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Transforming racial bureaucracy: New Public Management and public sector reform in contemporary South Africa

This article provides an illustration of the complex and fraught work of public sector reform in practice. After briefly retracing some of the achievements of OPM and the range of criticisms it has been subject to since the early 1980s, we focus on the unexpected consequences of incorporating elements of New Public Management (NPM) thinking in the design of the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO) in South Africa. The case’s interest lies not only in its sensationalist qualities, or as an illustration of the sorry state of the public sector in a transition economy, but in its stark illustration of the political and institutional factors that make public sector reform such a difficult policy agenda generally.