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Distinguishing Features of Public Management and Administration

By zahbabie Oct 16, 2014 1914 Words
QUESTION; What are the distinguishing features of public management? How different is public management from traditional public administration. The public sector has undergone a critical phase changing both its theoretical and practical underpinnings as a result of the advent of public management. There are debates from various scholars and social scientists to whether Traditional Public Administration has changed and whether there are differences between (TPA) and new public management (NPM). Therefore it is the purpose of this paper to examine the undergirding of public management in an endeavor to distinguish it from its predecessor (TPA). Public management also known as new public management is singled out for its great emphasis on decentralisation of authority, downsizing of the public sector through privatisation of state enterprises, strict management of performance in a goal directed and result oriented manner, market-centric management, complex interdependence between politics and administration and adoption of private sector manegerialism to list but a few. A sharp cleavage exits when the tenets of (NPM) are juxtaposed with (TPA) principles such as bifurcation of politics and administration, overall division of labour, a defined hierachy of authority, formal set of rules and procedures and job security with awarding of pension funds among others will be made lucid in the discussion that follows. Background information

Public management is defined by Pollit (1993;32) as “a vision, an ideology or a bundle of particular management approaches and techniques borrowed from a private sector…” yet Roscow Martin cited in Hughes (2003;45) is of the view that “it is the craft perspective that caters for decision making, actions outcomes, political skills needed to perform effectively specific management roles…” this implies that its main features involve adoption of private sector managerial mechanisms such as entrepreneurship and affording managers enough responsibility to autonomously set goals in a bid to operate effectively and efficiently in an economic manner. Fanham and Horton (1996; 25) plausibly lamented that TPA on the other hand is “the process where by public officials, employed by state agents, implement and execute governmental policies determined by political authorities… where efficient use of resource is of secondary importance.” Hence a general view generated is that traditional public administrators lack autonomy in their work as they are politically controlled in a central manner. Underpinnings of public management

Public management agitates for a radical restructuring of the core public sector to provide more operational flexibility at an agency level. This insinuates that management authority is decentralized or hived-off to semi-autonomous service delivery units within this sector either through delegation or departmentalism Hughes (2003;23). In this case, managers are given budgetary responsibility and autonomy to set their goals that cater for full achievement of results. For example Ministries in Zimbabwe formulate their budgets to achieve their desired goals. In addition NPM launched organizational unbundling which resulted in trimming of vertically integrated monolithic bureaucracies to flatter and responsible ones. This includes the downsizing, delayering and ratiolising of the public sector through sub-contracting government entities to the private bodies. Peters and Pieree (2007; 4) stipulate that “…the hierarchical nature of public organizations which accorded greater autonomy to the front line staff leading to greater efficiency.” This was put into practice in New Zealand where the state owned enterprise act of 1986 and the State Actor Act of 1988 privatized the country’s post bank and Telecommunication Corporation which caused the fall in number of civil servants from 66000 to 34500 and some were delegated to public sector ‘executive agents’ (ibid,51). This entails that public management is distinct in the sense that it ensures accountability, transparency and responsiveness since departments are brought closer to the public for inspection. Furthermore NPM calls for public and private sector partnership in delivering goods and services in a manner that places the government in the role of an overseer. The private sector is involved in financing and operation of public project s through contracting that cultivates competition in the provision of goods and services. There is an argument that government is no longer an autonomous actor in implementing its polices but often depends on the private sector. Under this partnership employment is based on long and short term contracts signed individually by employees and appointment is based on expertise only Peter and Pieree (2007; 22). In South Africa the government privatized Telkom its major communication company and Eskom which provides the nation. This resulted in contract based employment which did not go well with their trade unions (COSATU). Privatization brought no job security and old age pension funds enjoyed in the TPA. Hence the private public sector partnership opens a wide market, access to a variety of customer attuned goods and free market choice since competitions force goods and service providers to produce high quality goods in large quantities. Apart from that public management adopts and adheres to private sector styles of management. This includes a strict focus on profitability, result orientation and performance as a determination of salary increment. In this respect civil servants are thoroughly assessed alongside set targets. This might result in demotion of some employees as a result of poor performance. For example the President was quoted in the Herald of September on the 8th parliamentary session saying “to engender accountability and ensure efficient service delivery to the public, heads of parastatals and local authorities will be obliged to sign performance appraisals.” In line with this Peters and Pieree (2007; 41) point that “…the government has adopted several different strategies including ‘pay-for performance’ to allocate salary increments… result oriented performance appraisals.” These are purely private mechanisms used to motivate workers to increase their productivity in order to channel profits and growth to public organizations. This is accompanied by output controls which restricts adherence to auto-machine and computerization of documents to cut off the need for human resources that might siphon a lot of resources from the government. Moreover public management is hinged on the expertise or know-how, temperament of managers and interdependence of politics and management. This is adumbrated by Fredrick and Finer (2007, 3) “polices are implemented when they are formulated and formulated when they are implemented.” This enunciates that public managers and politicians act entrepreneurs who are disposed to take risk and work hand in hand to achieve the goals of the government. NPM views administration and politics as inseparable core variants that together I unity usher good governance. For instance the parliament of Zimbabwe initiated a setting up of the Anti-Corruption Commission to monitor and eradicate corrupt tendencies with the public sector. This enables great discipline, parsimony in resource allocation, transparency and accountability. A comparison of TPA and NPM

