Public Administration

Evolution of Public Administration as a discipline, new public administration

There are five stages in the chronology of the evolution of Public Administration as a discipline; these stages are theoretically driven as encapsulated below:

Stage 1: politics administration dichotomy (1887-1926)

Stage 2: principles of administration (1927-1937)

Stage 3: era of challenge (1938-1947)

Stage 4: crises of identity (1948-1970)

Stage 5: public policy perspective (1971 onwards)

The first stage was the manifestation of Woodrow Wilson’s view of politics – administration dichotomy (difference between two things as they are completely opposite). This led to a spurt in the interest of its studies in various American as well as universities around the globe and reforms were made in government and thus scholars were attracted to public administration with a new vigour (Adamolekun, 1985). Woodrow Wilson propagated this view since at that time people were fed up with the government and its various policies, rampant corruption and the spoils system that prevailed in the bureaucratic framework. This was the major reason for people to readily lap up his view. L.D. White published a book” Introduction to the Study of Public Administration” in 1926 that further buttressed this view.

The second stage of administrative theory evolve a value neutral or rather value free science of management. It was believed that there are certain principles (guiding/basic ideas) of administration that are common to all organizations and will work for all bringing out optimum efficiency . This was the mature Industrial Revolution period and all that countries were concerned with was increasing production at any cost in order to earn big. Also Industrial revolution’s rapid expansion of industries led to new problems in management that were unforeseen and therefore difficult to solve. That’s when F.W. Taylor and Henri Fayol stepped in and generated their principles of administration/management. They were successful

administrators in their own right and therefore their views held a lot of water and were readily accepted by the industries world over. Frederich Winslow Taylor and Henri Fayol advocated for adopting engineering based scientific methods in the field of industrial work process in order to increase efficiency and economy. These schools of thought are grouped under the Classical theory of administration .


The third stage in the evolution of the theory of public administration is known as the era of challenge because the above mentioned principles and iron cage/mechanistic view of administration and workers were challenged. The Human relations theory brought about a pragmatic view to administrative issues. It emphasized on the human aspects of administration that sprung from the Hawthorne experiments conducted by Elton Mayo and his colleagues at Harvard Business School in the late 20’s and early 30’s of the twentieth century. The main focus of study in this approach was to study the psychological and social problems of the industrial workers . The scholars of this theory identified variables like informal organisation, leadership, morale and motivation for maximum use of human resources in industries. This led to a far vast study by Herbert Simon and others that developed the Behavioural Science theory.


The Fourth stage that is the crisis of identity stage is set in the late 20th century where many parts of the world, called the developing nations, were just out of wars and colonisation. This phase marked a debate for the return of values in public administration and cross cultural as well as cross national study of administration.there grew a need to reinvent public administration and lead to a question as to whether public administration that had been known as it is till then was relevant anymore. Thus was born the concept of ‘ New Public Administration’ It laid stress on values in public administration and a commitedness by administrators and scholars of the discipline towards value formulation and their implementation. It developed the thought of society and its welfare as the main goal of public administration in today’s times through the public policy approach. It brought democratic humanism and client orientation as well as the science perspective in New Public Administration. The collapse of the Soiet Union also strengthened this view.


The Fifth stage is the Public Policy theory in the development of Public

Administration theory. Public policy is an attempt by a government to address a public issue by instituting laws, regulations, decisions, or actions pertinent to the problem at hand. It is policy, as discussed by Stein (1952) that is made for the welfare of the people and their development. As a discipline public policy perspective is the study of government policies for the people and its pros and cons and how to better the same. Here it has come closer to political science again and also has incorporated many management principles to help public administration cope up with the dynamics of its discipline and conduct.

