Municipalities provide a range of expensive services often without knowing whether they are receiving full, efficient value for the public money they spend. Yet, at a time when municipal governments are struggling to make ends meet and to provide acceptable levels of services, the status quo in services provision is no longer an option. Municipal governments need to ascertain whether the cost of a service is justified, and then seek to provide that service at the most efficient price.

One way of providing services more efficiently and at lower cost would be to make them “contestable” – that is, to open up the bidding on services contracts to all interested providers, whether public, private, or a combination of the two. In Contestability: The Uncontested Champion of High-Performance Government, authors Andrea Mrozek and Don McIver explore the policy in the 5th paper of AIMS’ Urban Futures Series.

The authors explain contestability allows municipalities to compare the costs of producing services in-house and of producing them in other ways. Armed with such information, municipal governments would perform better and provide better value for taxpayers as consumers – in short, they would achieve what is often referred to as “high-performance government”.