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Basic noted for you to understand the concept and practice of bureaucracy in government administration. what is the factors that lead to failure of bureaucracy and how to enhance the better management in public policy.
Understanding Bureaucracy in Public Administration
• The meaning of bureaucracy
• Features of bureaucracy
• Dysfunction of bureaucracy
• Bureaucracy and public policy
• Bureaucratic accountability
• Bureaucratic reform
The meaning of bureaucracy
The bureaucratic institution has their origin in
ancient time and its developed to become most
large organization both public and private.
There are many meaning of bureaucracy.
Generally it refers to organizing principles that
are intended to achieve coordination of work in
large organization. How bureaucracy has
1. It refers to all government offices
It may refer to totality of government office or
bureau that constitutes the permanent
government of the state. It is those public
functions that continue irrespective of
changes of political leaders
2. All public officials
The bureaucracy refers to the entire public officials of a
government. They may constitute both high, low,
elected and appointed bureaucrats.
3. General invective (negative sense)
It may refer to inefficient organization full by red tape
and cumbersome procedures in government operation.
However this does not mean that government
operation is always inefficient. Many government
agencies have long standing reputation of being
The structural features of bureaucracy
Bureaucracy has been central to public administration. It
is because the characteristic of bureaucracy make it
behave in predictable way
1. Specialized jurisdiction, office, task and division of
labor and authority regarding the achievement of
2. Hierarchy of authority to coordinate the activities of
the specialized office and to integrate their
jurisdictional authority. In the most rational
bureaucratic design, the organization is handle by
3. A career path
4. A bureaucratic structure tend to be permanent and
remain intact regardless flow of the member in and out
of it. Society become dependent on bureaucracy's
functioning to the extend that chaos result if it is
5. By implication, bureaucracy is larger organization
Procedurally, bureaucracy is:
1. Impersonal and dehumanizing
It is important to eliminate emotional element from the
performance of the individual bureaucrats and the
organization as a whole
It is because it does not operate on person but office.
Everything about its structure and operation is
written down in a formal procedure. The written
document are stored in files, access to which is limited
Bureaucracy operates according to formal rules and
regulation that are in written forms and can be learned.
The objective of rules is to specify proper office
procedures and to assure regularities in dealing with the
outsider. The rules also seek to ensure impersonality and
enhance hierarchical authority.
4. Highly discipline, individual bureaucrats are bound by
the bureaucracy,s rules and authority structures. They
may be discipline for rules infraction or insubordination.
Because of these structure and procedural
characteristic of bureaucracy is:
1. Highly efficient. Weber regarded bureaucracy as
the most efficient form of organization. It acts
with continuity, precision, rationality,expertise
and discipline. It uses of discretion are
predictable. Bureaucracy is reliable
2. Powerful. Its power derives from rationality,
expertise and continuity. Weber claimed that well
developed bureaucracy is uncontrollable by
outsider and that society becomes dependent for
its provision of goods and services
3. Ever-expending. Bureaucratic expansion is
unavoidable because it is efficient, powerful that
could serve the need of the complex society
Why need Bureaucracy?
1. Rationalization of modern life
-age of science, (industries and technology) require
bureaucratic principles like specialization/
authority, discipline and performance, system of
rules and regulation
2. Contemporary society
Enormous size of modern nation and modern
organization. In the absence of bureaucratization,
large organization is impossible to maintain.
Max Weber (1864-1920) in his book, The theory of
social and and economic organization gave the
name ‘bureaucracy’ to describe a form of
organization that applicable to both public and
In his analysis he identifies three basic types of
authority, which is useful in describing the legal
rational authority/ legitimate authority in
1. Traditional authority: where acceptance of
those in authority arises from custom and tradition
2. Charismatic authority: where acceptance of
authority arises from qualities of the ruler.
3. Rational legal authority: where acceptance
arises out of the office, position of the person in
authority bounded by the rules and procedures of
Dysfunction of bureaucracy
Weber’s contribution is central to our understanding
of formal organization structures. However, It is
undeniable that some of the principle of bureaucracy
is the most efficient means of organizing. On the
contrary, the recent scholars have identified a
number of weaknesses (dysfunction) of bureaucracy.
Dysfunction may refer to social system which is
detracting from adaptation and adjustment (cannot
play function it intended to perform).
