POTENTIALS FOR HORIZONTAL COOPERATION IN A CENTRALIZED SETTING: EMPIRICAL RESEARCH ON HUNGARIAN CIVIL SERVANTS' PERCEPTIONS ON PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION CULTURE.
Ambition and research method
The article presents a descriptive analysis of the perceptions of Hungarian civil servants regarding outsourcing and other forms of cooperation with external partners. Outsourcing in this sense is addressed as a general concept and as a particular indicator of cooperation.
An empirical survey was carried out in Hungary within the central civil service by an online questionnaire between 17 March and 4 April, 2014. 11,004 civil servants provided a full response out of the 40,.000 addressees of the entire central civil service of 80,000 (central civil service encompasses ministerial and territorially deployed but centrally organized civil service). The most important institutional cohort of the research sample were the 'County Government Offices'. These public administration institutions were originally (when created in 2011) subordinated to the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice but--due to institutional rearrangements--currently they are subordinated to the Prime Minister's Office. Further details of the reform that created 'County Government Offices' are explained by Gellen (2012) and Agh (2014). 'County Government Offices' shall be distinguished from the relatively insignificant administrative offices of the locally elected County Assemblies that are not in the scope of this research.
Responses displayed in this article were given on a 1 to 5 scale, 1 meaning definite negation or extreme negative perception while 5 meaning definite consent or extreme positive perception. Figures show the mean of answers on a 1-100 scale. Conversion to 1-100 scale was done in the following way: mean*100/(n-1) whereas 'n' refers to the number of categories. In the current case 5 categories were used from 1 to 5 therefore conversion was done by multiplying mean by 25. The questionnaire contained 44 questions including 7 that were multiple questions. The full analysis of all questions would exceed the limits of a single scientific article therefore the results displayed in this article are focused on one of the most interesting findings of the research, definitely the somewhat counterintuitive findings on civil servant attitudes towards outsourcing. Outsourcing in this case should be understood as a general concept without detailing its forms such as contracting out, PPPs or concessions therefore the terms used in the questions are to be understood as indicators of general sentiments of a target group that is unified by legal status. The detailed understanding of the terminology could not be clarified in a research of such magnitude but the local context of how to interpret data are described in the article.
How questions were composed?
The questions analyzed in this article reflect a balanced scorecard inspired logic as follows:
--Certain external factors: information on potential connections between civil service and society such as perceived trust of society in the central civil service and outsourcing.
--General internal factors: motivation including trust in central civil service in terms of a career, prestige and remuneration.
--Internal workflows: hierarchy, chain of command, law and internal bylaws, competition (internal) and partnership as a form of internal cooperation (colleagues as partners).
Civil servant perceptions on outsourcing can be useful to evaluate outsourcing in light of a future reform, when organizational resistance needs to be taken into consideration. On a higher, theoretical level, perception analysis on outsourcing can be used as an indicator of the current public administration culture, assuming that a pro-outsourcing sentiment indicates a more managerialistic approach (Pollitt, 2007) while a resistant attitude would indicate a Weberian core administration culture.
The online questionnaire was distributed among the central civil service. Central civil service as a legal category in Hungary is defined by Act CXCIX of 2011, therefore it is a new category. The research offers a first insight on the mindset of this group after the vast changes that took place from 2010 onwards. The survey conducted in central civil service offers a context analysis for further reforms as well as enables research to reflect on the impact of the reforms. The target group excludes the civil service of local (municipal) administrations such as the employees of armed forces. Public employees such as university professors or nurses are neither civil servants, nor central civil servants. Central civil servants are employed in Ministries, Central Offices and in County Government Offices.
In the following table Budapest Municipal Local Government Office (142 respondents) is neither of these. Its employees are civil servants but the percentage in the total sample is so low that it does not affect the results significantly. On the other hand, this part of the sample can be taken as a control group to detect whether there are any systemic deviations according to the legal status of the respondents. In this regard, Budapest civil servants tend to have the same opinion as central civil servants working in Budapest or Pest County while respondents in the countryside tend to have slightly different opinions.
It is important to remark that the bulk of the Hungarian central public administration lacks the characteristic of being sector-specific regarding any industry, market or service area. Previous sector specific administrative bodies (such as former Environmental Inspectorates or Labor Administration Offices, etc.) have been concentrated into County Government Offices. In the original, pre-2010 setting, certain features possibly would have been characteristic to certain sectors but after the reconfiguration of the total institutional setting such sector specific characteristics do not exist.
Attributes of the Hungarian public administration culture:
A literature review
After the fall of the iron curtain, the first theorists on reform issues were the transitology-inspired developmental economists such as Janos Kornai. According to his observations, Hungarian democratic transition was marked by the rule of law and public institutional development as well as by rapid economic liberalization while profound democratization of the entire society took place. The transition however could not be complete due to the lack of historically significant time. In this sense, Kornai argues that the changes were 'exceptionally speedy' (Kornai, 1996) in Hungary and in the entire region. Developmental economists share the viewpoint of progression with normative theory in political science hallmarked by Attila Agh (2014; Pridham, 2001; Agh, 1998). Interestingly, the first wave of reforms hardly gained in spiration from contemporary public administration theory. From 1990 onwards new institutional economics inspired a huge wave of international advice of donor organizations for public sector reforms since this approach generated intellectual spotlight for the importance of institutions determined by law. International donor organizations started to reform strategic settings of the target countries having their primary focus on institutionalizing the rule of law--especially regarding property rights (Prado and Trebilcock, 2009). After having the framework settings of the rule of law, other key institutions have been taken into focus such as jurisdiction and constitutional courts. The typical sequence in Central and Eastern Europe was that primarily democratic and rule of law institutions were established and stabilized while public service (and public administration) institutions were not reconstructed or at least not at the same pace. The latter suffered significant delay to the market economy institutions. In fact, public administration and public service institutions typically did not have time for Weberian type consolidation because marketization and minimalization arrived relatively early (Ayres and Braithwaite, 1992, 1995, p. 7.) Public administration theorists univocally emphasize that Hungary belongs to the 'legalistic' public administrative culture (Hajnal, 2003, 2008, p. 132, 2014; Hintea, Ringsmuth and Mora, 2006; Drechsler, 2005). The Hungarian public administration culture is part of a wider legacy of the Monarchy of Austria-Hungary also characterized by legalism and stiff proceduralism, according to the enculturated interpretation of the Weberian administration values. Throughout the decades of Communism an authoritarian component was added to the local interpretation of public administration (Cameron and Orenstein, 2012). Having a legalistic public administration culture after more than four decades of Communist dictatorship appears to be desirable. However, legalism in public administrations has been viewed as an obstacle of efficiency and performance in the scientific literature on PA since quite a substantial time (Chester...
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