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Characteristics of Public Administration

Public Administration defined by different Authors

According to L D White, Public administration consists of all those operations having for their purpose the fulfilment or enforcement of public policy. On the other hand as per Woodrow Wilson public administration is a detailed and systematic application of law. One can also say that public administration is nothing but the policies, practices, rules and regulation etc., in action.

Now can public administration be divorced from social and political systems; certainly not and therefore emerged another definition provided by F.A.Nigro, who argues that public administration is essentially a cooperative group effort in public setting. Secondly, it covers all the three branches of government machinery, the executive, the legislative and the judicial. He further added that since public administration plays a crucial role in formulation of policies therefore it is a part of the political process as well (for e.g. Bills and Acts). Nigro also said that public administration is different from private administration in numerous ways and that it interacts with various private groups and individuals in providing services to the community.

Also, on the nature of public administration there have been two popular views, one being the Integral view and the other one is the Managerial view. The Integral view is all-encompassing and consists of sum total of all managerial, clerical, technical and manual activities and employees form all levels. This view was endorsed by L D White and Dimock. It may differ from one agency to another depending on their sphere of work. On the other hand, the Managerial view, as the name suggests says that the public administration involves only the managerial activities. Simon, Smithburg, Thompson and Luther Gulick supported this view. After having said that; the word administration itself is highly contextual, and may vary in meaning and definition from one organization to another.

So if you want to understand it from the context and setting of an organization, it can be roughly explained that; the top leadership or the Board decides the vision, mission, short and long term goals and the business unit heads then draw out action plans and create or reform processes, allot responsibilities, direct planning, get people on board and start working towards achieving those set goals as per defined guidelines. So, the Board can be the Government and the Business Unit Heads and their teams can be the public administrators who are the implementer and actually the people who run the show. In the next section we shall make an effort to understand whether public and private administrations are similar, different or are there any overlaps between the two.

According to Simon - “By Public Administration is meant the activities of the executive branches of the national, state, & local governments.”

According to Willough - “Public Administration in broadest sense denotes the work involved in the actual conduct of governmental affairs, and in narrowest senses denotes the operations of the administrative branch only.”

According to Gullick - “Public Administration is that part of the science of administration which has to do with government and thus, concerns itself primarily with the executive branch where the work of th government is done.”

According to Waldo - “Public Administration is the art and science of management as applied to the affairs of the state.”

Marshall E. Dimock - “Administration is concerned with ‘what’ and ‘How’ of the government. What is the subject matter, the technical knowledge of afield which enables the administrator to perform his tasks. The ‘How’ is the technique of management according to which co-operative programmes are carried to success?”

All above modern definitions of Public Administration emphasize the value based character of Public Administration and Public Administration as a science and art of administration. A close scrutiny of the definitions reveal that Public Administration has following important characteristics or features.

Characteristics of Public Administration

  • It is part of executive branch of government.

  • It is related with the activities of the state.

  • It carries out the public policies.

  • It realize the aspirations of the people as formulated

  • Waldo and other thinkers insist on the commitment and dedication to the wellbeing of the people. Otherwise Public Administration behaves in a mechanical, impersonal and inhuman way.

  • Public Administration is politically neutral.

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