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By Guy Peters, Donald J. Savoie
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Additional resources for Governance in the Twenty-first Century: Revitalizing the Public Service
In that critical view steering becomes a generic concept, rather than a view of government occupying the central position in the provision of governance. Maintaining any one view of steering or another raises empirical questions. However, those questions can only be determined by searching for that steering capacity directly, rather than by assuming it away as a vestige of the past. If there has been as fundamental a shift in the role of the state as has been assumed, then any or all of the alternative conceptions of the sources of governance will be able to predict policy outcomes better than would be possible with the state-centric perspective.
Lastly, governments are increasingly expected to address demands for results and for recording or demonstrating performance. The authors conclude by arguing that improving accountability for performance constitutes an important agenda for revitalizing the public service. They insist that the important issue, as some have suggested, is not about any inherent tension between accountability and performance. If it were so, they point out, then the democratic principles of accountability would somehow be antithetical to the pursuit of efficiency.
Changes intended to improve management practices can promote the reverse behaviour. Executive agencies in Britain, for example, may have empowered people to "count things" rather than to manage things. He speculates on the possibility of revising or abandoning the public service bargain. What, he asks, would happen if we were to replace it by ad hoc hiring or firing arrangements? A more likely scenario, he admits, is that the public service bargain will evolve, but it will not be scrapped. Career civil servants will continue to serve and continue to operate under its aegis.