Government by Investigation: Congress, Presidents, and the Search for Answers, 1945 2012

Brookings Institution Press
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Paul C. Light examines and evaluates the 100 most significant investigations of policy failures, bureaucratic mistakes, and personal misconduct undertaken by the U.S. federal government between 1945 and 2012. Launched by Congress or the president, sometimes by both at the same time, the investigations at the core of this book were driven by the search for answers about significant breakdowns in government performance. Light reveals which investigations were most effective, and why.
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About the author

Paul C. Light is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at New York University's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. His many books include Driving Social Change: How to Solve the World's Toughest Problems and A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It. He is also a coauthor of Government by the People, now in its 24th edition.

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Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Oct 24, 2013
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Pages
316
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ISBN
9780815722694
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Criminal Law / General
Law / Government / General
Political Science / Political Process / General
Political Science / Public Affairs & Administration
Political Science / Public Policy / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Paul C. Light
Until the Department of Housing and Urban Development scandal in 1989, the public knew little about federal inspectors general (IGs). Suddenly, Congress, the press, and the public were seeking answers to a scandal that challenged the role of the IGs in ensuring government accountability. Within days, the IGs were front-page news, and greater emphasis was placed on fraud, waste, and abuse as a measure of whether government could be held accountable.

Monitoring Government offers the first systematic evaluation of the offices of inspector general OIGs and examines the government-wide investment in the IG concept. Despite their increasingly prominent, often controversial, role in the internal oversight of government, very little is known about their institutional or operational problems. To some in the executive branch, OIGs exercise too much discretion at the expense of executive control. To others in Congress, they do not have enough autonomy and responsibility. Overall the question is not only how the OIGs have functioned, but also what role they soundly play in our system of separation of powers.

Paul Light begins with a brief history of the IG concept, from the passage of the 1978 IG Act to the changes in mission with new administrations. He explains the different approaches to accountability, discusses the nature of monitoring the political incentives surrounding findings and recommendations made by IGs, and looks at the dominance of compliance monitoring as the front line against fraud, waste, and abuse.

The book addresses a number of specific issues regarding the policing of government. Using detailed interviews with past IGs and senior-level officials across government, as well as a case study of the Housing and Urban Development scandal, Lights examines a series of specific operational issues. Envisioning a broader role for the IG in the future, he offers recommendations to strengthen the search for accountability.

Paul C. Light
"The nonprofit sector survives because it has a self-exploiting work force: wind it up and it will do more with less until it just runs out. But at some point, the spring must break." America's nonprofit organizations face a difficult present and an uncertain future. Money is tight. Workloads are heavy, employee turnover is high, and charitable donations have not fully rebounded from the recent economic downturn. Media and political scrutiny remains high, and public confidence in nonprofits has yet to recover from its sharp decline in the wake of well-publicized scandals. In a recent survey, only 14 percent of respondents believed that nonprofits did a very good job of spending money wisely; nearly half said that nonprofit leaders were paid too much, compared to 8 percent who said they earned too little. Yet the nonprofit sector has never played a more important role in American life. As a generation of nonprofit executives and board members approaches retirement, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that their organizations are prepared to continue their missions—that they are built to last in a supremely challenging environment. Paul Light, renowned expert on public service and nonprofit management, strongly argues for capacity-building measures as a way to sustain and improve the efforts of the nonprofit sector. With innovative data and insightful analysis, he demonstrates how nonprofits that invest in technology, training, and strategic planning can successfully advance their goals and restore public faith in their mission and capabilities. He explains the ways in which restoration of that faith is critical to the survival of nonprofits—another important reason for improving and then sustaining performance. Organizations that invest adequately in their infrastructure and long-term planning are the ones that will survive and continue to serve.
Paul C. Light
The nonprofit sector has never been under greater pressure to prove itself. With missions expanding and funding never more competitive, the sector suffers from a general impression that it is less efficient and more wasteful than its government and private competitors. Its funders, be they governments, charitable foundations, or individual givers, have never seemed so insistent about economy and results, while its clients, be they communities or individuals, have never been more demanding about efficiency and responsiveness. How the nonprofit sector does its work is becoming almost as important to funders and clients as what the sector actually delivers by way of goods and services.The problem is that there is virtually no agreement on just how nonprofits can improve. Unlike the federal government, the nonprofit sector is still at the beginning of its reform journey and its networks of consultants, management associations, and scholars are only beginning to develop the research base to know what reforms might work under what conditions. In Making Nonprofits Work, Paul C. Light charts the current trends of management reform in the nonprofit sector and assesses the climate for reform at the local and national levels. Light examines the four popular philosophies, or "tides," being advocated— scientific management, liberation management, war on waste, and watchful eye—offering examples and caveats from a portfolio of recent experience. Drawing on confidential interviews with leaders in nonprofit management reform, a detailed search of Internet sources, and a survey of state associations of nonprofit organizations, Light's findings suggest that the nonprofit sector has a remarkable opportunity to prevent the excesses and fadism that have dominated reform efforts in government and the private sector. He cautions leaders in the nonprofit sector to recognize the limits of various reform models, to set priorities carefully, and to limit investments of reform energy to a handful of priorities. Finally, he urges reformers to boost the sector's ability to implement new systems and reforms by focusing more closely on capacity building.
Paul C. Light
According to Paul C. Light's controversial new book, The New Public Service, this January's 4.8 percent federal pay increase will do little to compensate for what potential employees think is currently missing from federal careers. Talented Americans are not saying "show me the money" but "show me the job." And federal jobs just do not show well.

