Book Review

1213 Words Nov 3rd, 2013 5 Pages
Book Review by Martha Hall Findlay, March 2011

Approaching Public Administration – Core Debates and Emerging Issues Edited by Roberto P. Leone (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Frank L.K. Ohemeng (University of Ottawa); 2011, Emond Montgomery Publications
I recommend this book to all Members of Parliament. I will go further, and suggest that it should be mandatory reading for all Ministers. As an MP, I was very pleased to be asked to read it and to provide my thoughts. As I responded when first asked to do this, “We are seeing some real challenges in our public administration, and this will encourage me to read a book that I know I should read, but which I might not otherwise rush to.” This is true, and therein lies a big challenge—this
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The discipline that results from those forces, and how that affects all levels of management, does not naturally exist in government. The book has done a good job of offering the different perspectives to date, but I hope to see more discussion on how to combine the best of both worlds. It is telling that the essays discussing the role of the private sector in delivering public services are NOT part of this discussion, but found in a separate section of the book. My only comment on those chapters would be to suggest that our procurement processes need to evolve to better understand what is being asked for in terms of private delivery of services, why, and what limits there need to be. I hope to see more analysis comparing both theory and practice in this regard.

As an MP, I particularly enjoyed the chapters addressing questions such as “Do Politicians Control Government?”, “Should the Bureaucracy be Politically Neutral?” and “Is Ministerial Responsibility a Dead Concept?” These go to the core of the relationship between, on the one side, the politicians and the policies they are mandated to implement by the people who elected them, and on the other side, the civil service, representing the need for a consistent, effective, efficient, reliable provision of the various services that over time we have deemed to be part of the public service. The essay by Tom Urbaniak, “Ministerial Responsibility: A Post Mortem” is based on a very blunt, but

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