Coping with service delivery deterrents in Tanzania: An eye on Lipsky’s cutting-edge work


  • Denis Kamugisha Department of Public Service and Human Resources Management, SOPAM, Mzumbe University, Tanzania


Street-level bureaucrats, Service delivery, policymakers


There is consensus in public administration literature that a robust service delivery is the result of numerous actors’ interplay including policymakers, citizens, and street-level bureaucrats (SLBs). While this supposition has not been refuted hitherto, the Tanzanian experience shows that service delivery, particularly primary education, is still in a snail’s pace. This challenge is associated with a lack of mutual interface between aforesaid actors because the central government dominates decisions regarding service delivery. This deterrent has opened up a new window for street-level bureaucrats to execute own de-facto policies. This notion is well featured in street-level bureaucracy theory, which assumes that at the end of policy chain SLBs can develop a pattern of practices to deal with difficult encounters. Since how SLBs respond to diverse context when faced with some difficulties in the due course of rendering public services is not clearly articulated in Tanzanian literature, this study sought to fill up this gap. The study employed street-level bureaucracy theory and a qualitative paradigm to explain how SLBs operate in difficult encounters to deliver primary education in the Tanzanian context. The findings reveal that in difficult moments SLBs can adopt a number of strategies to deal with service delivery deterrents by rationing resources as well as routinizing, modifying, and simplifying work or opting for exit strategies. Furthermore, coping strategies may either comply with public policy intentions or not. To ensure a robust service delivery, the central government is inclined to formulating feasible policies for enhancing mutual interaction among key stakeholders.