Category Archives: Government

Performance Information, Racial Bias, and Citizen Evaluations of Government: Evidence from Two Studies

Source: Gregory A Porumbescu, Suzanne J Piotrowski, Vincent Mabillard, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance articles, Published: November 10, 2020
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From the abstract:
Social accountability reforms emphasize expanding performance information disclosure and incorporating citizen feedback into performance evaluations of public organizations. However, social accountability scholarship has largely ignored possible discriminatory implications of performance information use despite calls for more social equity research. We look to bridge these two literatures, arguing that increasing exposure to performance information can actually activate racial bias in citizen feedback. Using two samples of White MTurk participants residing in the United States, we test this argument in a Negative Performance Information Study (n = 800) and a Positive Performance Information Study (n = 800). In the Negative Performance Information Study, we find increased exposure to negative performance information triggers more negative performance evaluations of public organizations led by Black public managers, but not White public managers, and strengthens preferences to fire Black public managers, but not White public managers. In the Positive Performance Information Study, we find increased exposure to positive performance information has no impact on performance evaluations of Black, nor White public managers but strengthens preferences to reappoint White, but not Black public managers. These findings suggest increasing exposure to performance information triggers racial bias in performance evaluations and preferences for holding public managers accountable.

Seeking Patterns in Chaos: Transactional Federalism in the Trump Administration’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Cynthia J. Bowling, Jonathan M. Fisk, John C. Morris, The American Review of Public Administration, Special issue: Double Issue Dedicated to COVID-19, Volume 50 Issue 6-7, August-October 2020
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From the abstract:
The federal government’s response the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been marked by a series of apparently disjointed, chaotic, and confusing statements and actions on the part of both the White House and federal agencies charged with coordinating the federal response. These actions have left many state governors (and citizens) in a position to address the effects of the pandemic in a haphazard and atomistic manner. In this essay, we contend that the actions of the Trump administration, and its relationships with states and local governments, can best be understood through a lens of what we refer to as “transactional federalism,” in which federalism relationships are governed by a set of exchanges between the president and states, and between states. We conclude by discussing the ramifications of this form of federalism.

Outsourcing and Organizational Performance: The Employee Perspective

Source: Gyeo Reh Lee, Shinwoo Lee, Deanna Malatesta, Sergio Fernandez, The American Review of Public Administration, Volume 49 Issue 8, November 2019
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From the abstract:
We develop a conceptual framework that integrates and extends existing explanations of outsourcing’s effects on the government workforce and organizational performance. We then test our logic using 5 years of panel data (2010-2014) from U.S. federal agencies. The evidence presents modest negative effects of outsourcing on organizational performance as perceived by employees. The analysis also reveals that outsourcing affects perceived performance through its influence on job satisfaction.

Is the U.S. Government at Risk of Failing?

Source: Molly Jahn, Gregory Treverton and David Bray, PA Times, Vol. 5 no. 1, Spring 2019
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The longest government shutdown in U.S. history got most of the media’s attention. But, something worse and more fundamental is happening. Over decades, the federal government’s workforce has been both burdened and demeaned, putting government at risk of simply failing in the face of a national crisis—or multiple domestic or foreign emergencies occurring at the same time. ….

Related:
Are Declines in U.S. Federal Workforce Capabilities Putting Our Government at Risk of Failing?
Source: Dr. Molly Jahn, Dr. Gregory F. Treverton, Dr. David A. Bray, Dr. Buddhika Jayamaha, Bill Valdez, BenCarnesLiam Hutchison, Will Mulhern, Senior Executives Association, January 2019

The Anti-Public Administration Presidency: The Damage Trump Has Wrought

Source: Charles T. Goodsell, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
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From the abstract:
President Trump and his Administration have gravely damaged the institutions and values of American public administration. Harm has been done to the federal workforce, the policymaking process, the integrity of missions, agencies and programs, and the government’s relation to science.