Traditional Public Administration dissects politics from administration. This is illustrated in the Wilsonian politics administration dichotomy. Hughes (2003; 19) indicates that TPA stipulates that politicians craft policies whilst administrators implement them. However this perspective has been castigated for trivializing expertise capacities of managers and NPM provides an alternative of the amalgamation of the two and devolving of managerial authorities from higher level politicians to managers at agency levels to discretionarily execute their own policies. As a result NPM and TPA take divergent routes in management approach. Furthermore TPA is built on Marx Weber’s bureaucratic theory which calls for hierarchical organization of authority. This means control over government agencies emanate from the superiors who are elected officials and channels of communication follow a top down authoritarian model and no room is given to other employees to air their views in regard to decisions made. Moyo (1992; 22) argues that this tall and closed form of organization deprives civil servants much needed self-actualization and it is crippled by politicization and distortion of information as it sails along a huge bureaucracy. NPM differs from this type of organizational structure due to its strict inclination to downsizing of the public service and hiving-off authority. Fox e tal (1991;22) postulate that NPM cooperates with its environment and management involves consultation with subordinates in order to gather much information necessary for attainment of set targets hence one is made to conclude that public management breaks the hierarchy or one would even argue to say it rather distorts it. ln addition TPA separated administrative functions into different ministries with clearly stated areas of specialization. Thus Farham and Horton (1996; 23) indicate that specialization and division of labour is currently challenged by NPM’s introduction of general managers who cut across departments with general controlling authority. However one wonders whether this generalization of function is reasonably applicable in present circumstances with the rapid population growth and existence of government ministries that are separated according to functions and services handled. Nevertheless the distinction theoretically remains. TPA management is based on written documents, ‘the file’ that is preserved for precedence. This entails that administrators adhered to the rules of the thumb and made incremental decisions based on past organizational records Fox e tal (1991). This approach is contradicted by NPM that calls for rationalization of the public sector which forces managers to be intuitive and critical in arriving at a particular course of action. NPM considers changes in the environment and strives for adoption of policies that accommodates changes fashion, taste and technology. As a result TPA thrives hard under this era of technology and files are now causing poor service delivery and documents misplacements. This is manifest in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Home Affairs where the recurrent reports on the disappearance of birth certificate records. NPM is accommodative to information technology which has basically replaced the Weberian way of keeping records Hughes 92003; 46). However digitalization which is articulated by chief proponents of NPM is s implementable in economically stable countries that can afford purchasing of the machineries for data storage. Apart from that TPA emphasizes job security, old age pension funds and appointment based on seniority this means bosses are those with working experience rather than high level of education. This is however different with NPM as appointment is based on competence, performance and level of education Farham and Horton (1996; 52). In MPM managers are experts and this account for efficiency in management. However this notion is debatable since most politicians are not that much educated but still modify policies made by experts at a managerial level. This dilemma is responsible for patronage and nepotism rampant in both TPA and NPM employees are recruited on political grounds and affiliations which causes poor performance due to expertise incapacity of such people, hence reflecting a similarity within these paradigms. Conclusively public management has a greater impact on the traditional public administration. It attempts to overturn orthodox approaches and import new ones from the private sector in a bid to come up with more effective and efficient paradigm. Hence these two approaches vary to a greater extent, NPM tries to cover the pitfalls of TPA by devising new plans of action different from TPA, and as a result NPM seems favorable as compared to TPA in terms of goal attainment and resource management.

Farham, D and Horton, S (1996). Managing the new public sector, 2nd Ed; London, Macmillan Press Ltd .
Fox, W, Schwella, E and Wissink, H (1991).Public management: Cape Town, Juta and Company Ltd.

Gore, A, L (1993). Creating a government that works better and costs less: New York, Penguin Books.

Hughes, O, E. (2003). Public management and Administration: An introduction. 3rd Ed:New York, Palgrave Macmillan.

Peters, G. B and Pierrre, J (2007) The handbook of public administration: Concise Paperback Ed London, Sage Publications.

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