Administrative delay in government: Can information technology help? With a focus on the United States local government

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Stuart Bretschneider


Public administration, Political science, Management

Subject Categories

Business Administration, Management, and Operations


Administrative delay is an often-satirized case of inefficiency in government. This study addresses how various structural and behavioral factors affect the amount of administrative delay in the context of managing local government organizations. Of a special interest was the effect of the use of modern information technology on administrative delay.

Administrative delay can be conceptualized as the amount of time taken to complete core administrative tasks in an organization. The administrative tasks investigated by this study have included purchasing equipment, contracting for services, creating civil service positions, hiring and firing employees, and changing program policies. An empirical test of the model of administrative delay was conducted using a data set based on a survey of program managers and county heads in the largest 450 counties in the U.S.

The empirical results indicate that the management of information resources does matter in determining the amount of administrative delay in an organization. However, the degrees to which information management affects administrative delay vary depending on the nature of an administrative task. The results of path analyses also suggest that the structure and management of information resources are more important than the level of technology in determining administrative delay. Meanwhile, organizational size, form of governance, and the degree of external environmental influence consistently served as significant predictors for administrative delay in county government.

Administrative delay in government is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon, as affected by various cognitive, managerial, political, and legal factors. The objective of operational efficiency is often in conflict with the values of procedural integrity, accountability, and protection of individual rights in government. This study uniquely sought to find in the management of information resources a utilitarian common ground for the imperatives of fast and efficient operations, and just and accountable governance.

The moral environment of public management might not have changed much, whereas its technological environment has undergone revolutionary transformation. The author argues that the advent of modern information technology might provide new opportunities to relieve some of our old problems, unless we intend to use its power to make what is already complex more complex.


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