Scope Of Public Administration

Examining the Scope of Public Administration

There are many views regarding the scope and range of activities of Public Administration because it lies at the heart of modern society; and touches the lives of the people from ‘the womb to the tomb’.

Public administration consists in administering public affairs. Some scholars take a broader view and include all governmental activities having for their purpose, the fulfilment of public policyOpens in new window, while others take a narrow view and only take cognizance of those activities concerned with the executive branch of government as part of Public Administration.

The definitions given by prominent scholars show the emphasis they lay on different aspects of the activities of Public Administration. Among these scholars are some who equate the sphere of activity of Public Administration with the implementation of Law and Public Policy.

Leonard D. WhiteOpens in new window observes,

“Public Administration consists of all those operations having for their purpose the fulfilment or enforcement of public policy.”

In like manner, is DimockOpens in new window definition,

“Public Administration is the fulfilment or enforcement of public policy as declared by the competent authorities … Public administration is law in action. It is the executive side of government.”

According to Woodrow WilsonOpens in new window,

“Public administration is detailed and systematic application of law. Every particular application of law is an act of administration.”

There are scholars like SimonOpens in new window who define the scope of public administration in such a way as to make it coincide with the activities of the executive or administrative branch only.

Scholars like Pfiffner lay more emphasis on the coordinating role of administration. In his opinion administration consists in,

“getting the work of government done by coordinating the efforts of the people so that they can work together to accomplish their set tasks.”

F. A. Nigro’s definition is a more comprehensive one, which also includes—besides the above-mentioned aspects—the relationship between public administration and the political and social systems as well. Nigro has defined public administration in the following words:

Public Administration:

  • is cooperative group effort in a public setting;
  • covers all three branches—executive, legislative and judicial—and their interrelationships;
  • has an important role in the formulation of public policy and is thus a part of the political process;
  • is more important than, and also different in significant ways from private administration;
  • as a field of study and practice has been much influenced in recent years by the human relations approach;
  • is closely associated with numerous private groups and individuals in providing services to the community.

In summary, these definitions identify Public Administration with:

  • The formulation and implementation of public policies;
  • The executive branch of government;
  • Organizational structures and machinery of administration;
  • Administrative processes;
  • Bureaucracy and its activities;
  • Coordination of group activity or social relationship; and
  • Interaction between organizations and their environment.
What's this?

Public Administration is the non-political bureaucratic machinery of the government for implementing its laws and order, running the railways and postal services, maintaining an army, running schools and hospitals. These are all acts of public administration.

Public administration operates within a political context. It is a means by which the policy decisions made by the political decision-makers are carried out.

The scope of Public Administration consists in,

as well as other functions performed by government, the means whereby the purposes and goals of government are realized.