New issue/re-launch of journal Administration available

A new issue of the journal Administration is out today.

To mark the journal’s ‘re-launch’, this issue is available in full for free online here.

As many readers will know, Administration is published by the Institute of Public Administration, and has been a key locus for research-led debate on economic development, and of course on wider developments in the public sector and society, since 1953.

The current issue includes prefatory articles from the incoming editor Muiris MacCarthaigh, who `sets out his stall’, and from Tony McNamara, who has edited Administration since 1989. These will be of interest no doubt to a wide readership and to various contributor bases, (e.g., from academic, practitioner and civil society perspectives).

As the contents indicate, the focus of this issue is on public sector reform, with an opening piece by Brendan Howlin TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I guess that Ministers historically have been uneven in how or whether they contribute to debate at this level; perhaps this is a good cue to them, and to politicians more generally, to get their quills out.

Notes from the Editors:

  • “Renewing public administration research and practice” by Muiris MacCarthaigh
  • “A final word” by Tony McNamara


  • “Reform of the public service” by Brendan Howlin, TD
  • “Progress and pitfalls in public service reform and performance management in Ireland” by Mary Lee Rhodes & Richard Boyle
  • “Regulating everything: From mega- to meta-regulation” by Colin Scott
  • “Trust and public administration” by Geert Bouckaert
  • “The reform of public administration in Northern Ireland: a squandered opportunity?” by Colin Knox


  • Third report of the Organisational Review Programme
  • The challenge of change: Putting patients before providers

Lunn on Public Sector Reform

Pete Lunn of the ESRI has an interesting article in today’s Times about public sector reform.  Pete is sceptical aout the effectiveness of rigorously enforced targets for public service organisations and performance management for individuals.  I think these arguments are worth discussing further.  (Certainly, Tony Blair’s attempt to impose performance targets on the NHS didn’t seem to be very effective.)

I would guess, however, that whatever the merits of explicit targets and serious performance monitoring, the govenment will probably do well to get the public sector unions to agree to what Pete notes are the “straightforwardly sensible” reforms such as “developing more online services, sharing resources across public organisations, allowing freer movement of staff and, perhaps especially, basing promotion solely on merit.”

One example of this type of rigidity that prevails in the public sector is that there is little room for well qualified economists to join the civil service in the middle-ranking jobs that would be appropriate for them.  More generally, the “generalist” philosophy of the civil service often doesn’t sit well with the employment of staff who want a career as a specialist in a particular technical area.