SUSS POL 201 Study Unit 1: Fundamentals of Public Administration and…
SUSS POL 201 Study Unit 1: Fundamentals of Public Administration and Bureaucracy
Development of the Field
The early system
The earlier systems of administration shared a common characteristic where
one’s personal ties
and loyalty to important individuals such as a king or a minister were
central to getting the job.
Such systems eventually resulted in corruption or misuse of the office for personal gains. These practices have persisted even till now in some countries.
In Britain, the start of the traditional model is seen during the mid-nineteenth century when the Northcote-Trevelyan report (1854) recommended
establishing a system of examination for public service
appointments and to fill higher posts by promotions from inside based on merit, thus abolishing patronage systems.
19th and 20th Century Professionalising Bureaucracy
Wilson and Weber argued for a separate
a set of
for administrators who should be separate from politics
Paradigms of Public Administration
Traditional public administration
The focus of the traditional public administration was on issues such as
organisation theory and
the politics and administration dichotomy, which was all influenced by the original scholars of public administration
Style of administration was
New public management
The 1980s saw the arrival of a business-like New Public Management (NPM), which
focused on ideas from the private sector
being responsive to citizens as clients.
This type of management emerged in the early 1980s in Anglo-Saxon countries
Administrative style is
. Governments in these countries wanted the
public sector to mimic private sector
increase efficiency and cut costs
NPM believed that the government should steer, not row - which
led to large-scale privatization
and contracting out in different countries
ancient public administration
New public governance
the 2000s called for a more
in new public governance with a focus on network governance and collaborative governance.
There was a shift to horizontal network-based modes of governance from the traditional hierarchies in public administration with a
focus on multiple actors on both formal and informal interactions
Public Service and Public Servants
Public service refers to the various
provided by the government
to the people
Governments can either
through the public sector and its employees or
partnership with organisations
, for profit and non-profit, by financing its provision
Role of a Public Administrator
The role of public administrators have changed according to different paradigms
Traditional Public Administrator
, rule-oriented bureaucrat’s role was
to political mandates,
in their views of policies and programmes and
impartial in executing and administrating the policies and programmes and an
New public management administrator
New Public Management shifted the role of the public manager who was to become
with their use of private-sector inspired tools, techniques and values.
The performance-focused manager of New Public Management was more
involved in steering rather than rowing
and was a
with importance accorded to values such as effectiveness, performance, and customer satisfaction.
The delivery modes were also expected to be different for NPM with introduction of quasi-markets, contracts and public-private partnerships.
included the need to think about public sector values other than
New public governance administrator
Another major change in public administration has been the
increasing linkages of state and society
in the delivery of public services given that bureaucracy is a lot less centralized and less hierarchical than ever before.
public managers of today have to be the networking, relation-focused collaborator who
focus on facilitating and enabling collaboration
where responsiveness, communication, and flexibility is highly valued.
The working environment and challenges of contemporary public servants and managers today are unique as they operate in a world that is uncertain and complex with volatility and ambiguity (van der Wal 2017).
The focus is on governance rather than government
as the public sector is one of the many actors involved in governing. In addition, there is an
increased demand for transparency
and knowledge of new forms of technology at their fingertips.
Public managers are expected to work in such an environment and be innovative, effective and citizen-centric in their delivery of public services.
So, while the state and society linkages have boosted effectiveness and even government legitimacy, it has also
raised problems related to accountability and control for the government
Public Administration and its Importance
The primary task of public administration is to implement the policies enacted by the government.
Public administration, via its large and reliable workforce, ensures that the essential characteristics of government, such as
are done in a timely and professional manner.
The Social and Political Context of Public Administration
is perceived as a matter of representation and
and the exercise of political power and law
Politics and Administration Dichotomy
The politics-administration dichotomy was introduced after the spoils system in the US when reformers.
wrote about the distinction between politics (policy making) and administration (policy implementation), and said that
a field of business, not politics
He strongly urged for the creation of a technically competent and politically neutral administrative system for a democracy
also noted that
or the “expression of the
will of the state
” can be distinguished from
execution of the will
The Politics-Administration dichotomy has been debated since, but it has now been acknowledged that
politics and administration cannot be distinctly separated
public administration cannot realistically occur in a neutral and apolitical environment since they overlap and are influenced by each other.
Bureaucracy is the
structure within which
Bureaucracy is supposed to
goods and services
are produced and provided in the
most efficient manner
, but it is not always the case as seen in different countries and contexts.
