Outsourcing Expert Services by State Transportation Departments: A Look at Effects on Cost, Quality, and Changing Employment Levels
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American Review of Public Administration, ISSN: 1552-3357, Vol: 44, Issue: 4, Page: 477-492
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- Social Sciences; Business, Management and Accounting; Accountability; Contracting out; Government agencies; Government contractors; Outsourcing; Privatization; Public Policy; Transportation
Privatization has increasingly become a policy option for government agencies struggling to meet rising demands for services but with fewer resources. In the transportation arena, many state departments of transportation (DOTs) have privatized by outsourcing highway functions to the private sector. But the outsourcing of technical and expert services such as those related to the design and construction of highway infrastructure may result in a smaller or less knowledgeable DOT workforce that is unable to perform the necessary contract management to ensure the quality of the work done by contractors. We posit an outsourcing process in which DOTs respond to the combination of increased demand for highway services and growing workforce constraints by contracting out much of the work formerly performed by in-house personnel. This, in turn, can produce perceptions of quality problems regarding the outsourced work and a subsequent expansion of the workforce. We examine the extent to which different highway-related tasks are being outsourced, the effect of workforce and employment factors on outsourcing, the perceptions of highway officials regarding the impact of outsourcing on cost-effectiveness and the service quality of the outsourced work, and subsequent employment levels. © The Author(s) 2012.