Public administration is basically a governmental role that prepares civil servants for the delivery of basic services to the public. The main function of public administrators is therefore to facilitate the smooth running of government functions and roles through proper management and upheaval of sound policies (Khan, 2008, p. 85). Many researchers have had different interpretations of public administration and a cross-section of them advance the theory that public administration essentially bridges the gap between politics and reality, while others note that public administration constitutes the management of public programs (Khan, 2008, p. 85).
These definitions abound, this study seeks to evaluate the public interests associated with public administration (with a special emphasis on administrative responsibilities of public administrators) and recent ethical problems that plague public administrators in the course of undertaking their duties. This study will later conclude by analyzing the recent trend of privatizing most government functions and if such a practice poses any dilemmas in the upheaval of public interests.
Public interest is at the centre of public administration, in the sense that, public administrators are virtually entrusted with the provision of government services to the people. The public therefore expects a lot from public administrators, especially through the provision of basic services such as health, education, shelter and the likes (Cannon, 2011, p. 1). Extensively, public administrators are also mandated with the duty of responding to public concerns, in form of disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, accidents and other manmade or natural disasters. In these types of situations, they provide health services, food, clothing, temporary shelters and other basic goods and services to those affected.
For example, in one of the worst natural disasters to hit America (Hurricane Katrina), public administration came into sharp focus because public administrators were supposed to remedy the situation by providing basic government services.
Researchers such as Larry D. Terry (cited in Cannon, 2011, p. 11) have identified that the role of public administrators is not an easy task. He equates their roles to that of a hero because most of the time, such officers are required to overlook their own personal preferences for the good of the majority (Cannon, 2011, p. 12). Such can be evidenced in instances where public administrators have to role play or act certain roles as to resemble a villain.
For instance, in a situation where a person goes through several government bureaucratic offices without having his or her matter addressed, it becomes imperative that a public administration officer has to play the role of a villain to address the person’s concern. In further reference to the Hurricane Katrina situation, the official mandated body entrusted to respond swiftly to such disasters, FEMA, was slow in their response and therefore public administrators had to come in and play the role of villains (Cannon, 2011, p. 15).
Ethical Problems Confronting Public Administrators
Ethical problems in public administration are especially elevated by the fact that the society is filled with corrupt people (and people of influence) who would want to bend the will of public officers for personal gain (Carol, 1997, p. 1). The main types of ethical issues evidenced in public administration today emanate from duties of public disclosure, professional responsibility and drawing a clear-cut difference between confidentiality and public interests (Carol, 1997, p. 1).
Another common ethical issue in public administration is evidenced with regards to finances, where many officers are normally faced with the ethical concern of engaging in market transactions for personal or institutional gain and at the expense of public gain (Carol, 1997, p. 2). These ethical dilemmas are normally synonymous with many public administrators, but many researchers have proposed ways through which they can be checked. For instance, Carol (1997) proposes that organizational cultures should be changed, to be in tandem with ethical practices that are more sensitive to gender concerns, policies and institutional norms. Such kind of recommendations ought to be factored in public administration to ensure high ethical conduct is upheld in the provision of public administration services.
Privatization of Government Functions
Privatizing various government functions is not representative of public interests. This is because the government essentially carries out its functions with the interest of the people at heart, but private practice carries out business with the aim of making profit (Gormley, 1991, p. 307). Moreover, privatization normally comes with the setting of high prices for the availability of simple goods and services. Governments on the other hand do not charge exorbitant prices to its citizens because they are not out to make profits. The privatization of government functions is therefore not a move that has public interests at heart.
This study identifies a number of dynamics pertaining to public administration. Most importantly, the study identifies that public administration has the interest of the public at heart and normally, the administrative responsibilities of public administrators are designed to fulfill the mandate of availing public services and goods to the people. Since this goal is at the centre of public administration, this study notes that privatizing government functions is not in the best interest of the public because private businesses are essentially driven by the aim of making profits. Comprehensively, we can see that public administration is at the centre of the provision of government services and the upheaval of public good.
Cannon, R. (2011). The Role of the Public Administrator. Web.
Carol, W. (1997). Ethical Dilemmas in Public Administration. Web.
Gormley, W. (1991). Privatization and Its Alternatives. Wisconsin: Univ of Wisconsin Press.
Khan, H. (2008). Introduction to Public Administration. New York: University Press of America.