An interrogation of the adequacy of New Public Management in effective social service delivery Case of Mutare City Council, Zimbabwe
Fungurai, Phillip Nyasha
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Local authorities, if well managed, are a key public sector institution indispensable for effective and efficient service delivery which in turn is critical towards meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local level. In public sector administration since the 1990s, the Bretton Woods Institutions and allies encourage developing countries to adopt New Public Management (NPM) to improve public sector performance, including more effective service delivery. This thesis interrogates the adequacy of New Public Management (NPM) in service delivery using the Mutare City Council in Zimbabwe as a case analysis. The thesis answers the fundamental question of why internationally recommended NPM falls short in promoting good governance and effective service delivery in Zimbabwe in general, and the city of Mutare in specific. At the heart of this thesis is the crisis of service delivery in Mutare, and the practical failure of NPM as an antidote, against the background of a complex socio-political context and economic depression. This thesis is informed by the theory of governance, as augmented – and also contradicted – by NPM as implemented by Mutare City Council. To gather empirical data, this research employed the qualitative research methodology. A qualitative methodology entailed in-depth semi-structured interviews and participant observation. The researcher interviewed the mayor and ten councilors from Mutare City Council, two community opinion leaders, two public administration scholars, and leaders of three residents’ associations and two other civil society groups. The researcher also used participant observation by attending one full council meeting and a council budget consultation meeting organised by Mutare City Council. In essence, it emerged consistently in this research that Mutare City Council is marred by institutional, administrative and operational challenges which impede implementation of NPM. Implementation failures include corruption and meagre political will. There were also problems, however, in applying NPM in the Zimbabwe context, which especially in Mutare led to policy inconsistencies. There was a lack of sufficient monetary and human resources due to the economic crisis plaguing the country, and the council’s institutional capacity shortfalls. There was also an intrinsic disharmony between NPM and local socio-political processes, including the political contestation between the opposition-led local council and the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu PF)-led central government. The result was a fractional, patchy, piecemeal roll-out of NPM. The net effect of NPM’s failure, exacerbated by a dire socio-political and economic crisis has been a municipal service-delivery crisis characterised by irregular refuse collection, poor housing, poor sewer reticulation, erratic health provision, poor roads, acute shortage of street lighting and local traffic lights, acute shortage of burial spaces, acute shortage of recreational spaces, and an informal traders’ crisis. This thesis concludes that implementation of NPM would have to result from much stronger political will, in order to achieve more effective service delivery in Zimbabwe at large and Mutare specifically. There is a need to stimulate political will towards improved implementation of NPM, in its holistic sense, and not as a piecemeal process. This should be accompanied by dislodging the petty version of party politics that have debilitated the running of Mutare City Council. There should be platforms for meaningful citizen engagement and participation in local governance processes. In addition, NPM should be buttressed with a comprehensive policy and legislative framework that adds to its authenticity and legitimacy. There should be adequate financing. All these could reinforce Mutare City Council’s holistic implementation of NPM reforms. Such measures will nurture and inculcate a culture of transparency, accountability, rule of law, and efficiency in service delivery as well as public administration and urban governance at large.