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The governance of fire safety: using networks, markets, hierarchy? ...or a form of anarchy?

Klapwijk, Ninja (2012) The governance of fire safety: using networks, markets, hierarchy? ...or a form of anarchy?

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Abstract:The governance of fire safety is complex due to the required specific technical knowledge and expertise. This is already the case while using a prescriptive based approach like Bouwbesluit 2012 in contemporary buildings and becomes even more complex while using a performance based approach in complex buildings, also known as fire safety engineering. Implementing fire safety in buildings therefore requires knowledge, expertise and responsibilities of both public as private actors, and therefore has an integral character. The current Dutch governance of fire safety can thus be seen as a form of governance better known as public-private partnerships. One of the most important threat in this occasion is that public-private partnerships might result in blurred responsibilities and accountabilities, where actors tend to designate responsibilities and accountabilities to each other, while trivializing their owns. The current situation therefore results in a governance mode which can be seen as an ‘anarchy’. In other words, the governance of fire safety is disordered due to a semi-hierarchical and semi-horizontal organization without central allocated responsibilities and accountabilities. From a juridical point of view these responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly formulated, but due to the integral character in the governance of fire safety, the allocation of responsibilities are not always straightforward. Besides, formal responsibilities are not communicated transparently among all the stakeholders which are being observed in the governance of fire safety. In response to these observations, the Commission Dekker (2008) followed with the recommendation to delegate the responsibilities and accountabilities to the private sector where possible. This research demonstrates that there is an ambiguous attitude of the market towards further privatizing the Dutch governance of fire safety, and that this attitude can be explained from both a pragmatic as an ideological perspective. Core values of public and private organizations differentiate significantly from each other, and strategic visions or core businesses of the private domain are often focused on financial interests, which as a consequence might result in opportunistic behavior. Many research has demonstrated that forms of contracts and trust can favor further privatization, but do not state whether and how privatization can replace the responsibilities of the public sector in order to serve the overall public good, in this regard the overall public safety. There are thus significant threats associated with further privatizing the Dutch governance of fire safety, and governmental superintendence as an independent authoritative assessment therefore seems to remain a desired form of administrative supervision that prevents these threats from occurring. The current Dutch governance of fire safety using public-private partnerships still allows significant improvements to be made, but from the perspective of this research it seems inevitable that governmental superintendence has to be safeguarded and to prevent a total privatization to occur. In order to improve the current governance structure, a scientific schematic framework has been presented that can be used in directing potential changes of the contemporary governance of fire safety. This schematic framework elaborates on the assumption that governmental inference is being maintained. In order to further explore possibilities for further privatization, three broad measures and corresponding tools are being presented on how potential privatization in the governance of fire safety can be achieved. When further privatization is desired, individuals should be aware about the threats and caveats about further privatization. This research provides a valuable insight in this subject, and is therefore a valuable reference in directing potential changes in the governance of fire safety. The answer on the question how the governance of fire safety has to be amended is not straightforward, and budget cuts and ideological or political visions often force these changes to be made. The presented scientific schematic framework helps to direct potential changes in this regard. When strengthening allocations of tasks, responsibilities and accountabilities, we actually may conclude that the current Dutch governance of fire safety performs well compared to other European countries, and that an optimization of the current situation will result in an even more satisfactory governance mode.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Nederlands Instituut voor Fysieke Veiligheid
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
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