Chracteristics of an ideal bureaucracy
Max Weber (1946) argued that bureaucracy constitutes the most efficient and rational way to organise human activity and that organised hierarchies are necessary to maintain order and maximise efficiency.
His ideal-type bureaucracy is characterised by the following:
Formal lines of authority
Fixed area of activity
Rigid division of labour
Regular and continuous execution of assigned tasks
Reliance on written documents
Decisions and powers restricted by regulations
Officials with expert training
Career advancement based on qualifications
Qualifications evaluated by organisational rules, not individuals
Civil service and Bureaucrats
The civil service is composed of career bureaucrats who are hired on professional merit instead of being appointed or elected.
Unlike elected officials, bureaucrats can neither be voted in nor voted out of office.
Their job security means that they usually work over transitions of different political leadership.
Because of their longer years in the public sector,
gain certain expertise in the field and subject matter, which becomes valuable
when they have to provide advice to politicians on certain policies and while they implement laws based on local contexts
Bureaucratic discretion and decision-making
wield political power
because there is
room for discretion
in the decisions they make.
An essential activity of public administration is to implement laws thus, bureaucratic discretion is very important.
laws passed by legislatures
are often general, and
require elaboration by administrators
, especially in unforeseen scenarios. This
allows for laws to be interpreted by career bureaucrats in their execution and implementation
This may raise questions of democratic accountability, but it does support making the implemented policies more technically appropriate for the circumstance
giving public administrators
too much discretion
, given the inherent difficulty of controlling such discretion (Lowi 1979).
Examples are given of streetlevel bureaucrats (Lipsky 1980) who provide public benefits and maintain public order, such as teachers and the police, who exercise wide discretion and essentially make policy.
Elements of Good Governance
Good governance requires participation, inclusivity, accountability, and transparency
from those involved in decision-making
Transparency is an obligation for governments to share information with citizens so that they have the ability to make
informed decisions and can hold public officials accountable
for their actions and decisions.
is usually embedded in politics and administrators are expected to be
accountable to political leadership
Public administrators are also
accountable to the public
as they often interact and receive services as ‘clients’ of various government agencies, especially through street-level bureaucrats
Types of accountability
Types of accountability Boven writes that modern public managers operating in a democratic system have to face at least
five different kinds
of forums and provide an account of their action based on:
administrative accountability and
professional accountability .
Ethics are a set of normative
guidelines directed at resolving conflicts
of interest so as to enhance societal well-being
A code of ethics creates a standard for the workplace on expected professionalism and is present for both the public and private sectors.
Technology and Public Administration
Technology and Government
numerous technological advancements
that are changing the operation of public administration
Technology can dramatically save time and money by
improving the speed and methods of collecting data
and by analyzing it for better decision-making.
But there are also
as sensitive personal data could be compromised with ease,
leading to identity theft and fraud
, so safe data storage is essential
Technology can also be
used to share information
by the government agencies about services and it can in
crease citizen’s reach to governments
by being able to complain or provide feedback.
The amount of trust citizens have on their government has strong implications for the governments in power especially since the image of bureaucracy isn’t usually positive
Technology and citizen engagement
Berman (1997) lists several reasons why citizens are cynical of governments:
they feel that elected officials and bureaucrats abuse their power for their own personal interests, citizens are detached from government and the delivery of services are viewed as substandard.
government strategies to target cynical citizens
publicizing the benefits
of government, improving service delivery and by giving individuals means to
influence public policy
E-governance, according to UNESCO, is the public sector’s
use of information and communication technology
(ICT) with the aim of:
improving information and service
in the decision-making process, and
making the government more
accountable, transparent, and effective
Security challenges remain with the use of technology and e-governance and special care needs to be taken to ensure public data is protected online.
The three areas in which personal protection and internet security are focused on are
Management of Technology by Government
is no longer only stored in stand-alone systems, but are converged and
consolidated into shared databases
Government agencies often have a chief information officer (CIO) and a chief technology officer (CTO) responsible to
coordinate secure and uniform technology systems
Freedom of information
Governments aren’t always open to sharing data they collect, which led to increased
dissatisfaction with the secrecy in policy
developments and decisionmaking.
Citizens have had to fight for their right to information whereby requests can be made to receive government-held information.
Because of this, over 100 countries around the world have implemented some form of freedom of information
(FOI) laws and legislations, which allow the general public to access data held by national governments
, freely or at a minimal cost.
Digital Divide and its implications for Public Administration