The full presentation by the Chairman Local Government Service Commission. Alhaji Babatunde Rotintwa at the two days LG news Academy in Abuja last week.
CURBING THE INFLUENCE OF POLITICS IN THE CIVIL SERVICE TO ENHANCE PROFESSIONALISM
Administration must exist in any organization set up for a defined purpose or objective. Whether you think of the Church, the army, a university, an industrial or business concern or a purely social organisation, there has to be administration because each one consists of human beings brought together in a hierarchical set-up, making use of tools, equipment, human and material resources, all in the quest to attain the objectives for which the organization is established. Thus the bishop in the Church, the field marshal in the army, the vice-chancellor in the university, the managing director or chairman of an industrial or business enterprise, each has under him a hierarchy of subordinates, each with functions and responsibilities assigned for the accomplishment of the objective or purpose of the organizations. This process requires planning, organization, command, co-ordination, and control. All these constitute administration.
Every organization in modern society consists of many different groups of people woven together in a complicated process to achieve the objectives of the organisation. Take an industrial establishment as an illustration. Any industry on a large scale depends upon organization. Large numbers of employees have to be supervised, co-ordinated and controlled. In some industries the span of activities is nationwide: sometimes it is even international. Thousands of workers have to be brought together and distributed for work among are graded in different levels of authority from directors and managers at the top to specific function and the contribution of each must be towards the objective of the whole.
POLICY – MAKING AND ADMINSTRATION AND MY LOCAL GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE
I have sat as consultant as several meetings of the Local Government Service Commission to interview candidates who wished enter the Local Government service as administrative officers. One of the questions always put to the candidates is to ask what the duties of an administrative officers are. In almost all cases, the candidates answer that the first and most important duty of an administrative officer is to assist in the formulation of policy. How can it be said that administration is involved in assisting in the formulation of policy when it is generally held that administration consists in the execution of policy and that administration begins only when policy-making ends? This subtle and somewhat intricate relation between politics (or policy) and administration is examined today.
DICHOTOMY BETWEEN ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICS
The earliest writers on public administration in modern times, notably American writers, drew a sharp dividing line between administration and politics. Woodrow Wilson stressed that administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics’ and that ‘administrative questions are not political questions’. From these premises, he argued that ‘although politics sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to manipulate its offices ‘. John Pfiffner took the same line and urged that politics ‘must be controlled and confined to its proper sphere which is the determination, crystallization and declaration of the will of the community’ whereas administration ‘is the carrying into effect of this will once it has made clear by political processes.’ He went on to conclude that politics should stick to its policy-determining sphere and leave administration to apply its own technical processes free from the blight of political meddling.
Another contemporary of Wiidrow Wilson who was greatly concerned about the meddling of politics with administration was Frank Goodnow. He made a clear distinction between politics and administration. He defined the former as the expression of the will of the State’ and the latter as the execution of that will.
Indeed, W. F. Willoughby went to the extreme of not merely separating administration from politics, but setting it up as the fourth arm of government along with the legislative, the executive, and the Judicial. In the same vein Albert Stickney argued that public servant must have duties of only one class that the men in the executive administration should have nothing to do with general legislation and the men who have to do with general legislation the deliberating and deciding as to the policy of all department of Government should not meddle with the details of administration. This sharp dichotomy between policy and administration and the theory persisted until recent times. The advocates of separation, Woodrow Wilson and his school, postulated their theory against the background of the political circumstances of their age. American public administration and political life was dominated by spoils politics and the patronage system until about the second decade of this century. The operation of spoils politics was incompatible with, and an obstacle to, the achievement of efficiency in public administration.
INSEPARABILITY OF ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICS
As administrative reforms were gradually introduced into the American public life and the spoils system became a thing of the past, American writers on public administration began to modify their existing views on the dichotomy between politics and administration. While John Pfiffner saw the need for one not to meddle with the other, he however warned:
Let no apostle of political realism think that advocates of such a separation of powers are unaware of its doctrinaire pitfalls. They do not advocate that it be embalmed into constitutional breakwaters designed to stand for centuries, as was the classical threefold division into legislative, executive and judicial functions… There is no denial that in a considerable number of instances questions of policy will be closely intermingled with administrative action.
