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10 - Public Administration, Responsibility, and Accountability.doc

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Public Administration
Frank Ohemeng

1 Public Administration, Responsibility, and Accountability Outline - The meaning of responsibility and accountability in the public sector - Theories of administrative responsibility - The importance of ministerial responsibility - Public Sector Accountability - Types of accountability - Importance of Accountability in the Public sector - Principles for Effective Accountability in Canadian Public Administration The Meaning of Responsibility and Accountability in the Public Sector - To be responsible is to have the authority to act, power to control, freedom to decide, the ability to distinguish and to behave rationally and reliably and with consistency and trustworthiness in exercising internal judgement. Administrative Responsibility - Administrative responsibility requires public administration to serve as a balance wheel among the superior branches of government as they compete for control over public policy. This means career public officials should resist action by any superior branch of government that threaten the balance of power among all three. Theories of Administrative Responsibility Conventional Theories: The Friedrich and Finer Debate - Both identified the sources of burgeoning bureaucratic power as a result of the rapid expansion of governments service and regulatory functions. - They, however, strongly disagreed on the method of guarding against abuse of administrative discretion in order to maintain and promote responsible administrative conduct. - Finer places much emphasis on controls and sanctions exercised over public servants by the legislature/parliament, the judiciary, and administrative hierarchy. - According to Finer, public servants should not determine their own course of action. - Rather, the elected representatives of the people/MPs should determine the course of action of public servants to the most minute degree that is technically feasible. 2 - Finer defined administrative responsibility as: a. Responsibility may mean that x is accountable for y to z - The essence or importance is the externality of the agency or persons to whom an account is to be rendered, and it can mean very little; without that agency having authority over x, determining the lines of xs obligation and it terms of continuing dedication. b. Responsibility may mean an inward personal sense of moral obligation. - The emphasis is placed on the conscience of the agent/public servant. - If he or she commits an error, it will be an error only recognised by his own conscience. - The resulting punishment would be pains of guilty conscience. - Friedrich, on the other hand, focused more on the tendency of public servants to be self-directing and self-regulating, the measure of which was their responsiveness to the dual standard of technical knowledge and popular sentiment. - Friedrich believed that parliamentary responsibility is largely inoperative and certainly ineffectual and that the task of clear and consistent policy formation has passed into the hands of administrators and is bound to continue to do so. - Friedrich believed that responsible conduct depended to a large extent on sound work rules and effective morale. - He, therefore, argued for a change in the working environment of government employment so as to allow public servants the right to organise into staff associations and to bargain collectively with the government. Criticism - Both Finer and Friedrich take a negative view of human nature and of administrators in particular because they agree that without the checks provided by either the law or the processes of professional socialisation, the result behaviour of administrators would be both selfish and capricious (whimsical). Objective and Subjective Responsibility - Friedrich makes a distinction makes a distinction between the two. Objective responsibility refers to accountability, while subjective responsibility is psychological. Objective Responsibility - Accountability - The responsibility of a person or an organisation to someone else, outside of self, for some thing or some kind of performance.3 - Entails directions, rules and regulations that directly establish lines of communication, obligation, and control within government. - It flows from the decisions of others about what you out to do if you occupy a particular administrative position. - It projects generalized obligations for all who fill a certain type of position without any attempt to acknowledge the individual needs, limitations, preferences or predilections of a particular incumbent. - It is close to accountability and answerability. If one phases to carry out legitimate directives, he or she is judged irresponsible and may be subjected to penalties. - In the public service, objective responsibility is accomplished through membership in a hierarchical structure of authority. A chain of command with successive delegations of responsibility is the instrument by which the broad statements of accountability are enforced. - Public servants have the authority to make decisions of a certain nature of scope, while other issues or matters must be pushed up the hierarchy to others with greater authority for resolution. - Objective responsibility also involved a concern for the quality of decisions.
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