Some of the dysfunctions of bureaucracy are as
1. Rules originally designed to serve organizational
efficiency however they have a tendency to
become all-important in their own right.
2. Relationships between office holder are based on
the rights and duties of each roles, so they are
depersonalized and this lead to rigid behavior
3. Decision making tend to be programmed and this
discourage the search for further alternatives.
4. The effect of rigid behavior often is very damaging for
client and customer and also for management workers.
Clients have to accept standardization.
5. Standardization and routine procedures make changes
and adaptation difficult when circumstances change.
6. The exercise of control based on knowledge had led to
the growth of expert, whose opinion may come in conflict
with those of generalists (e.g. manager and supervisor).
Bureaucracy and public policy
It concerned with some of the important
characteristics of the policy making process
within the bureaucracy. It involves two
1. Identify the principle group in administrative
agencies that participate in the determination
a) Political appointees
b) Career administrator
c) Outside expert
2. How does policy making change?
a) Hierarchy and decision making
b) Strong influence of professional
c) Policy is considerably less public than it is in
One of the defining features of democracies is the
institutionalization of bureaucratic accountability and
transparency (Matlosa, 2000). The concept of such a
system is the ability of ordinary citizens to hold
government officials accountable for their actions.
Accountability also refers to the answerability. It means
organization must be answerable to someone or
something outside itself. When a thing goes wrong,
some one must be held responsible.
It is no doubt that is bureaucratic
accountability is called the hallmark of
public bureaucracy. Without the
realization of such accountability, public
bureaucracy loses its identity. However, a
frequently heard charge/ criticism is that
government often is accountable to itself
rather than being accountable to the
There are several ways of how to improve
1) Regular comprehensive reports by
ministerial, political, and administrative
heads to parliament or the National Assembly
on the activities of their agencies.
2) Grass roots briefing on ministerial and
departmental activities in administrative
districts and local government areas with the
general public in attendance.
3) Publication and circulation of quarterly
reports on ministerial and/or departmental
fiscal programs and project operations.
4) Media briefings, where political and
administrative heads interact with the press
on the degree of accomplishment of set
budgetary objectives or programs targets.
6) A "public commitment" should therefore be
made essential in public bureaucracies. It
contains among other things the following set
i. Public office is a public trust;
ii. Corruption is public enemy and should be
exposed wherever it is discovered;
iii. The public is supreme client and working for
its good is the primary duty of public
iv. Searching for the most efficient and
economical ways of getting tasks
1. Misconception of the public interest
There are several factors that could lead the civil
servant or the bureaucrat to misunderstand
the concept of public trust.
1. They may be influenced by their social
background and interest.
2. They may develop a narrow outlook
concerning the public interest. They may tend
to exaggerate the importance of what they do,
and down grade the importance of what others
do. They may also develop a way of thinking
that difficult to understand.
3. A close relationship with particular clientele
group is another factor that may influence the
perception of civil servant.
As betray of public trust for reasons of private
interest. Many examples of bureaucratic
corruption appear in press and publicly
denounce by officials. Many countries
throughout the word, corruption in the form of
bribery, and the use of personal contact have
The main reason for this rampant corruption in
public bureaucracy is that the bureaucrats
have something to allocates that other people
wants and sometimes it is a part of the
The bureaucrats might also betray the public trust by
engaging in subversions. Though, the evidence is hard to
point out, it becomes the major concern in today’s global
Reasons why it is difficult to check the
accountability of bureaucrats:
To find the means of establishing accountability
is often difficult even in the most developed
countries like in United States because of
1. The accumulation of special expertise
public administrators are often expert at what
they do. The outsiders are unable to match the
information available to them that others have
difficulty to obtain it. It other situation it may
be the information that the administrator
themselves decide to generate.
2. The advantage of full-time status.
The bureaucrats do their job on full time basis. The people
who would hold them accountable usually engaged in
other activities and cannot devote sufficient time to
3. The protective nature of the personal system
Bureaucrats often have job security. Discipline and
dismissal are possible but difficult to be applied. As a
result, petty infraction like using of public resources for
private purposes often go unpunished.
4. The fragmentation of agency structures
The structure of public agencies is often
fragmented and often the missions are
overlapping. It makes it difficult to pin point
responsibility for given administrative action.
