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KELVIN Siwale.

Role of public administration in corruption prevention

ACCORDING to F.A Nigro public administration is essentially a cooperative group effort in a public setting. Further, Woodrow Wilson says, public administration is a detailed and systematic application of law. One can also say that public administration is nothing but the policies, practices, rules and regulations etc, in action.
Public Administration in accordance with Max Weber’s theory of bureaucracy, seeks to achieve professionalism and effective performance in the delivery of public goods and services. The theory thus, has a bias towards employing people who are qualified. Qualified people are more likely to abide by the rules. Weber identifies three features of bureaucracy; firstly, that the structures of authority are well defined in a bureaucracy, secondly that there is separation of roles in a bureaucracy and thirdly that bureaucracies are governed by well thought formal rules that guide decision making. Weber also stresses that bureaucracy entails separation of personal from public property. Further, that all bureaucrats are appointed on merit rather than nepotism.
In view of the above it is important to note that the discipline of public administration, plays a big role in achieving professionalism as well as quality goods and services which we could sum up as good governance. Public administration ensures that each organisation, operates in a well-defined structure of authority and power. Further, ensures that, decisions are not made from an individual’s will but guided by well thought formal rules and regulations.
It must be made clear that, we are not promoting unnecessary bureaucracy. It is a well-known fact that if bureaucracy goes unchecked, it has the potential to trigger corruption, since it will slow down the rate of service delivery. Public administration comes in to help streamline processes in line with its principles while not compromising the safeguards that bureaucracy puts on the gates of entry to public treasures. The idea behind effective public administration is to enhance quick service delivery while promoting good governance.
Most important of all public administration emphasises principles of accountability and transparency in the public sector. All public officers must be accountable for their actions. The bureaucracy that we have just discussed here helps in enhancing transparency has it ensures that in all transactions and decisions arrived at a trail is left and that such transactions are cross checked before they can be executed. This helps to avoid mismanagement of public resources.
With rampant cases of corruption and abuse of authority of office noted in the public sector, it is felt that every public servant should undergo an intensive course in public administration tailored for managing public office. All public officers should pass through National Institute for Public Administration, even for two weeks before they can be deployed to public offices. Further, there is need to come up with a robust programme where all serving public officers more especially managers attend refreshers in public administration. Having interacted with anti-corruption officers from Botswana it was learnt that all new public officers go through a robust induction course before being deployed.
Departure from such important inductions is one of the many factors leading to the corruption issues arising in the public service. Public administration nuggets should be introduced to all officers before they take to office. Even with the most basic public administration induction, the following can be achieved:
i. Emphasise the divide between personal and public property: There seems to be a problem of mixing public and personal business and this has resulted into a lot of opportunities for abuse of office.
ii. Public office is guided by formal procedure, rules and regulations: This is what guides decision making and standardises the decisions made on services or issues. You may assume that people know but some officers have been oriented by wrong officers whom they found in the system and were corrupt. What do you expect a corrupt official to pass on to a new officer? Of course, the same demons of corruption and the new officer will think that is the way to go.
iii. Importance of effective supervision by operating within defined formal structures: Every decision made by an officer must be checked by their superior. This is the level of bureaucracy that we cannot do away with.
This applies both to politicians and mainstream public officers.
Lastly, good public administration, ensures that that the pillars of good governance, transparency and accountability co-exist in all matters of governance. This results in reduced levels of corruption. Further, public administration demands that there is a clear distinction between the political and public realm. The two must not interfere with each other’s sphere of competence. The public officers know to the later what procedure should be followed in delivering public services, but a politician may not care about the means but rather just focus on the end and that may culminate into an offence of abuse of authority of office or willful failure to comply with applicable procedure on the part of the public officer. The two must therefore, appreciate their boundaries to stay away from trouble. Are we together?
The author is an Anti- Corruption Specialist.
Co-authored by Evelyn Makwembo, BA in Public Administration, UNZA.