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New Publication – Ethics and New Public Management


Steve Jacob, Louis M. Imbeau & Jean-François Bélanger, « La nouvelle gestion publique et l’accroissement des marges de manœuvre. Un terreau propice au développement de l’éthique? », Administration publique du Canada, vol. 54, n° 2, 2011, pp. 189-215.

Abstract: The administrative discretion of civil servants is a central topic in public administration literature. Some authors view it as necessary and beneficial, while other researchers see it is a source of widespread abuse. However, reforms inspired by the “new public management” taking place in a number of public administrations are promoting greater managerial flexibility. In parallel with these modernization initiatives directed at administration, scandals continue to shake politico-administrative life, and ethical issues are increasingly at the heart of public action. It is within this context that we question the relationship between an increasing managerial discretion and the development of an ethics infrastructure. Which areas are at risk? Can ethics help overcome the potential abuses of power? How do managers perceive their ability to be flexible and the role of ethics in their work? How do you implement the ethical requirements developed in various standards documents? These are the principal themes addressed in this article that presents the findings of a qualitative case study conducted in a Quebec ministry in 2008–2009. Our results show that, contrary to what promoters of the new public management claim, managers have little, if any, discretionary power in matters of financial management. Their actions and decisions are strictly governed by hierarchical control mechanisms or a computer system. This explains in part why taking ownership of general principles and establishing an ethics infrastructure remain a formal process.

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