Politics, administration and public service: A study of administrative responsibility

Hickey, Terence Peter (1975). Politics, administration and public service: A study of administrative responsibility M.A. Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Hickey, Terence Peter
Thesis Title Politics, administration and public service: A study of administrative responsibility
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1975
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Total pages 243
Language eng
Subjects 360200 Policy and Administration
Formatted abstract       This thesis addresses the question, "how can I talk about public service in terms which signify its distinctive character?" Part I notes that the practitioner is faced with a proliferation of academic approaches, analyses and statements of methodological objectives based on different social sciences attempting to solve different problems. It seems that he will look in vain for something distinctive in the literature of Public Administration. At the practical level in Queensland he is not encouraged to question his role in the government system. The developing "turbulent environment" is questioning established societal values and public administration is no exception. In this situation, the individual in the public service may be faced with an ethical crisis and it is this factor which is asserted to be of fundamental importance. 

      The ideas presented here are directed towards the construction of a highest common denominator for the various academic approaches to the study of public administration. The exercise is confused by semantic difficulty and the multi-dimensionality of political language. Scholars and practitioners inevitably bring evaluations to political discussion and whilst facts and values can be separated in logic, words are a form of political action and are therefore important not for themselves but as a convenience of understanding. It is understanding that the thesis is seeking.

      Part II describes the formal aspects of the position of Permanent Head in the Queensland Public Service and presents responses made at interviews. The role of a Head can be characterized as (a) technical expert, (b) manager and (c) policy adviser. Whilst the "political" component in his work is seen as important, the Head claims neutrality. 

      Part III traces the history of the British notion of ministerial responsibility and the American public administration "dichotomy". It is argued that both paradigms of understanding are intended to resolve the tensions inherent in the interface between partisan politics and what is variously called administration, professionalism, expertise and management. The conclusion is drawn that this relationship is uniquely the centre of interest for those who are to study public service. In this perspective, Public Administration is not only the study of internal management, nor is it only the study of policy making. It is a study concerned with the interface between the two and the design of formal arrangements to achieve the values of the polity.

      In Part IV the notion of administrative responsibility is discussed in the context of a political-administrative system. The objective is not an understanding of the "how to" of public service, but an integrated set of concepts which can be used to describe the relationships within this system in Public Administration terms. The notion of individual responsibility and obligation are fundamental for an understanding of the practitioner's role. There are possible conflicts of obligation which may lead to an ethical crisis. This crisis may be resolved if public servants inform their actions with the democratic imperative of maintaining, improving or creating situations of individual responsibility.
Keyword Public administration.
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