Artificial Intelligence, Discretion, and Bureaucracy

Source: Justin B. Bullock, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published June 18, 2019
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From the abstract:
This essay highlights the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in governance and society and explores the relationship between AI, discretion, and bureaucracy. AI is an advanced information communication technology tool (ICT) that changes both the nature of human discretion within a bureaucracy and the structure of bureaucracies. To better understand this relationship, AI, discretion, and bureaucracy are explored in some length. It is argued that discretion and decision-making are strongly influenced by intelligence, and that improvements in intelligence, such as AI, can help improve the overall quality of administration. Furthermore, the characteristics, strength, and weaknesses of both human discretion and AI are explored. Once these characteristics are laid out, a further exploration of the role AI may play in bureaucracies and bureaucratic structure is presented, followed by a specific focus on systems-level bureaucracies. In addition, it is argued that task distribution and task characteristics play a large role, along with the organizational and legal context, in whether a task favors human discretion or the use of AI. Complexity and uncertainty are presented as the major defining characteristics for categorizing tasks. Finally, a discussion is provided about the important cautions and concerns of utilizing AI in governance, in particular, with respect to existential risk and administrative evil.

Survey: Only One-Third of Agencies Are Sending NARA Electronic Records

Source: Brandi Vincent, Nextgov, March 29, 2019

Many federal agencies could be at risk of not meeting National Archives and Records Administration’s mandate to manage (and eventually send NARA) all records electronically by December 2019, according to a survey.

An overreliance on manual processes and fallible end-users paired with a lack of manpower and implemented automation are driving that risk according to a survey of 150 government decision-makers released Thursday by AvePoint Public Sector and custom research firm Market Connections.

The survey found that while 93 percent of respondents were “very confident” or “somewhat confident” their agencies are managing records to federal standards, a “vast majority” of agencies are not presently sending all their eligible records to NARA. Only 33 transferred all eligible records to NARA in fiscal 2018. The year prior, only 22 percent of agencies transferred eligible electronic records to the administration. Still, 61 percent of respondents rated their agencies’ progress at meeting the December deadline as “good,” or “excellent.”….

Related:
New Survey Reveals Why Federal Agencies Aren’t Transferring Records to NARA
Source: AvePoint Public Sector, March 28, 2019

…. Why Agencies Aren’t Transferring Records to NARA
The 2019 NARA Readiness Report directly asks respondents their reasons for not transferring records to NARA for disposition. Findings showed:
– Too many records / a lot of work / manpower shortage / difficult to manage—42 percent
– Cost / Budget—16 percent
– Work in progress—11 percent
– Lack of appropriate oversight / mismanaged—7 percent
– Compliance / data concerns—5 percent
– Other responses / Confidential—27 percent

Fees, Fines, and Penalties: Better Reporting of Government-wide Data Would Increase Transparency and Facilitate Oversight

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-19-221, March 7, 2019

From the Fast Facts:
Federal agencies collect hundreds of billions of dollars annually in fees, fines, and penalties, such as national park entry fees and penalties for violations of federal telemarketing law.

Government-wide data could help Congress identify trends in collections and significant changes that could be an indication of an agency’s performance. Currently, there is no comprehensive, government-wide report that identifies specific fees, fines, and penalties.

We made 4 recommendations to enhance the Office of Management and Budget’s current reporting on these collections, such as making more specific data publically available.

Related:
Highlights
Recommendations
Podcast

The shutdown: Drowning government in the bathtub

Source: William E. Nelson, The Conversation, February 12, 2019

…. Shuttering the government for the third time since Trump took office remains possible, but is less likely now, given Monday’s progress towards a deal in Congressional talks over securing the border. Meanwhile, bipartisan support, including among prominent Republicans like Sens. Chuck Grassley, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman, is rising for bills that would prohibit shutdowns.

The president’s observable objective in this political conflict is getting money from Congress to build the border wall.

As legal scholars who have spent much of our careers analyzing the interaction between government and society, including the economy, we believe that intentionally or not, the shutdown also was consistent with a goal long sought by a subset of the Republican Party – not to be confused with traditional, moderate Republicans – that wants to dismantle the government.

Starve the beast

These advocates of limiting government’s size have a traffic cop theory of the state, featuring a minimalist state focused on safety and security.

Many believe that government is at best superfluous and at worst a drag on a free market. It has long been their aim to cut taxes to “starve the beast.” ….