The New Public Management (NPM) theory takes its intellectual foundations from Public Choice theory, which looks at government from the standpoint of markets and productivity, and from Managerialism, which focuses on management approaches to achieve productivity gains. At its core, NPM represents a set of ideas, values and practices aimed at emulating private sector practices in the public sector. NPM has both protagonists (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992; Osborne and Plastrik, 1997) and vehement opponents. It has been criticized for the values it promotes, the disaggregation of the concept of a unified public service and the effects of managerialism on democratic values (Terry, 1993; Carroll and Lynn, 1996).
At the risk of being unfair, I would say that while the Classic public administration theory gave us a sound foundation, the NPM theory starts from the wrong value proposition. However, the underlying issues NPM attempts to resolve – some of which had previously been neglected – deserve our careful attention. Three of the most important issues include:
● Citizen-centred services.
● Value for taxpayers’ money.
● A responsive public service workforce.
A New Public Administration theory should help us to address these issues from a public sector perspective, based on public sector values.
Citizen-centred services The most fundamental characteristic of the public service should be its commitment to serve citizens in order to advance the public good. A public service true to its mission should be recognized for ongoing improvement of services and for its respect for the citizens it serves. It should be at the leading edge in exploring best practices, and should provide co-ordinated and integrated services among departments and agencies. In addition, it should use the power of modern information and communication technologies to enable citizens to reclaim their democratic institutions and to access government on their own terms and according to their needs. In a word, the public service should put citizens first although we all know that this is not always the case (Bourgon, 1998).
A citizen-centred approach to service delivery does not reduce the role of the citizen to that of a customer or a mere user of government services. Rather, it embraces a fuller recognition and affirmation of citizens’ rights and of the breadth of their interests. A New Public Administration theory should help to reconcile the need for stability with the need to be responsive to citizens’ needs and expectations.


Transparency and accountability in administration as the sine qua non of participatory democracy, gained recognition as the new commitments of the state towards its citizens. It is considered imperative to enlist the support and participation of citizens in management of public services. Traditionally, participation in political and economic processes and the ability to make informed choices has been restricted to a small elite in India. Consultation on important policy matters, even when they directly concern the people was rarely the practice. Information-sharing being limited, the consultative process was severely undermined.

There is no denying the fact that information is the currency that every citizen requires to participate in the life and governance of society. The greater the access of the citizen to information, the greater would be the responsiveness of government to community needs. Alternatively, the greater the restrictions that are placed on ‘access’, the greater the feelings of ‘powerlessness’ and alienation. Without information, people cannot adequately exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens or make informed choices.

Government information is a national resource. Neither the particular government of the day, nor public officials, creates information for their own benefit. This information is generated for the purposes related to the legitimate discharge of their duties of office, and for the service of public for whose benefit the institutions of government exist, and who ultimately (through one kind of import or another) fund the institutions of government and the salaries of officials. It follows that government and officials are ‘trustees’ of the information of the people.

Nonetheless, there are in theory at least, numerous ways in which information can be accessible to members of the public in a parliamentary system. The systemic devices promote the transfer of information from government to parliament and the legislatures, and from these to the people. Members of the public can seek information from their elected representatives. Annual reporting requirements, committee reports, publication of information and administrative law requirements also increase the flow of information from government to the citizen. Recent technological advances also help to reduce further the gap between the ‘information rich’ and the ‘information’.

However, in spite of India’s status as the world’s most populous democratic state, there was not until recently any obligation at village, district, state or national level to disclose information to the people – information was essentially protected by the colonial secrets Act 1923, which makes the disclosure of official information by public servants an offence. The colonial legacy of secrecy, distance and mystification.

of the bureaucracy coupled with a long history of one party dominance proved to be a formidable challenge to transparency and effective government let alone an effective right to information secretive government is nearly always inefficient in that the free flow of information is essential if problems are to be identified and resolved.

Right to information has been seen as the key to strengthening participatory democracy and ushering in people centred governance. Access to information can empower the poor and the weaker sections of society to demand and get information about public policies and actions, thereby leading to their welfare. Without good governance, no amount of developmental schemes can bring improvements in the quality of life of the citizens. Good governance has four elements- transparency, accountability, predictability and participation. Transparency refers to availability of information to the general public and clarity about functioning of governmental institutions. Right to information opens up government’s records to public scrutiny, thereby arming citizens with a vital tool to inform them about what the government does and how effectively, thus making the government more accountable. Transparency in government organisations makes them function more objectively thereby enhancing predictability. Information about functioning of government also enables citizens to participate in the governance process effectively. In a fundamental sense, right to information is a basic necessity of good governance.

In recognition of the need for transparency in public affairs, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act (hereinafter referred to as the RTI Act or the Act) in 2005. It is a path breaking legislation empowering people and promoting transparency. While right to information is implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution, the Act sets out the practical regime for citizens to secure access to information on all matters of governance.

