The Theory of Public Administration and Management: “Public Administration Is My Career”
By Ter Manyang Gatwech, Kampala, Uganda
September 22, 2015 (SSB) —- Public administration is the implementation of government policy and an academic discipline that studies this implementation and prepares civil servants for working in the public service. As a “field of inquiry with a diverse scope” its “fundamental goal… is to advance management and policies so that government can function. Some of the various definitions which have been offered for the term are: “the management of public programs”; the “translation of politics into the reality that citizens see every day”; and “the study of government decision making, the analysis of the policies themselves, the various inputs that have produced them, and the inputs necessary to produce alternative policies.”
Public administration is “centrally concerned with the organization of government policies and programmes as well as the behavior of officials (usually non-elected) formally responsible for their conduct” Many unelected public servants can be considered to be public administrators, including heads of city, county, regional, state and federal departments such as municipal budget directors, human resources (H.R.) administrators, city managers, census managers, state mental health directors, and cabinet secretaries. Public administrators are public servants working in public departments and agencies, at all levels of government.
In 1947 Paul H. Appleby defined public administration as “public leadership of public affairs directly responsible for executive action”. In a democracy, it has to do with such leadership and executive action in terms that respect and contribute to the dignity, the worth, and the potentials of the citizen. Gordon Clapp defines public administration “as a public instrument whereby democratic society may be more completely realized.” This implies that it must “relate itself to concepts of justice, liberty, and fuller economic opportunity for human beings” and is thus “concerned with “people, with ideas, and with things.
Public administration has come to occupy a central place in the complex and fast changing modern society. Its actual role consists in the provision of services and regulation of inter-group relations in society. Maintenance of law and order, defense, welfare of society, application of science and technology, and eradication of poverty in the developing countries engage the attention of public administration in the modern administrative state.
In a word, the security and independence of the state, social and economic welfare of the people depend upon the effective and efficient functioning of public administration. Public administration is important in our daily life, it is an important aspect of a more generic concept; thus, its study is worth undertaking.
The word ‘public’ is used in a variety of ways. In this course however, it means “governmental.” Public administration simply means governmental administration that operates in a political setting. Its focus is specifically on public bureaucracy. The study and practice of public bureaucracy is called public administration. It encompasses the management of public agencies that carry out public policies in order to fulfill state purposes in the public interest. Since government provides services for the people in the public interest, the administration of governmental affairs is known as public administration.
Public administration can also be seen as the activities of groups cooperating to accomplish the common goals of government. Such common goals include defense, safeguarding the frontiers, maintenance of law and order, fire protection, communications, public health, education, etc. In managing public affairs, public administration focuses principally on the planning, organising, directing, coordinating and controlling of governmental operations.
Public administration is the machinery, as well as the integral processes through which the government performs its functions. It is a network of human relationships and associated activities extending from the government to the lowest paid and powerless individual charged with keeping in daily touch with all resources, natural and human, and all other aspects of the life of the society with which the government is concerned. It is a system of roles and role relationships that defines in as clear and practicable terms as possible and in as much details as possible the intentions and programmes of government; the means available internally and externally to accomplish them; and finally, it is a system that causes these intentions and programs to be realized in real life. It is a pattern of routinized activities, involving decision – making, planning, advising, coordination, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, command and data gathering, through which the government carries out its responsibilities (Nnoli, 2003).
The term civil service can refer to either a branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed (hired) on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations; or the body of employees in any government agency apart from the military, which is a separate extension of any national government.
A civil servant or public servant is a person in the public sector employed for a government department or agency. The extent of civil servants of a state as part of the “civil service” varies from country to country. In the United Kingdom, for instance, only Crown (national government) employees are referred to as civil servants whereas county or city employees are not.
A public service may sometimes have the characteristics of a public good (being non-rivalrous and non-excludable), but most are services which may (according to prevailing social norms) be under-provided by the market. In most cases public services are services, i.e. they do not involve manufacturing of goods. They may be provided by local or national monopolies, especially in sectors which are natural monopolies.
