Functions and services that are particularly important for societal safety, such as transport of critical ill or other lifesaving infrastructures, are critical societal functions. Although many of these services are governmental, it is also common that governments purchase the services through tendering. For such critical societal functions, there is a low social acceptance for errors that may lead to service disruptions or accidents. This means that reliable and resilient services are required. However, while theory is comprehensive with regards to how organizations can achieve resilience, less is known about the effects of tendering of critical services that require high reliability and resilience.
Based on an organizational framework for critical societal functions, we present a review of relevant literature and analyze how tendering can affect the resilience of critical services. As earlier research on this topic from a risk and safety perspective is scarce, the review has a wide scope. We find that a combination of research on safety and new public management gives a basic understanding of how tendering can affect the resilience of critical societal functions. Resilience and reliability are daunting challenges for organizations, and possibly even more so when they straddle organizational boundaries.