The impact of new public management through outsourcing on the management of government information : The case of Sweden

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Publication Details
Author list: Svärd, Proscovia
Publication year: 2019
Start page: 134
End page: 151
Number of pages: 18
ISSN: 0956-5698


Purpose: Using a case study method, the article investigates the impact New Public Management (NPM), through outsourcing has had on the management of government information at the Swedish Transport Agency. In April 2015 the Agency outsourced its IT-operations to IBM company. Some of the IBM sub-contractors had not been cleared by the Swedish Security Service. This exposed the Agency’s information to risk. By outsourcing the IT operations, the General Director of the Agency deviated from the laws governing government information such as the Swedish Security Protection Act, the Personal Data Act and the Publicity and Secrecy Act. Design/methodology/approach: The researcher has applied a case study method as the investigation focuses on a phenomenon in a real-life setting. The case study method entails the use of past studies, which facilitates the exploration and understanding of a complex issue. The phenomenon under investigation is NPM’s impact, through outsourcing, on the management of public information at the Swedish Transportation Agency. Findings: Outsourcing should be foregone by well-formulated contracts that should put into consideration the management of government information and the involvement of all stakeholders such as records managers/archivists, IT personnel, heads of departments, lawyers and business analysts. Outsourcing risks to compromise the two tenets of democracy that is, accountability and transparency which are central to Swedish public administrations’ operations. Research limitations/implications: The study is limited by the fact that it only presents the views of the archivists. This was, however, purposely done because their voice was missing during the discussions that followed after the data breach scandal had become public knowledge. Additionally, archivists are supposed to play a major role in the management of government information at Swedish institutions. Further research that will involve different categories of employees might give a deeper and better understanding of the impact that NPM, through outsourcing, is having on the management of government information and what implications this might have on issues of trust, transparency and accountability. Practical implications: The study demonstrates the need for well-formulated outsourcing contracts that will include information management clauses. It is of crucial importance in a democratic society that access to government information is not compromised as institutions endeavor to achieve efficiency and high-quality service delivery. Social implications: It is government information that gives citizens knowledge about the various processes of government institutions. It is therefore of paramount importance that government information is not left in the hands of unauthorized companies that are involved in the outsourcing activity but should be securely managed and guarded, as the opposite might pose privacy and national security challenges and hence undermine the trust that citizens have in government institutions. Originality/value: The search that the author conducted confirmed paucity in research that discusses issues related to NPM, outsourcing and the management of government information. This paper is therefore a contribution to the discourse from an archives and information management perspective.

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