Government Bureaucracies and Reforms to Ensure Their Responsiveness


Bureaucracy is a system applied in the management or control of a country and constitutes a vast number of people tasked with doing various government functions carefully while strictly adhering to a set of rules. In a bureaucratic setting, government officials are nonelected, and they carry out specialized functions, following a hierarchy of authority. Essentially, in a democratic environment, a strict chain of command is followed in decision-making, done by nonelected government officials rather than elected representatives. Accountability refers to the obligation of an individual to justify and explain their actions to the authority in charge. Bureaucratic accountability can be defined as the ability of a government or state to ensure the bureaucracy is held accountable for its activities and conduct. Bureaucratic accountability involves the strict control of administrators’ activities and behavior by the superiors within a particular government. However, there is a tension between bureaucratic accountability and ensuring public administrators conduct their work in a neutral and apolitical fashion. This essay sheds light on the tension experienced in government bureaucracies and reforms to ensure responsiveness in those bureaucracies.

The Tension Experienced in Bureaucratic Accountability

Bureaucratic accountability is crucial in ensuring that public administrators conduct their duties effectively and efficiently. However, political influence plays a significant role in bureaucratic accountability and performance, creating tension that affects how public administrators exercise their duties. The tension exists between the three critical aspects of accountability: responsiveness, controllability, and responsibility. Numerous autonomous public bodies have been established in the past two decades, leading to a highly fragmented public sector (Datnow et al., 2020). Considerig policy autonomy, greater levels of political influence exist in organizations with less independence. Furthermore, higher levels of social influence are reported in organizations with more independence.

In the US, there has been tension in the public administration sector caused by a conflict between bureaucratic accountability and political influence. This has affected how public administrators work in a neutral and apolitical fashion. The effect of political influence on bureaucratic accountability indicates that bureaucracy is out of control (Jin & Song, 2017). Therefore, in an attempt to regain control, the parties involved affect the functions of public administrators. Bureaucratic autonomy was affected due to presidential influence on the bureaucracy, associated with the appointment of agency directors, budgetary control powers, and reorganization.

The President, Congress, and courts exercised political control on public administration and affected how public administrators conducted their duties. In the US, bureaucratic autonomy is directly influenced by the strategies developed by the President, the House, and the Senate. In addition, the tension created between bureaucratic accountability and ensuring public administrators conduct their work in a neutral, apolitical fashion is not limited to political control (Pekince Kardaş, 2019). Other players such as the media, interest groups, the public, and courts play a significant role in bureaucratic accountability and the autonomous work of public administrators (Datnow et al., 2020). The existence of influence on public administration from various players affects employees’ autonomy. Public administrators lack the freedom to conduct their duties within a bureaucratic structure. There are numerous laws and rules they have to follow; this makes them accountable and answerable to a higher authority. Additionally, public administrators have to satisfy the demands of governing authorities to avoid consequences and penalties.

Reforms to Ensure Responsiveness of Government Bureaucracies

Various reforms are implemented to make government bureaucracies more responsive to politicians and the public. Bureaucratic reforms constitute programs developed by the state to provide better governance at all levels of government. They help to enhance the development of other sectors by making efforts to eliminate or curb excessive bureaucratic red tape (Schuster, 2020). Bureaucratic reforms include electronic government in the United States, formulation of government policies in Pakistan, and administrative amendments in India.

In the US, the introduction of electronic government aimed to apply information and communication technologies to execute government functions and procedures to increase effectiveness, efficiency, citizen participation, and transparency in delivering public services. US researchers integrated formal and informal institutions in the e-government to ensure public administrators are responsive to the public and politicians (Datnow et al., 2020). The public can easily access budget processes, regulations, laws, and other government procedures through e-government. E-government has been a driving force for the online provision of government information and public services delivery to citizens despite the time and location.

In Pakistan, the government has created bureaucratic reforms by formulating government policies. Since 1947, the Pakistan government has created almost forty state committees and commissions to ensure civil service reforms (Ehren et al 2020). The government policies are developed to address issues related to bureaucratic structures in the federal, provincial, and lower levels of government. The government focused on reforming all areas of governance, including economic policies, on ensuring efficient public administration and quality delivery of public services.