The focus of public administration lies in providing public services. In addition to traditional services (municipal, health care, school, transport services etc.), they also include some “classical” administration activities in advanced countries, such as issuing licences, permits, documents, certificates, providing information etc. A number of these activities are no longer viewed as an exclusive domain of the State. Our new experience shows that many operational tasks, professional decision-making, execution of supervision, testing etc. can be decentralized and transferred to self-government or to private entities.
Shifts in this area have their limits, though. Economic aspects cannot be the only guide (and, moreover, it has been proved on many occasions abroad that the exclusion of public tasks from the responsibilities of public authorities did not bring expected savings, however, it resulted in the erosion of the values and principles upon which the provision of public services was based). After all, our country has also witnessed hasty abolition of control authorities, for example, which will have to be reestablished (as e.g. in the area of consumer protection, also with a view to the EU criteria).
It should also be stated clearly that stress on the conception of public administration as service to the public does not mean, on the other hand, a denial of the power, authoritative component of public administration. This comprises tasks in the sphere of security and internal order, regulation and enforcement of the fulfilling of legal duties, the application of administrative supervision tools, the imposition and execution of sanctions within the limits of administrative authority etc.
The material content and extent of public tasks and public services depend on how the importance of social automatisms and the extent of state intervention is viewed at a specific period, how the balance between the freedom of an individual and his responsibility for himself on the one hand, and solidary care of the human community for an individual and responsibility for him on the other hand operate. This is a matter of protection and execution of interests and values recognized by the decisive majority of citizens.
The basic characteristics of public administration comprises the knowledge of heterogeneous and often contradictory aims that it is obliged to defend. In the present period of principal social changes and new demands which must be secured despite limited financial and human resources, public policy is exposed much more to pressure to make responsible selection of priority aims and to redefine tasks and functions of public administration in accordance with the aims. A permanent professional and political dialogue is fundamental for the process of defining these tasks and functions, leading to new economic, legal and other solutions.
According to Simon (1970), administration refers to the activities of groups cooperating to accomplish goals. MacRae and Pitt (1980), sees it as the co-ordination of men and materials within organization for the accomplishment of identified purposes. Administration also connotes such activities as implementation of organizational decisions and goals as well as the systematic study of these activities.
It is generally observed that administration is present in all human organization irrespective of its nature. It therefore becomes imperative to attempt a definition of the term ‘administration’ before delving into public administration. Many authorities have tried to define the term ‘administration’ but there is no generally accepted definition yet of that term.
We can now conclude that public administration is that administration which is practiced in the public sector. It is the means, arrangements, actions and processes by which the policies, programmes, purposes and goals of government are realized, Maduabum (2008). Woodrow Wilson (1887) perceived Public Administration as the most visible side of government.
While Ezeani (2006) posits that public administration is the management of government activities. According to him it refers both to the activities of bureaucrats concerned with the management or administration of government organizations and the study of these activities. It is the machinery for implementing government policies to ensure stability and continuity at all times irrespective of any government in power even during period of crises.
Adebayo (1992) sees Public Administration as a governmental administration that operates in the particular sphere of government as its machinery for implementing governmental policies.
He believes that its study must therefore lead to the most efficient way of organizing the executive branch of the government, its functions and its procedures. From his assertion, we can deduce that Public Administration is basically concerned with the study of how a country’s administration is organized as well as how it functions.
Akpan (1982) contends that Public Administration is the organ that carries out the programmes and manifestos of politicians in power. He sees Public Administration as the servant of politics.
He went further to say that Public Administration covers every area and activity related to public policy. Accordingly it includes the formal processes and operations through which the legislature exercises its power. The functions of the courts in the administration of justice and the work of the military agencies all form part of the Public Administration.
According to Balogun (1987), Public administration is the fusion of human and material resources in order to achieve the objectives of public policy. One cardinal issue here which attention must be paid is the issue of policy implementation. This is a very focal point in the study of public administration. Public Administration can also be viewed as a body of knowledge which is directed towards the understanding of administration of the government business. Olodejeet. al (2007) opines that
Public Administration is the study of the development and maintenance of policy by members of governments, public agencies and public sector employees and the practice of implementing the authoritative decisions they have made. Public Administration concerns itself more with how politicians in government and non-elected public sector employees devise policy, sustain the machinery of government and ensure policies are put into practice.