5. The larger size and scope of public
Government spends a lot of money to run the
public bureaucracy and its personnel, while at
the same time handling a lot of activities and
functions. It is difficult even with the help of
advance computer to track everything from
people, money, regulations, form and others.
There are lots of challenges to have so called bureaucratic
accountability. It seems that the formal theory of
accountability in public administration is not working in
Means of ensuring bureaucratic accountability:
Different scholars have suggested different
mechanisms to ensure accountability such as-
1. Formal (external) mechanism: legislative
means, parliamentary question, budgetary
means), executive means (control of political
executive over matters and personnel
investigation., judicial means ( regular and
administrative court) other bodies advisory
committees and ombudsmen.
2. Formal (internal) mechanism: performance
evaluation, official rules and code of conduct
3. Informal (external) mechanisms: includes public
hearing, interest group, opinion polls, media scrutiny
4. Informal (internal) mechanisms: such as organizational
culture, norms and peer pressure.
It involves efforts and manifestation to improve
to improve government. It may in include
redesigning the organizational process to
achieve significant improvement in critical
measures of government performance cost,
quality and efficiency of service delivery.
In the case of Malaysia, many reforms to public
bureaucracy had been made. The critical major
reform was conducted in 1990s with the aim to
improve internal system and process in
bureaucracy. It focuses on three broad areas,
financial administration (out put based-computerized
accounting), service delivery
system and personnel management (new
Major areas of bureaucratic reform
1. The size of the public sector –which is
often too large, reform, can be expensive and
time consuming. Right sizing of government
bureaucracy is often desirable. It becomes a
major concerned since the wide bureaucracy can
drain government resources.
High salaries, expenditure and operating cost,
inefficiency of civil service as a result of
improper distribution of staff s among various
ministries and department.
2. Decentralization-should be actively
encourage with proper and adequate check from
time to time. Decentralization has greater
potential for facilitating more efficient delivery
of services through greater local involvement. It
is also important in promoting development,
sustainable development and poverty elevation;
however, it requires appropriate check and
balance so that the process of decentralization is
not subjected to the manipulation of center.
In addition, administrative decentralization
should be combined with financial
decentralization. Participation of local decision-making
is also essential. Ensure, monitoring,
training and capacity building.
3. Corruption-is systemic and endemic
requires strong enforcement of rules and
regulation (law) ensuring power is balanced
between executive, legislative and executive
body and other public bodies.
Corruption is critical factor in undermining the
functions of government. It resulted in high cost,
lack of transparency, ineffective or wrong
policies. Inadequate or weak regulation, major
mistakes can lead to high economic losses. It
creates a gulf between people and government.
4. Accountability-remain a major constrain
to achieve development objective, bodies such as
NGOs, civil society organization, parliamentary
committees, mass media should be empowered.
It is necessary to promote good governance.
Adequate checked and balance is essential, so no
one exceeds authority and dominates others.
Parliament also shouldn’t be weak, besides
strengthening various laws and regulation
5. Provision of goods and services- is
constrains by lack of resources, staffing and
training of front line service provider,
inadequate supervision, non existence of service
delivery, poor investment in infrastructure.
It is the most important responsibility of
government. However, it is always being
hampered by lack of financial, resources,
ineffective decentralization and lack of training.
E.g. health sectors.
Government should explore the involvement of
public sectors businesses
6. Public participation remains low it is
necessary to promote, sustainable human
development and poverty reduction. The citizen
should be encouraged to participate. Even
though, there are legal provision and
constitutional right, it doesn’t guarantee true
Public isolation in policy making is evident
particularly in the area of fiscal and economic
policy, which directly affect the life of citizen
7. Globalization- has resulted in income
inequalities among people, need to address social
adjustment so that the issues of poverty
commensurate with the increase in wealth.
It is concerning government capacity to deal with
the issues of globalization on how and what to be
done to restructure the public sector in order to
compete. (Domestic industries and trade)
WTO requires competitive market environment
that need effective and efficient public sectors.
Most of the governments that practice unfair
and informal competition must be regulated.
Globalization should be able to bring human
development instead of political and business
- 1. Government should take serious effort to
streamline the provision of good and services
2. Frequency and type of reform should be
monitored and carefully observed
3. Government also should ensure adequate
resources in term of finance and human resource