Towards New Public Management In Nigeria: Implementing Privatization Policy

Towards New Public Management In Nigeria: Implementing Privatization Policy
By Abdul-Warees Solanke

No where else is the challenge of transformation and modernization of the public sector more daunting than the sub-Saharan Africa where most of the countries are still grappling with the crisis of government and development. Largely colonial appendages who assured independence from the imperialist overlords especially Britain and France in the latter half of the 20th century, governments in the newly liberated sub-saharan African nations inherited public services structured to serve the interests of the metropolitan governments. By the 1980s when much public service reforms were taking roots in Britain, the United States and New Zealand for instance, countries of sub-Saharan Africa were still attached to their immediate past independent traditional public administration structures, inherited from their former imperial masters which have become evidently dysfunctional, lethargic, nepotistic and corruption infested. This essay, in discussing the rationale and features of New Public Management in the light of public service reforms in developed countries, shall offer some reflections on Privatization, a core NPM policy tool, and how it is applicable to the Nigerian public administration that compelled the global paradigm shift to NPM.


The 1980s saw the emergence of a new managerial approach n the public sector, as a response to the inadequacies of the traditional model of public administration (Saim: 2007) Using the British experience, Nutley, S and Osborne, S.P (1994)2 highlighted ways in which public sector organisations have changed over time and tried to establish whether these changes add up up to a different philosophy of public sector service. According to the two authors, the consensus of opinion among writings on the phenomenon is that those changes amounted to a new philosophy or doctrine as to how public services should be provided or managed, often referred to as New Public Management: The key elements as listed by the two writers include: 

  • The introduction of cash limits and a concern to demonstrate that resources have been well used (value for money) 
  • Decentralization of service delivery, coupled with devolved responsibility and accountability. 
  • Identification of explicit standard and measures of performance 
  • An increasing focus on quality and the rights of consumers to have quality public services. 
  • The rights of public service users to have some form of consumer choice 
  • Separating out the responsibility of policy setting from that of service delivery.
  • The introduction of internal trading 
  • Greater competition 
  • Appointing visible managers who should be free to manage 
  • A stress on private sector styles of management. 

Jones, D.(2007), also linked the recent emphasis upon new public management to a number of factors including the perceived poor performance, inefficiency and ineffectiveness of traditional government bureaucracy due to the following:

  • Lack of market discipline and proper political and organisational accountability manifesting in over-manning waste, inefficiency and poor service provision 
  • The rigidity, excessive rule domination and hierarchical constrains which result in goal displacement and lack of innovation and initiative. 
  • In Third world countries, the evidence of corruption in their bureaucracies is apparent 
  • In the developed countries, catalyst for NPM was threefold:
    • the necessity of reducing public expenditure
    • balancing the budget and avoiding fiscal deficits 
    • the need to reduce state bureaucracy and state regulation, and the realization of creating maximum scope for private sector and maximizing resources at its disposal.

Generally however, the fundamental rationale for NPM frenzy in democratic states as explained by Jones D (2008)3 was the pressure on politicians, responsible to the electorate to give the taxpayer value for money, given the non-voluntary nature of tax payment to finance the state bureaucracy and public services.

In order to fully justify these rationales, it is appropriate to have a depth of understanding of the traditional public administration which informed such dramatic and revolutionary paradigm shift of New Public Management Contemporary scholars and authorities of public policy and administration agree on some salient features of traditional public administration, which when condemned, denote the traditional public sector as being concerned mainly with process rather than result. Unfortunately, pre-occupation with process usually does not enhance the desired and result of effectiveness, efficiency and economy demanded in a rapidly globalizing world confronted by the challenges scarcity, efficiency of resource mobilization and allocation competition, and diversity of consumer needs.

Jones (2008)4 further highlighted such limiting features as including bogus bureaucratic organisations, accounting for their inertia, high degree of centralization and hierarchical control with extensive framework of rules, regulations, official procedures, creating bottlenecks and the red tape syndrome apart from stifling initiatives. The assurance of long tenure for public servants working within the traditional public administration framework, ironically is fraught with an inherent tendency complacent to render them complacent, while the structure of the service in which they operate is quite complex and confusing as one organisation could be involved in both commercial and non-commercial activities.

These deficiencies or dysfunctions of traditional public administration necessarily validate the quest for a new approach to public sector management which pays far greater attention to the achievement of result and personal responsibility of managers, making organisation’s personnel and their employment terms and conditions more flexible and incorporating clear setting of organisational and personal objectives in addition to enabling measurement of achievement with key performance indicators(KPI).

Denoted with various descriptions including managerialism, market based public administration, post bureaucratic paradigm and entrepreneurial government, the bottom line of New Public Management is the urgency to inculcate public sector organisations with the best techniques of private sector practices n order to bring the inherent discipline and efficiency of the market place to state activities. Scholars like Massey, Hood Allison, Steward and Ranson agree on the above features while the Organisation for Cooperation and Development, OECD succinctly summarizes NPM as implying the following:

  • Improving human resources including performance pay 
  • Staff involvement in decision making 
  • Relaxing controls, but imposing performance targets 
  • Using information technology 
  • User charges 
  • Deregulation of Monopoly 

In other words, NPM suggests the breaking up of large organisations into their component functional units, separation of policy department from service delivery function: detaching commercial arm from non-commercial organisational briefs, with operational autonomy given to service delivery department. Referred to as disaggregation, this new NPM culture, according to experiences, injects the ideals of accountability and dynamism into the public sector, as public servants working on terms similar to what obtains in the private sector ar motivated to delivery service while bearing in mind that there is target to meet with clear performance measures in place to assess them NPMs other associated features include innovation of contractual employment with many serniorposts becoming fixed, short term fixed tenure renewable on satisfactory and revolutionary performance, contracting out public services, inter-agency, point of delivery charging, cost recovery, adoption of accrual accounting system, revenue retention and surplus retention... Read More 

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