Getting what you ask for: Explaining contracted providers' proper use of service monitoring tools

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Mary Tschirhart


Contracted providers, Service monitoring tools, Accountability, Social services, Early childhood programs

Subject Categories

Public Administration | Social Policy


This study examines the various factors affecting the proper use of service monitoring tools by contracted providers. A service monitoring tool is defined very broadly as any source of information that provides quantitative or qualitative data on service inputs, outputs, and/or outcomes that a contracted provider is required to give to a government agency in order to receive a government contract. A contracted provider is properly using a service monitoring tool when the contracted provider reports the data collected by this tool in a timely manner and when the data is both accurate and complete. As an example of a service monitoring tool, this study focused on reporting forms that early childhood programs in three communities in Upstate New York were required by government agencies to complete. Expectancy theory is the major theoretical framework used to build this study's model. According to this model, three broad sets of factors determine a contracted provider's proper use of a service monitoring tool: contracted provider motivation, contracted provider ability, and government and contracted provider role perception. This model was tested using seven case studies. Data sources included: (1) interviews with government agency and contracted provider employees, (2) document analysis, and (3) attendance at meetings between government agencies and contracted providers on the service monitoring tools. In each of the seven case studies, the service monitoring tools this study focused on were integral parts of the government's contract monitoring system. This study finds expectancy theory does not do a good job consistently explaining contracted provider motivation to properly use service monitoring tools. Another key finding is that motivations for proper tool use include: (1) to receive contract rewards and/or penalties, (2) to improve service, and (3) to strengthen relationships. In addition, this study finds a government can increase the likelihood that a contracted provider will be motivated to properly use a tool to improve service by designing a tool that captures relevant service goals. Empirical evidence also implies that a government can reduce the likelihood of role perception problems by having a strong technical assistance system for a tool.


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