Political Science

Political Science

Parliament has explicitly and unequivocally assigned broad powers for administration to the public service. Its intention in so doing is to ensure that the administration of government and of government programs is conducted in a non-partisan manner under laws, rules and regulations. According to John Graham (2006) two European scholars French and Folz, sum up the case against this doctrine as follows: “That politics and administration are intricately intertwined in local government decision making is obvious to contemporary practitioners and academics.

The idea that there ever was or even should be a dichotomy between them has been convincingly refuted by numerous scholars. ” But more fundamentally, as one American observer Charles Lindblom (1980) has pointed out “most, perhaps all, administrative acts make or change policy in the process of trying to implement it. For all such acts we must analyze implementation as part of policy-making”. Thus, almost all administrative acts have a discretionary aspect to them and this embroils administrators in questions of values. To leave ‘administration’ largely in the hands of administrators, according to some, is undemocratic.

It gives unelected officials too much power. But the doctrine also fails on the equally practical grounds that it does not fit with the reality facing politicians. For politicians to claim that administrative matters are of no concern to them would be tantamount to political suicide. As one author puts it, “…to a large extent, politicians will be driven by the desire to be re-elected and therefore have a strong interest in constituency cases. Consequently, many spend significant portions of their time dealing with constituents who feel aggrieved by decisions made by administrators.

In short, they act as ombudspersons trying to prod administrators to respond to complaints. Moreover, many would prefer this role to being a ‘policy wonk’, a role to which they may not be suited according to James Svara (1985). 4. 0IS THIS SEPARATION SUSTAINABLE – WITH EXAMPLES FROM THE ZAMBIA In Zambia since independence, there exist three branches of government namely the Judiciary, Legislature and Executive as stipulated in the Zambia Constitution. The first example emanates from the way local government is organized at district level. According to the Local Government Act No. of 2004 (reviewed), the council is made up of Councilors, two Chief’s representatives and all members of parliament within the district. These are policy formulators and employers of staff. The employed staff is there to administer what the councilors have purposed to achieve. The councilors need administrators and vice-versa in order for the council to deliver service the community. Moreover, the relationship between Council and the council secretary or mayor is for most part not “top down and controlled based”. Rather it is more consensual than confrontational

Another clear example of how difficult politics and administration can be separated is the relationship which exist in the Executive branch of government is the relationship between the Minister and the Permanent Secretary under each ministry. The minister is deemed as a politician while a permanent secretary is senior bureaucrat. The minister is there to formulate policy while the Permanent secretary must interpret and translate those policies into workable and tangible products and services. Yet these two must achieve a common goal under such ministry while each one focuses on their respective roles.

There is hardly a line of separation noticed. The only difference that can be found is that ministers (politicians) are elected and rise through appointment on political lines and thus their employment is contract basis and rewards are in a form of gratuity. The Permanent Secretary on the other hand is employed by the public service commission on permanent basis and rises through promotion and is pensionable upon retirement. A minister’s job can be terminated at any time with/without notice while that of bureaucrat will work up to retirement.

To be specific let me focus on a case where the Minister of Transport and Communication instructs the state police to enforce a seventy-eighty five kilometer-per-hour highway speed limit. The police commissioner then will decide such questions as whether to allow motorists a eight or fifteen kilometer-per-hour leeway over the seventy or none at all, whether to concentrate enforcement on the state’s main highways or on the more dangerous two-lane secondary highways, and whether to arrest a few violators or draw officers from other tasks in order to make a large number of arrests.

Given the commissioner’s policy decision, each patrol officer must subsequently decide whether to hold tightly to or to interpret loosely the commissioner’s decision on the eight – fifteen kilometer – per-hour leeway. Clearly from the Zambia perspective the sustainability of politics-administration dichotomy is not possible in practice. This leads to a conclusion that the politics-administration dichotomy does not hold up in practice; politics and administration are messily entwined. What is the Empirical Evidence?

The empirical evidence strongly supports the notion that politics and administration are hopelessly intertwined according to John Graham (2006) : 5. 0CONCLUSION No doubt part of the durability of this doctrine lies with the range of benefits it promises. First among these is the claim that politicians will concentrate their efforts on what is really important. Politicians (elected) determine policies and overall strategies for the benefit of their citizens and do not waste time embroiled in unimportant, administrative matters. Furthermore, the doctrine ‘de-politicizes’ the ‘doing’.

Politicians should not be involved in such matters as hiring staff, determining contracts and deciding on who benefits from what programs. Such involvement inevitably leads to unfair favouritism, nepotism and corruption. Finally, the very clarity of the model with distinct and non-overlapping roles leads to a sound accountability regime The evidence that a separation of politics and administration is neither desirable nor obtainable is overwhelming. We need to look elsewhere for answers. In doing so, however, we should not discard all aspects of the policy/administration dichotomy.

For example, there is merit in trying to gain greater role clarity and differentiation between political leaders and administrators for accountability, legitimacy and performance reasons. Further, political leaders that pay excessive attention to operational matters and not enough to mission and planning are not likely to head successful communities. Thus, the principle of direction should not be ignored. In addition, there are decisions that political leaders should not be taking – who the police should investigate, for example. Fairness, therefore as underlying governance principle should not be forgotten.

The challenge is how best to mange the ‘messiness’, a challenge to which we now turn. Administrators help to shape policy and give it specific content and meaning in the process of implementation. Elected officials oversee implementation and probe specific complaints about poor performance, and they seek to correct problems by fine-tuning either the policy side or the administrative side. New policies and services are defined by elected officials with administrator input and they are implemented or delivered by staff with continuous political oversight.

With extensive interaction, the knowledge and values of those who do the ongoing work of government complement the knowledge and values of those who ultimately set the course for government and ensure that it remains on course. The complementarity of politics and administration holds that elected officials and administrators – both in regular communication with citizens – need and help each other in partnership for governance. Dividing the partners or skewing the relationship in one direction or the other means that an important contribution is missing.

Harkening back to the debate over the politics-administration dichotomy, I conclude that rather than approaching public administration with a conceptual framework of dichotomy and looking for exceptions to it, it is more appropriate to use a framework of complementarity and examine variations within it. One important variation in the relationship is surely around how the two partners deal with partisan politics. James Svara(1985), an American academic, has attempted to frame complementarity in the relationship in the diagram below.

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