Control Patterns in Contracting-Out Relationships: It Matters What You Do, Not Who You Are

Angelo Ditillo, Mariannunziata Liguori, Mariafrancesca Sicilia, Ileana Steccolini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
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The contracting-out of public services has often been accompanied by a strong academic focus on the emergence of new governance forms, and a general neglect of the processes and practices through which contracted-out services are controlled and monitored. To fill this gap, we draw on contracting-out and inter-organizational control literatures to explore the adoption of control mechanisms for public service provision at the municipal level and the variables that can explain their choice. Our results, based on a survey of Italian municipalities, show that in the presence of contracting-out, market-, hierarchy- and trust-based controls display different intensities, can co-exist and are explained by different variables. Service characteristics are more effective in explaining market- and hierarchy-based controls than relationship characteristics. Trust-based controls are the most widespread, but cannot be explained by the variables traditionally identified in contracting-out and inter-organizational control studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-229
Number of pages18
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number1
Early online date22 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


  • contracting-out, municipalities, control, public services


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