He recognized that politics and administration cannot always be separated and isolated,’ but that one should not encroach upon the other in a meddlesome manner. He also recognized that the success to be attained in the direction will depend largely upon the extent to which partisan politics is kept out of administration and upon the assurance of tenure given to technical and expert personnel’. This, he emphasized, will entail just as great an obligation for the administrative personnel to abstain from political controversy as for political officers to keep their hands off administration.
In these comments, one can see the ghost of patronage and spoils politics still haunting American public life. It is interesting to see that the same writer, in the revised edition of his book a decade later, in 1946, wrote that in some instances politics and administration are so inter-mingled and confused that a clear distinction is difficult’. From this premise, he concluded that the line between the two should be shaded from black to various shades of grey, finally merging imperceptibly into white. By the closing years of the third decade of this century, the issue of the dichotomy between politics and administration, had been finally laid to rest. Thus in 1937, Marshall Dimock, after examining afresh the concept of government in its relation to politics and administration, observed that the two processes of administration and politics or policy are ‘co-ordinate rather than exclusive and by 1940 Carl Friedrich finally concluded that the idea of a dichotomy between politics and administration is a ‘misleading distinction’ which had become ‘a fetish, a stereotype in the minds of theorists and practitioners.
But it is one thing for practitioners and academic alike to recognize that politics and administration are co-ordinate rather that exclusive; it is another for the actors in government and governmental agencies to be able to relate this recognition to the actual day-to-day operation of administration and policy. Up to the present time, there is evidence in various Local Governments of constant bickering and friction between officials on the one hand and elected members or politicians on the other. The whole issue hinges on what should be the legitimate sphere of action as between the two sides.
For example, as recently as 1967, the Maud Committee on the Management of Local Government in Britain noted in its report that it believed ‘that the lack of clear recognition of what can and should be done by officers, and of what should be reserved for decision by members, lies at the root of the difficulties in the internal organisation of Local Government. In Nigeria, one of the main problems confronting the Local Government Reform, which was launched in 1976, is the constant friction between the chairmen of the local government councils and the Secretaries, (Council Manager) as to what is the legitimate province of each functionary.
Even in Local government of recent, the writer has himself had to settle rifts between Chairman and their Council Manager on the question of what matters a Council Manager may properly seek information on or be briefed about. Chairman sometimes wanted to know about the basis and rationale of the posting of officers. Every official wants to remain at headquarters and the occasion of postings to field stations are generally periods for an astonishing scale of lobbying, importunities, and the outbreak of fatal and incurable diseases which demand that the officials must remain at headquarters for specialist treatment. The same scale of lobbying occurs in times of award of contracts.
In these and similar instances some Chairmen, acting in their capacity as the political bosses of the Local Government, have sought to obtain information from their Council Manager and have attempted to influence decisions. The officials, on their own part, have resolutely refused to brief or take direction from their political bosses on matters which they considered to be outside the province of the Chairmen. And so, friction is generated.
ADMINISTRATORS ARE INVOLVED IN POLICY-MAKING
What then should be the relation between politics and administration? The bulk of the work of an administrator is concerned with disposing of current business in accordance with established tradition and practice. In doing so, he continually calls the attention of the higher authorities to certain needs, he picks out the best solution to achieve a sound goal, and often mediates between contradictory interests. Therefore, while on the one hand he uses established rules which are applied to more or less regularly recurrent routine cases, on the other hand experience has shown that all cases of human affairs cannot be settled with established decision to cover all details in advance for all times.
The result is that odd cases call for re-examination or review. The decisions on such cases constitute a departure from routine administrative procedure. In the end, the cumulative effect of the shift from routine administrative procedure may give rise to a new principle from which policy emerges. When the administrator raises an issue which departs from the routine and gives rise to a new principle from which policy is forged, he is in fact in the realms of politics, and assisting in the formulation of policy.
