New Public Management: Is it really new?
The public sectors in a number of countries, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, have undergone significant financial and non-financial reforms over the past two decades. These reforms reflect a dramatic ideological shift in the role, operation and management of the sector. This ideological shift is generally termed as New Public Management, however is it really new? There are a number of reforms in the past two hundred years which indicate that New Public Management is not really new but rather is a tried and, in areas, a tired approach. The purpose of this paper is to identify and examine of some of the New Public Management reforms through a theoretical lens based on Jeremy Bentham’s (1748 – 1832) work on utilitarianism, public administration and publicity [reporting]. The paper argues that many of today’s public sector financial accountability processes and procedures associated with recent public sector financial reforms reflect much of Bentham’s work. For example the adoption of accrual accounting by some governments and the increasing trend in the public sector in placing greater emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness in the management of government services and policies and rather than the delivery. The main finding of the paper is that Bentham’s work does assist in researching and reviewing the positive and negative impacts of New Public Management. This finding indicates that increased research on Bentham’s work may allow for better evaluation of recent public sector financial reforms and inturn could influence the development of appropriate public sector reforms in the future.