Chapter 1: What is PublicAdministration?
As in other parts of the world, governments in Canada are being challenged to respond to such
forces as rapid social change, the emergence of a global economy, startling advances in
information technology, and the public’s insistence on a more open and participating decisions-
The work of public administration in Canada was once largely limited to public servants and
their political superiors, producing a village-like setting in which roles and expectations were
clear and certain and issues were handled without elaborate rules and procedures.
Public Servants are expected to devise appropriate solutions to societal challenges, in part
through efforts to reinvent, rethink, reshape, and revitalize government in general and the public
service in particular.
Importance and Meaning of PublicAdmin
The range of governmental activities includes the traditional functions of administration of
justice, conduct of external relations and defence of the country, as well as newer responsibilities
such as health care, environmental protection and scientific research.
The two major areas of government activities are the provision of services and the enforcement
of regulations. Virtually every government department and agency is involved in research related
to its service or regulatory function.
Public administrators play a large role in formulating and implementing policies to fulfill their
governments service and regulatory responsibilities which are performed through what is known
as the public bureaucracy, which is an organizational system for achieving government
The Meaning of PublicAdmin
Atypical one-sentence definition of public administration includes “the study and practice of the
tasks associated with the conduct of the administrative state” and “the coordination of individual
group efforts to carry out public policy”. The emphasis in these and most definitions is on the
implementation of policy; there is insufficient recognition of the role of bureaucrats in the
formulation of program and policies.
The terms “public administration” and “public bureaucracy” are often used interchangeably, but
they do not mean the same thing. Public admin refers to a field of practice (occupation) – work
for federal or provincial government – and to a field of study (discipline) focusing on public
bureaucracy. Public bureaucracy is the system of authority, people, offices and methods that
government uses to achieve its objective. PublicAdmin Vs. PrivateAdmin
Two major characteristics of government account in large part for the differences between public
and private admin.
1. The vast scope and complexity of government activities
• Public administration operates less efficiently than private. Governments are not
oriented toward a single goal but rather many goals simultaneously, some of which
my conflict and some of which cannot be stated openly.
• Politicians are also first and foremost concerned with winning public support. The
public judges politicians not on how well they manage departments but by their
policy initiatives and public personae.
• There is a greater emphasis on accountability in the public sector. This arises from the
fact that all of us are forced to contribute financially to government and thus we
expect some say over its operation and or at least an indication that matters are being
handled properly. Sometimes there is a greater need for accountability because
recipients of services have nowhere else to go (health care, education, etc.)
• The human resources management is much more complicated in the public sector as
it is harder to hire or fire government employees. HR management is required to
promote sensitivity and responsiveness to the needs of a certain minority group.
2. The political environment within which these activities are conducted
• Public admin is service to a public, whereas the primary point of private admin is
profit. Public admin results from the need for bureaucrats to assist elected politicians
to respond to public demands and requirements for government services.
• The public nature of public administration requires that much of it be conducted in a
“fishbowl”. Many more government decisions are subjected to public scrutiny
(compared to private decisions, which can remain private).
The Study of PublicAdmin
In the United States, the study of the field is generally acknowledged to date from 1887 with the
publication of Woodrow Wilson’s essay, “The Study ofAdministration”.
He stated administrative study was required for two reasons:
1. To discover what governments can properly do 2. To determine how they can do these proper things with the utmost efficiency and the least
This was written more than a century ago, however it is still reasonable.
Environment and Size of PublicAdmin
To its limit, globalization means that everything that happens, happens to everyone and at the
same time. For many, globalization is identified with its economic dimension, which is the
movement from a world of distinct economies to a global economy characterized by worldwide
markets for investment, production, distribution and consumption.A key element of
globalization is that it forces governments and bureaucratic agencies to be creative i