Therefore, administrators at all levels of responsibility are being constantly thrown into the area of decision-making, ad their decisions add up to major policies in the subsequent course of events.
Usually, day-to-day decisions are made which add up to determination of policy.
Instead of policy being made first, decisions are made first; instead of policy governing
decisions, decisions govern policy; instead of people at the top making policy, while
people at the lower levels make decisions, top executives make both policies and decisions
on some matters, while subordinates make both policies and decisions on others.
The administrator cannot avoid some policy-making responsibility.
Much of the policy-making responsibility on the part of the administrator takes place in
the course of the application of administrative processes. The administrator has to weigh
and consider conflicting demands and interests and to reconcile them. In the process he
makes consultations and tries to balance and synthesize the conflicting demands.
Therefore, the administrative hierarchy is an organ receiving messages of popular demands,
many of them contradictory. It is an organ responding to such demands, reconciling them,
and in the course of response injecting considerations of prudence, perspective, and
principle including regard for other popular demands and aspirations than those expressed
in the chorus of the moment. All this is political process, much of it completed within the
area of administration.
It is pertinent now to discuss how an administrator should define and carry out his role in the realm of policy-making. The corollary to this, of course, is the relation that ought to subsist between the political chief and the administrator in their joint role of policy-making in the Local Government. In all democracies the accepted practice is that responsibility for policy rests with the political chief executive in the Local Government. He sets the broad lines of policy to be pursued his role is that of climate-setting in deciding the way certain issues are to be approached. The administrator, on the other hand, is the instrument through which the policy is carried out. This is why Herbert Morrison stressed that the administrator should be the instrument and not the master of policy, and Charles Christie concluded that administration is the handmaid of policy.
The effect of all these situational descriptions is to show that it is the role of the politician to control the administrative system. This control can be exercised in several ways – by ensuring that the administrator carries out faithfully, settled and laid-down polices, and by ensuring that he is in a position of control to overrule decisions of administrators whenever necessary. Furthermore, the politician gives continual political guidelines for the administrators and the department as a whole to follow.
SPHERES OF POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION
The question may then be asked: how does the politician know on which matters to give political guidelines and to control the administrator? An attempt is made in Table 2 to give some rough indication of what could be regarded as policy issues and those that can be classified as purely administrative matters. Even though the table on the next page attempts to draw a line between the role of the policy-makers and that of the administrators, this chapter has been at pains to emphasize that a sharp dichotomy between the two is impracticable and unrealistic. As has already been explained above, the intention of the division of roles between the policy-makers and the administrators is to ensure that one should not encroach upon the other in a meddlesome manner. As already emphasized, in a considerable number of instances questions of policy will be closely intermingled with administrative action.
Policies issues Administrative matters Key decisions on the objectives of the 1. Provision and control of the necessary staff
Local Government and on the plans to required for the work of the Local Government
2. The task of reviewing periodically the 2. Tendering advice and placing all available
progress, performance and direction of information, knowledge, and experience at the
the programmes and goals of the Local disposal of the policy-makers to enable them to
government set the goals and objectives and the means of
3. Ultimate direction and control of the 3. Day-to-day administration of services
programmes and goals of the Local
4. Issues involving significant political or 4. Taking decision and action on settled policy
5. The determination of a general guide 5. Identifying peculiar problems arising out of settled
to action arising out of some problems decisions or policy and bringing such cases to the
attention of policy makers
6. Day-to-day routine inspection and control of theprogrammes and services of the department oragency
In conclusion, it is useful to bear in mind that the term ‘public administration’ embraces both politics and administration itself. There is the concept of public administration as a process and the concept of public administration as politics. They are two sides of the same coin. The recognition of this fact makes it easy to appreciate that neither is restrictive and that the application of each leads naturally to the application of the other. The same act may be examined in terms of the process of public administration as an administrative process or in terms of the politics contained in the act of administration.