In India, the government introduced administrative amendments to ensure the responsiveness of public administrators to the public. In April 2021, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly denounced the Indian Administrative Services in a move that was considered unprecedented (Ehren et al 2020). He mentioned that IAS has so much power but never used it in the right way to deliver public services to the citizens. India has undergone a series of administrative reforms to improve public service delivery. The Department of Personnel and Training ordered all government ministries and departments to conduct quarterly reviews for all public administrators. In 2020, the central government instructed all government ministries and departments to maintain clear documentation of all public administrators in terms of their years in service (Ehren et al 2020). The practice aims to identify and weed out all corrupt and ineffective administrators.

Factors that Determine the Success of Accountability Initiatives

The success of accountability initiatives implemented by the governments depends on several factors. The implementation of e-government in the United States depends on the citizens’ willingness to participate freely in the initiative. Once citizens become accustomed to a particular standard of performance and quality of service delivery, the government is obligated to maintain or improve the standards (Romzek & Dubnick, 2018). Otherwise, if the service delivery is below the usual standards, most citizens will quit using services offered by the e-government.

In Pakistan, the success of policies formulated by the government depends on multiple factors. The power imbalance between strong and weak bureaucracies will affect the implementation of formulated policies (Shahan et al., 2021). Power imbalance leads to political influence, which interferes with governance policies. Interference causes inconsistencies in the systematic implementation of policies and arbitrariness in decision-making processes (Romzek & Dubnick, 2018). Power imbalance motivates the deterioration of transparency and accountability of bureaucratic entities.

The success of administrative amendments developed by India depends on the efficiency of Indian Administrative Services. India’s bureaucratic entities are charged with various responsibilities, synchronized to ensure that the government’s administrative amendments are effectively implemented to ensure proper service delivery to the citizens (Turner, 2022). It is the responsibility of government bodies to conduct reviews of all public administrators in various agencies to ensure they are incorruptible and efficient in delivering public services.


In conclusion, bureaucratic accountability ensures checks and balances system in all government agencies. Public administrators must be accountable and responsible for their activities and conduct to the authority and the public. There is tension between bureaucratic accountability and ensuring public administrators conduct their work in a neutral, apolitical fashion. The tension is caused by political influence and lack of freedom due to the need for public administrators to follow strict rules set by the authority. Reforms are implemented to ensure government bureaucracies are more responsive to politicians and the public.


Datnow, A., Lockton, M., & Weddle, H. (2020). Redefining or reinforcing accountability? An examination of meeting routines in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 21(1), 109-134.

Ehren, M., Paterson, A., & Baxter, J. (2020). Accountability and trust: Two sides of the same coin? Journal of Educational Change, 21(1), 183-213.

Jin, J., & Song, G. (2017). Bureaucratic accountability and disaster response: why did the Korea Coast Guard fail in its rescue mission during the Sewol ferry accident?. Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, 8(3), 220-243.

Pekince Kardaş, D. (2019). Putting bureaucratic accountability into a perspective in terms of academic achievement. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 31(3), 349-375.

Romzek, B. S., & Dubnick, M. J. (2018). Accountability in the public sector: Lessons from the Challenger tragedy. In Democracy, Bureaucracy, and the Study of Administration (pp. 182-204). Routledge.

Schuster, C. (2020). Patrons against clients: electoral uncertainty and bureaucratic tenure in politicized states. Regulation & Governance, 14(1), 26-43.

Shahan, A. M., Jahan, F., & Khair, R. (2021). A glimpse of light in darkness: Performance‐based accountability in Bangladesh public administration. Public Administration and Development, 41(4), 191-202.

Turner, I. R. (2022). Reviewing Procedure versus Judging Substance: How Increasing Bureaucratic Oversight Can Reduce Bureaucratic Accountability. Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, 2(4), 569-596.

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