Right to information : Challenges

The most contentious issue in the implementation of the Right to Information Act relates to official secrets. In a democracy, people are sovereign and the elected government and its functionaries are public servants. Therefore by the very nature of things, transparency should be the norm in all matters of governance. However it is well recognised that public interest is best served if certain sensitive matters affecting national security are kept out of public gaze. Similarly, the collective responsibility of the Cabinet demands uninhibited debate on public issues in the Council of Ministers, free from the pulls and pressures of day-to-day politics. People should have the unhindered right to know the decisions of the Cabinet and the reasons for these, but not what actually transpires within the confines of the ‘Cabinet room’. The Act recognizes these confidentiality requirements in matters of State and Section 8 of the Act exempts all such matters from disclosure.

The Official Secrets Act, 1923 (hereinafter referred to as OSA), enacted during the colonial era, governs all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance. The law largely deals with matters of security and provides a framework for dealing with espionage, sedition and other assaults on the unity and integrity of the nation. However, given the colonial climate of mistrust of people and the primacy of public officials in dealing with the citizens, OSA created a culture of secrecy. Confidentiality became the norm and disclosure the exception. While Section 5 of OSA was obviously intended to deal with potential breaches of national security, the wording of the law and the colonial times in which it was implemented made it into a catch-all legal provision converting practically every issue of governance into a confidential matter. This tendency was buttressed by the Civil Service Conduct Rules, 1964 which prohibit communication of an official document to anyone without authorization. Not surprisingly, Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, enacted in 1872, prohibits the giving of evidence from unpublished official records without the permission of the Head of the Department, who has abundant discretion in the matter. Needless to say even the instructions issued for classification of documents for security purposes and the official procedures displayed this tendency of holding back information.

The Official Secrets Act, 1923 should be repealed, and substituted by a chapter in the National Security Act, containing provisions relating to official secrets.

Implementation of right to information act

In order to enforce the rights and fulfil the obligations under the Act, building of institutions, organization of information and creation of an enabling environment are critical. Therefore, the Commission has as a first step reviewed the steps taken so far to implement the Act as follow:


Information Commissions

Information Officers and Appellate Authorities.

Information and record keeping

Suo motu declaration under Section

Public Interest Disclosure.

Modernizing recordkeeping

Capacity building and awareness generation

Creation of monitoring mechanism


Capacity Building and Awareness Generation

Training programmes: The enactment of Right to Information Act is only the first step in promoting transparency in governance. The real challenge lies in ensuring that the information sought is provided expeditiously, and in an intelligible form. The mindset of the government functionaries, wherein secrecy is the norm and disclosure the exception, would require a revolutionary change. Such a change would also be required in the mindset of citizens who traditionaly have been reluctant to seek information. Bringing about this radical change would require sustained training and awareness generation programmes. The Commission’s own experience in seeking information from select public authorities reveals that even some PIOs are not conversant with the key provisions of the Act. The Information Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom has published an ‘Awareness Guidance’ series to assist public authorities and, in particular, staff who may not have access to specialist advice about some of the issues, especially exemption provisions. This practice may also be adopted in India.

Awareness generation: The enactment of the Right to Information Act has led to an intense debate in the media on various aspects of freedom of information. Despite this, enquiries reveal that level of awareness, particularly at the grass roots level, is surprisingly low. In order to achieve the objectives of the Act it would be necessary that citizens become aware of their entitlements and the processes required to use this right to improve the quality of governance. Awareness generation so far has been largely confined to government advertisement in print media. An effective awareness generation campaign should involve multi media efforts including street plays, television spots, radio jingles, and other mass communication techniques. These campaigns could be effectively implemented at low cost, once committed voluntary organizations and corporates with creativity, passion and professionalism are involved.

Issues in implementation

The implementation of the RTI Act is an administrative challenge which has thrown up various structural, procedural and logistical issues and problems, which need to be addressed.

Facilitating Access: For seeking information, a process as prescribed under the Act has to be set in motion. The trigger is filing of a request. Once the request is filed the onus of responding to it shifts to the government agency. Based on the experiences there are some issues arising in the implementation:

  • Complicated system of accepting requests.
  • Insistence on demand drafts.
  • Difficulties in filing applications by post.
  • Varying and often higher rates of application fee.
  • Large number of PIOs.

Complicated system of accepting requests : While accepting applications, Departments insist that cash be paid at the accounts office. In Ministries, the accounts office and the PIOs office are different and at times in different locations. The Rules also prescribe that for each extra page of information, Rs. 2 has to be paid, for which the applicant has to go through the same process. The difficulty would get further pronounced in field offices, many of which do not have provision to collect cash. Moreover, getting a visitor’s pass to enter a government building results in unwarranted wait times (especially, when the PIO responsible might not be available owing to a number of other responsibilities which (s)he handles). Therefore, the process of filing requests for information needs to be simplified.