All job offers being equal, Light argues that the pay increase would matter. But all offers are not equal. Light's research on what graduates of the top public policy and administration graduate programs want indicates that the federal government is usually so far behind its private and nonprofit competitors that pay never comes into play.

Light argues that the federal government is losing the talent war on three fronts. First, its hiring system for recruiting talent, top to bottom, underwhelms at almost every task it undertakes. Second, its annual performance appraisal system is so inflated that federal employees are not only all above average, they are well on their way to outstanding. Third and most importantly, the federal government is so clogged with needless layers and convoluted career paths that it cannot deliver the kind of challenging work that talented Americans expect.

None of these problems would matter, Light argues, if the government-centered public service was still looking for work. Unfortunately, as Light's book demonstrates, federal careers were designed for a workforce that has not punched since the 1960s, and certainly not for one that grew up in an era of corporate downsizing and mergers. The government-centered public service is mostly a thing of the past, replaced by a multisectored public service in which employees switch jobs and sectors with ease.

Light concludes his book by offering the federal government a simple choice: It can either ignore the new public service and troll further and further down the class lists for new recruits, while hoping that a tiny pay increase will help, or it can start building the kind of careers that talented Americans want.

Paul C. Light
The nonprofit sector has never been under greater pressure to prove itself. With missions expanding and funding never more competitive, the sector suffers from a general impression that it is less efficient and more wasteful than its government and private competitors. Its funders, be they governments, charitable foundations, or individual givers, have never seemed so insistent about economy and results, while its clients, be they communities or individuals, have never been more demanding about efficiency and responsiveness. How the nonprofit sector does its work is becoming almost as important to funders and clients as what the sector actually delivers by way of goods and services.The problem is that there is virtually no agreement on just how nonprofits can improve. Unlike the federal government, the nonprofit sector is still at the beginning of its reform journey and its networks of consultants, management associations, and scholars are only beginning to develop the research base to know what reforms might work under what conditions. In Making Nonprofits Work, Paul C. Light charts the current trends of management reform in the nonprofit sector and assesses the climate for reform at the local and national levels. Light examines the four popular philosophies, or "tides," being advocated— scientific management, liberation management, war on waste, and watchful eye—offering examples and caveats from a portfolio of recent experience. Drawing on confidential interviews with leaders in nonprofit management reform, a detailed search of Internet sources, and a survey of state associations of nonprofit organizations, Light's findings suggest that the nonprofit sector has a remarkable opportunity to prevent the excesses and fadism that have dominated reform efforts in government and the private sector. He cautions leaders in the nonprofit sector to recognize the limits of various reform models, to set priorities carefully, and to limit investments of reform energy to a handful of priorities. Finally, he urges reformers to boost the sector's ability to implement new systems and reforms by focusing more closely on capacity building.
Paul C. Light
"The nonprofit sector survives because it has a self-exploiting work force: wind it up and it will do more with less until it just runs out. But at some point, the spring must break." America's nonprofit organizations face a difficult present and an uncertain future. Money is tight. Workloads are heavy, employee turnover is high, and charitable donations have not fully rebounded from the recent economic downturn. Media and political scrutiny remains high, and public confidence in nonprofits has yet to recover from its sharp decline in the wake of well-publicized scandals. In a recent survey, only 14 percent of respondents believed that nonprofits did a very good job of spending money wisely; nearly half said that nonprofit leaders were paid too much, compared to 8 percent who said they earned too little. Yet the nonprofit sector has never played a more important role in American life. As a generation of nonprofit executives and board members approaches retirement, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that their organizations are prepared to continue their missions—that they are built to last in a supremely challenging environment. Paul Light, renowned expert on public service and nonprofit management, strongly argues for capacity-building measures as a way to sustain and improve the efforts of the nonprofit sector. With innovative data and insightful analysis, he demonstrates how nonprofits that invest in technology, training, and strategic planning can successfully advance their goals and restore public faith in their mission and capabilities. He explains the ways in which restoration of that faith is critical to the survival of nonprofits—another important reason for improving and then sustaining performance. Organizations that invest adequately in their infrastructure and long-term planning are the ones that will survive and continue to serve.
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