This article is written to explore the advantages and disadvantages of using league tables in the public sector as performance management tool. The motivation behind writing this is because in recent years, the adoption and use of league table in measuring and managing the performance of public sectors have been on the increase.
The rationale behind the increased adoption of league table in performance measurement and management of not for profit organizations is to create some sense of competition that will probably lead to improved performance.
It is only in the public sector that inefficiencies are encouraged. The police force for example will be given more money when there is increase in crime rate- this does not mean that crime rate could not have increased as a result increased harsh economic conditions and other factors but the police could as well have been inefficient.
I will be looking at both the advantages and disadvantages of using league tables in public sector. This blog post will be short, simple and straight to the point. But before we get started, quickly, what is this league tables?
In a nutshell, a league table is a chart that compares one entity with the other in the way of ranking in order to determine which is comparatively doing better.
Advantages of using league tables in public sector
Can positively stimulate competition when done correctly:
Those that advocate for the use of league table in the public sector are of the opinion that public and civil servants will tend to be more competitive and prudent with the resources at their disposal if they know that their performances will be made public through the ranking of the entity which they represent.
No manager in the public sector would chose not to be at his or her best when they know that their actions would manifest for all to see.
Encourages transparency in the use of public resources:
The fact that internal stakeholders in the public sector know that they will be judged based on how they use resources that they are trusted with will make them be more transparent and accountable in their dealings.
A city council for example would be transparent with its bidding process before awarding contracts as they know that this will increase its transparency ranking in the league table when transparency is one of the yardsticks.
Can increase public confidence on government processes:
Following from the point made above on transparency, public confidence will increase and this will go a long way in reassuring the public that resources are in safe hands.
Makes information about government readily available
Many public databases have been built in recent time as most agencies and establishments make information readily available.
Disadvantages of using league tables in public sector
Can be costly and expensive in terms of money and time
Responsible officers of government agencies will tend to spend time that would have ordinarily been spent one core activities preparing information needed for league tables.
May encourage dysfunctional behaviours
Though many managers in the public sector would work for the good of the public, some managers would still try to cut corners just to achieve higher rankings that will positively enhance the way they are perceived. You can read this article on dysfunctional behaviours– though based on profit seeking companies but still relevant. A school for example would in an attempt to increase pass raise their admission requirement so as to attract only the bright ones.
Could encourage creative reporting
League tables are based on information that are provided by the entity in question. There is always the temptation of tinkering with things a bit just to provide information that will make the organizations look better than they seem.
Could create more problems that it is intended to solve
Learning would be highly discouraged if public schools unnecessarily raise their entry requirement for example just to attract the bright students. You will agree with me that this practice will defeat the aim of setting up the school in the first place.
May be meaningless
Result could be meaningless as a result of the fact that two entities offering similar service may not be the same. A league table with the rate of university graduates that gained employment within 6 months of graduation as a criteria used for ranking institutions of learning does not factor in the location of the universities. More jobs are obviously created in highly populated areas than in places with thin population.
Adverse effects on the populace
League tables may have adverse effect on the performance of people who have passed through an institution that is poorly ranked on the league table. Imagine what would happen to job prospect of a first class graduate from a school that has just been rated poorly.
Peculiar circumstance may make a particular public sector appear worse than it seems. The results of pupils in very disadvantages places may be poor but this does not necessarily mean that the teachers of the school are not motivated and dedicated to their job.
Just as there are laudable arguments in favour of using league tables in the public, we have to be aware of things that can go wrong if the application of league tables is not handled with care. This article has looked at some advantages and disadvantages of using league tables in public sector and why care should be taken when implementing the league tables.