Public Administration Quarterly Vol. 19 No. 4


Thomas D. Lynch
Susan E. Day
Florida Atlantic University

How do you know what have you received for you money? The private sector has a general term to answer that question–widgets. What are widgets in the public sector? The public sector focuses on the financial resources used to produce our products and services rather than the products and services produced. Political processes determine input decisions and elaborate budgeting and financial management techniques are employed to ensure accountability.

What about monitoring and consequences of our public programs, the products and services produced by our government agencies, and the day-to-day activities within our bureaucracies? To the extent that our government tracks the answers to these questions, we do so with performance measures. They are the widgets of the public sector. As Epstein (1988:3) points out, “[T] he simplest way to think of this topic is by analogy to the private sector: performance measurement is government’s way of determining whether [or not] it is providing a quality product product at a reasonable cost.”

This article reviews the evolution of the governmental performance measure concept and comments on its contemporary development in four sections: history, state of the art, theoretical considerations, and conclusions. The history section traces the evolution of government performance measures. The section on the state of the art reviews current applications measurement systems at the international, national, and state and local levels . The theoretical section discusses the change in conceptual assumptions concerning performance measurement. The last section suggest the implications of the current developments in this movement is the terms of contemporary and future public administration.

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