Saturday, July 27, 2013

Similarities between Public and Private Administration

To many scholars such as Henri Fayol, Luther Gulick, Lyndall Urwick and Mary Parker Follet there was no different between public and private administration. Both of them belong to a generic category called "administration". Fayol was of the view that there existed only one "administrative science". In his address in the Second International Congress of Administrative Science, Fayol remarked, "The meaning which I have given to the word administration and which has been generally adopted, broadens considerably the field of administrative sciences. It embraces not only the public service but also enterprises of every size and description, of every form and every purpose. All undertakings require planning, organization, command, co-ordination and control and in order to function properly, all must observe the same general principles. We are no longer confronted with several administrative sciences but with one which can be applied equally well to public and to private affairs".

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Similarities between Public and Private Administration

Public and private administrations are quite similar in the following aspects of their functioning:

  1. Both of them can be successfully handled with the help of common techniques, skill and methods etc. Traditionally accounting, statistics, office management and office procedures are adopted in both the types of administration. The new and emerging concepts such as operations research, management information systems, PERT/CPM, zero base budgeting and accrual accounting are now increasingly being applied to the government organizations also. Earlier they were exclusively used by the private sector. Some institutions have come up to train administrators from both the field e.g. Administrative Staff Colleges in UK and India. In India senior bureaucrats are sent to the management institutes such as Indian Institute of Management (IIMs) on executive development programmes. Hence public and private administrations have some administrative skills which are common to both.

  2. According to the new philosophy of New Public Management, it is not only the private sector but also the public sector which should be concerned about profit making. Public corporations and public companies represent the business wing of government. Of late government is delegating more powers to them so that they could be autonomous in their areas of functioning and could take their own "business decisions".

  3. Private organizations have been influenced by some of the practices in the public organizations. For example, the events like "turnaround of Indian Railways" from loss making to profit making enterprise are source of inspiration for the private sector. There is a cross movement of employees between the public and private sector. For example, in Japan bureaucrats take pre-mature retirement to work in private sector, in USAS the cross movement is quite common, even in a developing country like India bureaucrats resign form government to take positions in private companies e.g. the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) officers are in great demand by the private sector and many IRS officers resign their official positions to take lucrative positions in the government sector. This is due to their technical competence in tax administration which proves to be very beneficial for the private sector.

  4. Government is now exercising lot of regulations on the private sector. They are now not that free to take decisions arbitrarily. Several independent regulatory commissions have been created which monitor the functioning of private sector e.g. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in the field of telecommunications and Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) in the field of insurance sector.

  5. Private organizations are also based more or less on some sort of hierarchy. They also have superior-subordinate norms etc.

  6. Both public and private organizations exist for serving their clients. So both types of administration need to imbibe efficiency. For this both the types of administration adopt innovativeness and creativity to improve themselves. Maintaining a report with the clientele serves both the types of administrations.



The discussion presented in this article proves that the distinction between the public and private administrations is not "absolute". It is only a "relative" difference. In the present era of liberalization, privatization and globalization (LPG), both the public and private administrations are competing in the same areas to provide services to the people. The governments are expanding into business operations in the form of public corporation and companies which function on business lines. So the difference between them is narrowing down and their functions are becoming more and more alike. Of late, New Public Management philosophy has started the public sector functioning and it has emphasized using the managerial techniques of the private sector in governmental operations. In the modern nation states, the private administration cannot remain fully immune from the public accountability. Laws have been enacted to fix the responsibility of "torts" committed by private organizations. In the modern culture of consumerism, the private organizations can be sued and forced to pay huge amount of money for damages while the governmental functionaries cannot be forced still to accept responsibility for the "torts" committed by its employees in exercises of "governmental functions". Further norms of "corporate governance" have been decided by the government which have to be implemented by the private administration.

However not all the area of functioning of government are akin to the private administration e.g. the areas like welfare administration, tribal development, rural development, agricultural development and the various poverty alleviation programmes are unique in nature and have to be handled by the public administration in its own way of functioning.

Thus both public and private administrations are the two species of the same genus "administration" but both of them have their own "individuality" and "distinctiveness" with their own values & techniques.


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