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Institutions and Policymaking | (Pakistan’s Domestic Affairs) | CSS Current Affairs

By: Iftikhar Ahmad

A general sense of dissatisfaction about credibility of accountability and performance of government is nothing new. Students of public administration and public policy and experts from allied fields of study such as sociology, political science and economics have been engaged in structural functional analysis with a view to improving the system of government that impacts the life of citizens. Microeconomic goals suggest as to how to improve the functioning of the state itself by emphasizing anti-corruption measures. The problem in this context is that international institutions such as IMF and world Bank may get an incorrect perspective that fails to recognize the role of political institutions and the constraints they place on policymaking. Adopting better policies and institutions are not successful because they do not take place in the context of an explanation of why bad policies and institutions are there in the first place. Also, there are problems of non-implementation which render all efforts at policymaking futile. It suggests the need to define the relationship of administrative functions to the Legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government, and also to have an idea of comparative perspective of administration and administrative organizations.

For illustrative purposes, it is helpful to liken the flow of authority in governmental administration to that in private corporations. In such an analogy, the legislature roughly corresponds to a “board of directors” which determines over-all activities and policies. The executive roughly corresponds to a “general manager” who, with the approval of the directors, supplies immediate leadership, directs activities, and assumes responsibility for making important staff appointments. Members of governmental administration correspond to the rank and file of department heads and subordinates who perform specified tasks as responsibly as possible within their limited spheres and give impartial treatment to the public. At all times, administrators are liable to censure by the legislature, to discipline by the executive, to over rulings by the courts, and to criticisms from the public-which range from general charges of “bureaucracy” to complaints about inefficiency in the performance of particular tasks. Administrators may sometimes initiate policies that are adopted by their superiors, but they usually conduct their work efficiently without expecting more than a small measure of recognition; sometimes no recognition at all has been forthcoming.

The legislature determines the activities in which a government will engage, designates the agencies by which these will be carried out, and (in conjunction with the executive) declares the policies and the methods to be followed. Its control rests not merely in its power to create but in its power to abolish administrative offices or to refuse them appropriations. In the United States, its control rests also in its power to withhold confirmation of executive appointments and in its power to investigate administrative acts through congressional committees. Different procedures are in place in England and France, a point of interest for those who specialize in comparative public administration and politics.

The exercise of these powers should be neither too strict nor too lax. Since legislators can not be experienced in all the intricacies of administrative problems, they should not attempt to enact excessively detailed regulations, which prevent administrators from making adjustments to needs which constantly arise. The opposite policy of granting excessive discretionary powers to administrators opens the way to abuse of power. A sound middle course is for the legislature to formulate a clear statement of policy, to set definite limits to the exercise of discretionary powers, and to require administrators both to keep accurate records and to submit reports at regular intervals or on demand. Moreover, there should be standing committees in each legislative chamber and a staff to check the fidelity and efficiency with which administrative work is being performed. Standing committee play useful role and contribute effectively as we know from our own experience in Pakistan.

When judicial control is excessively strict, administrative efficiency is reduced. Public servants, fearful lest their acts may involve them in lawsuits, often take refuge in established procedures and become slavishly devoted to red tape

The executive has immediate control over administrative activities and methods. It co-ordinates the multitudinous administrative activities of the modern state and instructs officers as to how legislative acts shall be enforced. The executive assigns individuals to the chief offices, directs them in the performance of their tasks, and supplies them with essential information. Furthermore, it maintains discipline and requires co-operation throughout the service. It has a duty to promote good morale, pride in civil government, and job satisfaction among civil servants.

The courts enforce the fundamental principle that all public officers and all employees are strictly accountable to the law. They try civil and criminal cases involving official misconduct. Moreover, they can issue writs of mandamus to’ compel the performance of clearly required duties and injunctions to prevent wrongful acts by administrative officers.

When judicial control is excessively strict, administrative efficiency is reduced. Public servants, fearful lest their acts may involve them in lawsuits, often take refuge in established procedures and become slavishly devoted to red tape. Because judges do not have an intimate knowledge of administrative problems, and because judicial delays prevent the prompt performance of official duties, most states have found it necessary to grant wide discretionary powers to administrative officers in order to facilitate performance.

Experience has proved, however, the necessity for judicial control over the actions of administrative officers. When the United States was rapidly expanding its administrative services, Congress hastily granted sub legislative and Quasi-judicial powers to administrative offices without imposing effective limitations, and too often an administrator became legislator, policeman, prosecutor, judge, and jury. After widespread complaint, Congress passed the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. Among other requirements, this act required the publication of the orders issued by every agency, a definite procedure in conducting hearings before any quasi-judicial determination might be reached and a review by the courts upon application of any person who might claim to suffer wrong as a result of the conduct of an agency. Under this law, the courts may compel action if it is withheld or unreasonably delayed; they may set aside administrative determinations that are arbitrary, capricious, unconstitutional, in excess of statutory authority, unwarranted by facts, unsupported by evidence, or arrived at without observance of procedural requirements. Rule of law must be strictly followed as we keep reminding all concerned in our own context in Pakistan.

Experience has proved that failure to emphasize a sound administrative structure results in conflicts of authority, duplication of work, and other inefficiencies and wastes; hence, every state should reorganize its constantly expanding “officialdom” frequently. The essentials of good administrative organization are two: there should be (1) an over-all administrative structure to provide efficient supervision and (2) an internal unit structure suitable to the kind of work it is to perform.

Politicization of institutions, prejudices and personal biases are root causes of administrative evils that creep into the administrative system, making room for drift and displacement of missions and goals ultimately ending in dysfunctionality and loss of objectivity and fairplay – cause of uncertainty and instability.

The writer is a former director, National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA) Government of Pakistan

Courtesy: Daily Times


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