Scope of Public Administration

The scope of Public Administration (PA) means the major concerns of PA as an activity and as a discipline.

Scope of Public Administration as an activity

Broadly speaking, Public Administration embraces all the activities of the government. Hence as an activity, the scope of public administration is no less than the scope of state activity. In the modern welfare state, people expect many things – a wide variety of services and protection from the government. In this context public administration provides a number of welfare and social security services to the people. Besides, it has to manage government-owned industries and regulate private industries. Public administration covers every area and activity within the ambit of public policy. Thus, the scope of public administration is very wide in the modern state.

Scope of Public Administration as a Discipline

The scope of public administration as a discipline, that is subject of studies, comprises of the following:

The POSDCoRB view

Several writers have defined the scope of public administration in varying terms. Gullick sums up the scope of the subject by the letters of the word POSDCoRB which denote: Planning, Organisation, Staffing, Directing, Co-ordinating reporting the Budgeting.

Planning means the working out in broad outline the things to be done, the methods to be adopted to accomplish the purpose.

Organization means the establishment of the formal structure of authority through which the work is sub-divided, arranged, defined, and coordinated.

Staffing means the recruitment and training of the personnel and their conditions of work.

Directing means making decisions and issuing orders and instructions.

Coordinating means inter-relating the work of various divisions, sections, and other parts of the organization.

Reporting means informing the superiors within the agency to whom the executive is responsible for what is going on.

Budgeting means fiscal planning, control, and accounting.

According to Gullick, POSDCoRB activities are common to all organizations. They are the common problems of management which are found in different agencies regardless of the nature of the work they do.

POSDCoRB gives unity, certainty, and definiteness and makes the study more systematic. The critics pointed out that the POSDCoRB activities were neither the whole of administration nor even the most important part of it.

The POSDCoRB view overlooks the fact that deferent agencies are faced with different administrative problems, which are peculiar to the nature of the services, they render and the functions they performed.

The POSDCoRB view takes into consideration only the common techniques of the administration and ignores the study of the ‘subject matter’ with which the agency is concerned.

A major defect is that the POSDCoRB view does not contain any reference to the formulation and implementation of the policy. Therefore, the scope of administration is defined very narrowly, being too inward-looking and too conscious of the top management.

The Subject Matter View

Public administration deals not only with the processes but also with the substantive matters of administration, such as Defence, Law, and Order, Education, Public Health, Agriculture, Public Works, Social Security, Justice, Welfare, etc. These services require not only POSDCoRB techniques but also have important specialized techniques of their own which are not covered by POSDCoRB techniques. For example, if you take Police Administration it has its own techniques in crime detection, maintenance of Law and Order, etc., which are much and more vital to efficient police work, than the formal principles of organization, personnel management, coordination or finance and it is the same with other services too. Therefore, the study of public administration should deal with both the processes (that are POSDCoRB techniques and substantive concerns).

The scope of public administration can be concluded with the statement of Lewis Meriam: “Public administration is an instrument with two blades like a pair of scissors. One blade may be knowledge of the field covered by POSDCoRB, the other blade is knowledge of the subject matter in which these techniques are applied. Both blades must be good to make an effective tool”.

Thus Public administration is a broad-ranging and an amorphous combination of theory and practice.