Nnoli (2000), describes Public Administration as follows: “Public Administration is the machinery as well as the integral process through which the government performs its functions. It is a network of human relationships and associated activities extending from the government to the lowest paid and powerless individual charged with keeping in daily touch with all resources, natural and human, and all the aspects of life of the society with which government is concerned. It is a system of roles and role relationships which defines in a clear and practicable terms as possible and in as much detail as possible the intentions and programmes of government; the means available internally and externally to accomplish them; where, when and how they are to be accomplished; who is to benefit from them, and, finally, it is a system that causes these intentions and programmes to be realized in real life. It is a pattern of routinized activities, involving decision making, planning, advising, co-ordination, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, command and data gathering, through which the government carries out its responsibilities.”
Public Administration is, generally believed to be, a study that deals with the science of getting things done in the most efficient way in the political system.
Public administration is a distinct field of administration, which is very important for the success of any government. This peculiarity arises out of the fact that public administration is an action part of government, the means by which the purposes and goals of government are realized. Specific issues to be covered here are: absorption of the work of government, meeting the challenges of government activities, implementation of government decisions, detaching of political activities from administrative work, negotiation, conciliation and arbitration and communication.
So many processes are involved in the making and implementation of government policies that apart from the problem of high level expertise there is the problem of an intricate division of labour that must be solved. There is the need for a clerk to file the letters, others to gather information, still others to ensure that the conditions of work are agreeable to the civil servants, some to post letters, keep documents, write memoranda, gather statistics, negotiate with individuals and groups, and so on and so forth. It is not efficient for one individual to perform many of these functions at the same time.
Experience has shown that more is produced or achieved under conditions of a division of labor than under conditions where no such division of labor exists. Therefore, the demands of increased productivity, performance or achievement require a complex division of labor in which many more people are involved than those in government.
Government activities have not only grown in size, they have also grown in complexity. And such a complexity demands different kinds of expertise for various activities. Therefore, even if individuals in government have the time and energy to carry out all their functions they will not have among themselves alone the necessary expertise to go round their specialized activities. Thus, they need the variety of experts found in the public administration such as; teachers for managing educational institutions and impacting knowledge into students and pupil in such institutions, doctors whose responsibilities are to save lives through preventive and curative measures using the equipment in the hospitals and clinics established by the government, industrialists for sustaining the industries established, accountants, whose task is to keep proper records of financial dealings of governments in addition to working out strategies of generating revenue for financing the activities of government, engineers that invent, operate and maintain equipment and machines procured to serve various purposes in all departments of government and soldiers whose responsibility is to maintain both internal and external security etc. Members of government do not know everything; and they do not necessarily know more than everybody in their own area of expertise. They need the help of experts and better minds.
One of the identified importance of Public Administration is its ability to absorb the work of governments. There is noticeable increase in the activities of government all over the world.
They deal with; foreign governments at the same time as they must oversee internal and external trade, the industrial and agricultural growth of the country; this involves embarking on measures that will create a conducive environment for both foreign and local investors, the health of the population by establishing specialists and general hospitals as well as clinics for tertiary, secondary and primary health care delivery and maintenance of facilities therein, educational development through setting up of primary, secondary, and tertiary as well as Universities across the nation, most significant is also the servicing of these institutions, governments across the world have a demanding task of power generation which is the life wire of all the economic and social activities, the task of ensuring both internal and external security remains one of the topmost activities of government, security challenges have increased over the years, aware of the vast needs of the public and the lean resources always at the disposal of governments, governments have the responsibilities of employing effective measures for management of state resources, encouragement of development in science and technology: governments embark on measures aimed at encouraging scientific and technological innovations and promotion of sporting activities: Various sporting activities are encouraged by the government to keep her citizens healthy and entertain the populace (Nnoli, 2003).
