Public management is a critical issue that is international in span and diverse in content. James Q. Wilson defines public management as assortments of established institutions created to enable flawed people utilize faulty procedures to deal with unsolvable problems.
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In reference to the United States constitution separation of powers, Wilson states further that the governments were not established to be competent or powerful, but to be bearable and malleable. In other words, the management of public institutions is an endless challenge.
Given the regime limits and the political dynamics, public managers must cope with insufficient resources, inconsistence guidance and unreasonable workload that curtail their performance.
Guiding principles for effective management of public institutions
What principle should public managers use to dispense their roles? One of the most effective ways to ensure that management is receptive to the polity is the professionalism of the manager. It is important that public managers are allowed to utilize their discretionary authority so as to uphold the constitutional balance of power to shore uprights of individuals.
Public administrators need to subscribe to principles associated with the notion of justice, freedom and public interest. The only way of managing impetuses that might prevent our complex political system from self-destruction is a professional public administration that demonstrates self-esteem, commitment and authority to function as the constitutional hub of gravity.
In essence, public managers must reject, thwart or resist policies that may endanger the survival of public organizations.
The concept that public administration should be self-regulated stirs up the notion of accountability, another important principle in conventional public management. According to James Q. Wilson, power is harmless if it is used in a responsible way. According to him, responsibility is an important element in a democratic state.
A responsible public manager must demonstrate four unique qualities: judgment; accountability; rationality; and balance. In general terms, accountability is defined as procedures, methods and forces that ascertain what principles will be mirrored in managerial decisions.
In the US, accountability is a complex issue because all the three arms of government compete against each other for control of public administration. In spite of this rivalry, none of these arms grants the public administrator with the entirety of the value principles that influence his decision. Thus, public administration steered by the principle of responsible performance is aware of the dynamics of external directions and limits.
Public administrators still enjoy sizeable amount of freedom to make decisions on issues based on their own ethical principles after taking all external directions into consideration. Therefore, judgment is another key element needed to implement administrative responsibility in public organizations.
Since public administrators are answerable to various stakeholders in their political sphere, balance stands out as one critical attribute of good judgment. It is essential that public administrators give credence to the legislative balance of authority and the expected public responses.
Preferably, administrative and political judgment should merge into a joint process. This implies that public administrators should strike a balance among contending political values and vested interests in a public organization.
The main objective of public administration is to balance economic, social and political interests for justice equity and fairness as well as improving the public good in composite, competitive, highly diverse and discriminatory environment.
Rationality is another critical attribute of good judgment for efficient management of public organizations. In order to be responsible, judgment related to the intrinsic value of alternative actions developed by the public management must not only be rational but also politically balanced. A rational strategy is achieved when the link between the objectives and the strategies for accomplishing are realized in public organizations.
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A responsible public manager is one who seeks out and understands arguments and evidence about the links between the strategies and ends. When responsibility is part of managerial strategies, public administration turns into a major organization that maintains the balance between the capacity of the state to enforce public interest and the citizen’s power to hold public managers accountable.
Public management can only dispense its duties when public managers adhere to legal constraints by performing their duties within these frameworks and responding to prospects for structural reforms and policy-making. However, the ability to dispense public interest does not rest with public management.
It also entails other stakeholders such as elected representatives, citizens, courts and relevant government agencies. Nevertheless, public managers must attempt to discharge their roles in an efficient manner, even under difficult conditions. As noted above, public managers must be guided by a principle of managerial responsibility in order to be able to manage public organizations effectively.
Importance of a strong and effective public administrative system
Public administration is an aggregate system that refers to rules, procedures, policies, personnel and organizational structures financed via state budget and responsible for the management of the activities of the government and the manner in which the latter collaborates with other stakeholders in the society. The importance of a strong and effective public administration in the society cannot be understated.
Public administration reform is a common strategy used to enforce policies for effective public administrative systems. It entails changes in areas such as personnel management, organizational structures, decentralization, public finance, regulatory reforms and performance-based management.
According to recent studies, many citizens desire to have public institutions that are not only effective in dispensing public goods and using public resources in an efficient manner but also one that is able to match powerful global forces.
They also want an efficient public administrative system that can promote their social and economic wellbeing. They also aspire to have a public administrative system that can ensure resources are distributed on an equitable basis, apt management of resources and impartial access to economic, political and social opportunities.
As a matter of fact, a strong public administration system is certainly far more important to economic growth than a robust democratic system. In the Less Developed Countries (LDCs), there is an urgent need for the public administration to play a key role in infrastructure development and delivery of social services, especially when the private sector is underdeveloped.
Above all, an established impartial public administration is critical to democracy since it is the only organ that can facilitate a smooth political transition after general elections. Of late, the public sector is gradually viewed more merely reducing the cost of civil service and bolstering state agencies.
It has expanded its role to include promoting collaboration between the private sector and the civil society in order to enhance the quality of social services, promote social accountability and ensure that citizen play an active role in decision-making process.
Public Administration Reforms and the MDGs
Good governance has been cited as a key component of public administration and a means of achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a robust public administration system can contribute to the attainment of Millennium Development Goals in several ways.
First, bolstering the responsibility of state agencies is a critical aspect of governments’ policies to reduce the democratic deficit, which is necessary for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Second, an efficient public administrative system in less developed countries will liberate more resources to be used in attaining Millennium Development Goals.
Third, an efficient public administrative system will eliminate corruption by increasing transparency hence more resources will be available for Millennium Development Goals.
Finally, an established public administrative system that is receptive to the citizens’ needs, particularly women, children and the marginalized groups will ensure that the country realized sustainable development within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals.
An effective public administrative system promotes human rights in the society. In addition, it compels both the public and private organizations to be accountable to the people, particularly to marginalized people. A strong public administrative system ensures that resources are distributed in an equitable manner in order to reduce poverty levels and improve the living standards of the masses.
Globalization is another worldwide phenomenon that can only be addressed by an effective public administrative system. It is important to note that the public sector has been compelled to bear pressures of globalization. Although globalization has integrated people from all parts of the world, it has also contributed to the marginalization of many people.
A robust public administrative system is needed to avoid the negative outcomes of globalization in less developed countries. A public administrative organ that embraces accountability, transparency will facilitate an active participation of stakeholders in the policy-making process.
It will also compel the government to equitably distribute public resources to enable an active participation of citizens in the international market. Moreover, it will ensure that the income disparity between the rich and the poor inhabitant of the world is significantly reduced.
In many less developed countries, decentralization creates the foundation in which Public administration reforms (PAR) intervention strategies are adopted. A major setback experienced in decentralization strategies is the lack of robust public administrative units at the local levels. A decentralized government can only be effective if it has a robust public administrative unit at the local level.
A strong public administrative system will provide an efficient fiscal transfer system at the local levels in less developed countries. It will also create a system that will ensure that the local budgeting and planning is incorporated into the national budgeting and planning mechanism. Such a system will ensure that resources are distributed in an equitable manner.
There is no doubt that a majority of the less developed countries, especially those in a post-conflict period are incapable of establishing a robust public administrative system. A competent public administration in post-conflict countries is a critically needed by the government to boost economic activities, provide social services and carry out infrastructure development for the benefit of the masses.
It is thus imperative that these governments are granted assistance from the international community to help them establish strong public administrative systems for political, economic and social gains.