentary on cultural and historical factors that shape public service markets internationally

Gary Sturgess, June 2010

Introduction

 

When it comes to involving the private sector in public service delivery, opinion differs greatly. So is there such a thing as an inherently governmental function?

Yet again the US federal government is grappling with the question of 'what activities are inherently governmental' - which functions are so inherently connected with public interest that they can be trusted only to government employees? Among other contracting reforms initiated by the Obama Administration, the Office of Management and Budget has been asked to clarify ‘when governmental outsourcing for services is and is not appropriate’. Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security has ruled that all professional service contracts exceeding $1 million are to undergo additional review to ensure that they do not include functions that are inherently governmental.

To public officials and public service companies in North America, this is familiar ground. Some have traced the ‘core business’ debate back to the Federalist Papers, where the founding fathers argued what functions would be appropriate for the national government to deliver. The fact that this is still being debated two centuries later suggests that we might not be asking the right question. There are few governments anywhere in the world that do not involve external providers in the delivery of some public services, but how they are engaged di ers markedly from one country to another.

Download the full article
When it comes to involving the private sector in public service delivery, opinion differs greatly. So is there such a thing as an inherently governmental function?

Related articles

The Structure and Future of the UK Public Services Market

The public service industry in the UK – that part of the market made up of non- government suppliers – accounts for almost 6 percent of GDP and employs some 1.2 million people. However, virtually nothing is known of the supply side of this market.
4th December 2012

Integrated Commissioning: Building a better model for the delivery of social value through diverse networks of local providers

Decentralisation has been identified as an important key to unlock more productive and responsive public services. The closer the services are to service users, the more accountable they are for addressing users’ diverse and individual needs. As such, increasing the impact of public services means devolving control and providing more choice.
30th June 2012

Frugal Innovation: Learning from social entrepreneurs in India

Over the last 60 years, innovation and improvements in India's public services have frequently emerged in the absence of state intervention or involvement. Social enterprises have stepped in to address the challenges where the government has failed.
29th February 2012