For a government to protect persons and property against violence, to collect taxes, and control traffic and health hazards, it must make regulations. In order to settle disputes between parties, it must conciliate and negotiate. In order to arrive at a just decision when faced with conflicting demands from opposing interests and functions in the community, a government must be continually engaged in balancing. This balancing involves consultations, negotiation, and compromise. Then, of course, there is the equally important obligation on the part of a government to provide services. From the foregoing, one can see certain uses and process from the bedrock of the responsibilities of a government. These include regulating, conciliating, balancing, compromise, service – providing.
Regulatory functions involve the making of rules and regulations and the issuing of policy directives. For the rational and effective performance of these roles there must be prior planning, and gathering of information and data. It will also be necessary to hold consultations with representatives of sectional groups and to reconcile conflicting interests and points of view. All these tasks rest on public administration. It is after these essential preliminaries have been carried out that rules and regulations, and directives are issued by government.
In public service, administrative officials perform a considerable portion of their task through communication which could either be in oral or in written forms. One of the hallmarks of an administrator is to develop the habit of communication by discussion – telephone discussion, meetings and conferences, interviews with members of the public and clients of the department. A good deal is achieved through face – to – face discussion.
In spite of the obvious advantages of oral communication and personal contact, it is inevitable that senior officials have to communicate frequently through the written word. They have to write minutes in files, prepare memoranda and draft speeches for their chief executives – the President, Governor, Ministers, State Commissioners, and Chairmen of statutory bodies and agencies.
Minutes are views, opinions, advice, information, or directives expressed in writing during the course of day – to – day work in the office. They are usually enclosed in paper jackets known as files. Each file bears a reference number by which it is easily identified. For the purpose of tidy arrangement and easy reference, each file is devoted to a single specific subject.
The decision to prepare the memorandum in a department may originate directly from the Minister/ Commissioners who are the political heads of departments or the permanent secretary. A matter may have been subject of consideration in the department and on which the Minister and his officials have exchanged minutes in the file, each one expressing his own views as a result of the data and information assembled on the issue. Matters may reach a stage at which the Minister is convinced that it is necessary to consult, inform or seek approval of the Executive Council. At this stage, the Minister will direct his permanent secretary to prepare a memo.
Alternatively, the process may be the reverse. The Permanent Secretary and his subordinates may have been examining a particular issue through the exchange of minutes in the file. A point may be reached at which an important issue of policy calls for determination and as he may prepare a memo.
Public officials in the civil service, in the universities, local government service, statutory corporations, etc. very often have to write speeches for their chief executives. The chief executive may be the President of the nation, the Governor of a state, the Vice Chancellor of a University, a Minister of State, a State Commissioner or the Chairman of a statutory corporation or any governmental agency.
Public administration is also very crucial in the organization and provision of social welfare services to the population. It is responsible in many countries for ensuring constant and adequate supply of water, electricity, health care and educational facilities. It is responsible for public works such as urban and other road constructions. The dredging of rivers, the building of port facilities, irrigation facilities, the organization of famine relief when necessary, sanitation, drainage facilities, the control of erosion and other natural disasters, the payment of pension and other labor benefits.
In some countries it organizes the provision of housing, day care facilities for pre -school children and public transportation. In this way public administration influences directly the standard of living and the life style of the people.
Other functions include; the planning of the nation’s economic life in both the short term and the long term, taking care of the finances of the society, especially the balance – of – payment function or the foreign exchange task, it must gather and store all possible information on every aspect of national life and preserve important documents for future use and scrutiny, the practical details and the equitable and fair use of the instrument of justice, as well as law and order, are also the responsibility of public administration.
Public administration must ensure that the courts function smoothly and are not overloaded, that the prisons are not congested or run inhumanly, and that the law enforcement agencies do not act arbitrarily. In addition, the civil service must co ordinate all the multifarious activities of its various departments and agencies to ensure that they are not working at cross – purposes.
Another function of public administration is that of identifying all the resources available to the government from within its territory, and managing these resources adequately. It is the government’s bureaucracy that is responsible for conducting or supervising surveys to assess the existence of; various minerals within the country, the unused agricultural potential of the nation, resource endowment with respect to the organization of industrial enterprises, the availability of the various categories of labor force and the various resources that can be procured from external sources, as well as the prices for their procurement.
