Public administration is a field with a wide scope hence making it difficult to be precisely defined. Different individuals and organizations define public administration differently depending on their interests, circumstances and professionalism. Public administration can be defined as a field of inquiry with the fundamental goal to advance management and policies so that government can function. It can also be defined as a translation of politics into the reality that citizens see every day and the study of government decision making processes, analysis of the policies, interpretation of the policies by the public administrators on behalf of the government for the public and the various inputs that have produced them, and the inputs necessary to produce alternative policies. Though there are institutions offering public administration as a course at whatever level (degree, diploma) it is more of a practical discipline than theory.
Public administrators are those mandated by the law to act on behalf of the government to ensure policies are carried out as expected by the public. Offices of the public administrators have rules and regulation on how to perform their duties. Most of these regulations are contained in the code of conduct and professional ethics. They are binding and one is legally responsible of any unethical acts.
According to Max Weber’s bureaucratic organizational theory, any organization should have a structure of management with the bosses on top of the chain and the juniors lower on the chain. Those high on the hierarchy should have authority over those they supervise. The public administrators would act as the link between the central government and the public and hence too they take orders from their seniors.
The office the public administrators is every important and hence it should be given some space to make some decisions. The reason to ask for some autonomy is that these are the people in-touch with the public and sometimes are aware of the prevailing circumstances at the grass root something which may not be known by top policy makers. This would ensure that the officers can apply the policies in a way which suits the local conditions as opposed to the general recommendations made by the top government officials some of which are not applicable.
Some decisions require urgency and hence may not wait for the bureaucracy mode of government operations. In the need of such decisions, the public administrator should have some authority of undertaking such decisions may be with the consultation with the locals for instance if the government gives out some money to build a dispensary but the target area has dispensaries without nurses and the locals feel that they need water instead, the officer in-charge of government should be able to redesign the project and sink boreholes instead.
Public service needs some degree of efficiency. Bureaucracy compromises efficiency for individuals has to keep on consulting their seniors who also consult their bosses and by the end of the chain services are delayed and some are never delivered. This calls for on the spot solution delivery.
Max Weber’s theory is a classical one. Most of the classical theories have been replaced by the modern theories which look at an organization as an open system. The organization should be able to interact with its environment at all levels. The government should be able to interact with the public at all levels including the office of the public administrators. They should also be able to utilize feedback to better their service delivery.
The disadvantage of such autonomy is that one person’s decision may be wrong. In such a situation all the public would go wrong and find themselves on the wrong side of the law for ignorance is no defense.
An officer can use his authority to promote his personal interests as opposed to those of public interest. Vices like corruption may crop up hence there is need for checks and balances. In conclusion, in the government sector there is need for a good balance between the governance, authority given to offices and interests of the public. The operations of the government should borrow from the open systems theory.