Insistence on demand drafts: Though there is a provision to pay fees through bank drafts, this poses another problem, as the bank charges Rs 35 to prepare a demand draft of Rs 10. Therefore the insistence by some departments to receive fees only through demand drafts and not in cash needs to be dispensed with.

Difficulties in filing applications by post: Under the existing dispensation, filing applications by post would necessarily involve payment of the application fee by way of demand draft or Banker’s cheque.

Varying and often higher rates of application fee: Different States have prescribed different fees in this regard. The Tamil Nadu Right to Information (Fees) Rules provides that an application fee of Rs 50 has to be paid for each request. During its public hearing in Chennai, the Commission was informed that this high rate of fees discouraged filing of applications under the Act. Therefore there is a need to harmonise the fee structure.



  • In addition to the existing modes of payment, appropriate governments should amend the Rules to include payment through postal orders.
  • States may be required to frame Rules regarding application fee which are in harmony with the Central Rules. It needs to be ensured that the fee itself does not become a disincentive.
  • Appropriate governments may restructure the fees (including additional fees) in multiples of Rs 5. {e.g. instead of prescribing a fee of Rs. 2 per additional page it may be desirable to have a fee of Rs. 5 for every 3 pages or part thereof}.
  • State Governments may issue appropriate stamps in suitable denominations as a mode of payment of fees. Such stamps would be used for making applications before public authorities coming within the purview of State Governments.
  • As all the post offices in the country have already been authorized to function as APIOs on behalf of Union Ministries/Departments, they may also be authorized to collect the fees in cash and forward a receipt along with the application.
  • At the Government of India level the Department of Personnel and Training has been identified as the nodal department for implementation of the RTI Act. This nodal department should have a complete list of all Union Ministries/ Departments which function as public authorities.
  • Each Union Ministry/ Department should also have an exhaustive list of all public authorities, which come within its purview. The public authorities coming under each ministry/ department should be classified into (i) constitutional bodies, (ii) line agencies, (iii) statutory bodies, (iv) public sector undertakings, (v) bodies created under executive orders, (vi) bodies owned, controlled or substantially financed, and (vii) NGOs substantially financed by government. Within each category an up-todate list of all public authorities has to be maintained.
  • Each public authority should have the details of all public authorities subordinate to it at the immediately next level. This should continue till the last level is reached. All these details should be made available on the websites of the respective public authorities, in a hierarchical form.
  • A similar system should also be adopted by the States.


Elections are the primary means for citizens to hold their country’s officials accountable for their actions in office, especially when they have behaved illegally, corruptly, or ineptly in carrying out the government’s work. For elections — and the people’s will — to be meaningful, basic rights must be protected and affirmed, as through the Bill of Rights in the United States. James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, believed that the very basis for government’s responsiveness was the assurance that citizens would have sufficient knowledge to direct it. If citizens are to govern their own affairs, either directly or through representative government, then they must be able to have access to the information needed in order to make informed choices about how best to determine their affairs. If citizens and their representatives are not well informed, they can neither act in their own self-interest, broadly speaking, nor can they have any serious choice in elections, much less offer themselves as candidates.

The major differences between management and administration are given below:

  1. Management is a systematic way of managing people and things within the organization. The administration is defined as an act of administering the whole organization by a group of people.
  2. Management is an activity of business and functional level, whereas Administration is a high-level activity.
  3. While management focuses on policy implementation, policy formulation is performed by the administration.
  4. Functions of administration include legislation and determination. Conversely, functions of management are executive and governing.
  5. Administration takes all the important decisions of the organization while management makes decisions under the boundaries set by the administration.
  6. A group of persons, who are employees of the organization is collectively known as management. On the other hand, administration represents the owners of the organization.
  7. Management can be seen in the profit making organization like business enterprises. Conversely, the Administration is found in government and military offices, clubs, hospitals, religious organizations and all the non-profit making enterprises.
  8. Management is all about plans and actions, but the administration is concerned with framing policies and setting objectives.
  9. Management plays an executive role in the organization. Unlike administration, whose role is decisive in nature.
  10. The manager looks after the management of the organization, whereas administrator is responsible for the administration of the organization.
  11. Management focuses on managing people and their work. On the other hand, administration focuses on making the best possible utilization of the organization’s resources.
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