The government bureaucracy not only identifies all these resources, it also organizes the most profitable and useful way of bringing them into productive activity to the benefit of the ruling class in particular and the population in general. Such resource management has as its goal the task of ensuring that government programs are tailored to the resources available to the government, and to eliminate all waste in harnessing these resources to the relevant government programs.
In conclusion, it has been ascertained that public administration is the hub through which social, political and economic development takes place within a state. Indications are apt that through professionalism, administrative duties lean more towards national interest than individual interest. Textbooks are the main source for the exercise; ideas from various scholars have been employed.
Public administration is seen here as a veritable tool for social, political and economic development of a state. Some important areas are then put in perspective for discussion so as to ascertain the level to which public administration functions. Public administration has continued to play a critical role in sustaining the government in power and providing essential public goods to the citizenry. While different countries have different public administration, the basic functions of public administration are performed by all states.
The author, Ter Manyang, is an administrator and chairperson of Gawaar Nuer-Community in Uganda. He worked with South Sudanese Students’ Union in 2011-2012 as a chairperson of anti-of corruption commission. He become chairman of electoral commission of Naath Universities and Colleges Students’ Union in Uganda from 2014-2015 and he formed an organization called Youth Action Development Network in Uganda; he is executive director of YADN. Ter Manyang Gatwech is pursuing his Masters of Public Administration and Management at Cavendish University, Uganda and reached me via- firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter, @Ter-Manyang
Adebayo, A. (2000). Principles and Practice of Public Administration in Nigeria (2nded).
Adelmann, R. (1989). The Federal Reserve System: Creature of a triumphant international banking establishment. Bulletin of the Committee to Restore the Constitution, 324, February.
Ademolakun, L. (1983), Public Administration: A Nigerian and Comparative Perspectives.
Akpan, N. U. (1982), Public Administration in Nigeria. Lagos: Longman Nigeria Ltd.
Badagry: ASCON Press.
Bahro, R. (1986). Building the Green Movement. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers.
BBC. (2006). The Trials of Henry Kissinger. BBC Four, 3 April, 1.05-2.25am.
Center for Research and Conflict Resolution (PACREP).
Donald Menzel and Harvey White (eds) 2011. The State of Public Administration: Issues, Challenges and Opportunity. New York: M. E. Sharpe.
Dubois, H.F.W. & Fattore, G. (2009), ‘Definitions and typologies in public administration research: the case of decentralization’, International Journal of Public Administration, 32(8): 704–727.
Eneanya A. N. (2010) Public Administration in Nigeria; Principle, Techniques and Applications,
Enugu: Best Publishers.
Ezeani, E. O. (2006), Fundamentals of Public Administration. Enugu: Snaap Press Limited.
Ibadan: Spectrum Books Limited.
Jeong Chun Hai @Ibrahim, & Nor Fadzlina Nawi. (2007). Principles of Public Administration: An Introduction. Kuala Lumpur: Karisma Publications. ISBN 978-983-195-253-5
Maduabum, C.P. (2006). Reforming Government Bureaucracies in Nigeria: The Journey So Far.
Maduabum, C.P. (2008). The Mechanics of Public Administration in Nigeria. Lagos: Concept
Mark W. Huddleston, William W. Boyer (1996). The Higher Civil Service in the United States: Quest for Reform. University of Pittsburgh Press.
Nnoli, O. (2003), Introduction to Politics, Revised Second Edition, Enugu: Pan African
NOUN (2012) MPA 740- THEORIES AND PRACTICE OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION,
NOUN (2012) PSM 803- ECOLOGY OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, Noun, Lagos.
Okigbo, A.C. & Nsiegbunam, C. (2000), Modern Public Administration: Principles and Practice.
Polinaidu, S. (2004). Public Administration. New Delhi: Galgotia Publications PVT.
Smith, Kevin B. and Licari, Michael J. Public Administration — Power and Politics in the Fourth Branch of Government, ISBN 1-933220-04-X
Ujo, A.A. (2004). Understanding Public Administration. Kaduna: Joyce Graphic Printer & Publishers Company.
White, Jay D. and Guy B. Adams. Research in public administration: reflections on theory and practice.1994.