chapter  8
The politics of administrative accountability
Pages 42

We have documented the growth of public administration and the increasing influence of administrative agencies on public policy. These developments make the perennial political problem of the control of administration more important than ever. This problem may be phrased in terms such as “control,” “accountability,” or “responsibility,” but the basic problem is the same: how do political leaders and the general public persuade, cajole, or force administrative agencies, and individual administrators, to perform their tasks in an effective and responsive manner? This problem is as old as government itself, but the increased prominence of organizations implementing policies has made these questions more central. As important as that control question is, there is the even more fundamental problem of whether public administrators always should follow the wishes of the public, when those wishes may be inimical to the long-range interests of the society or violate the civil liberties of other members of society. On the one hand, political leaders expect their civil servants to follow the orders given to them and to exercise little discretion. On the other hand, civil servants are expected to make their own ethical and constitutional judgments and to resist following directions that are inappropriate (Chapman, 2000; Deputy Ministers, 1999). These are difficult judgments for the ordinary civil servants and involves their taking risks if they should choose to oppose the directions of their superiors. There have been two broad schools of thought in political science regarding accountability. The first, associated with Carl Friedrich, has assumed that control was attainable through “an inward sense of personal obligation”. The second school, associated with Herman Finer assumed that personal obligation was not enough, and some external forces must be employed in order to enforce responsible behavior. The first approach to the problem assumes that civil servants have ethical values and professional standards that will guide them in the performance of their tasks. The second view assumes that these values are not sufficient, that there must be a means of identifying and punishing behavior not in accordance with stated law and legislative intent. There should probably also be ways of rewarding very meritorious behavior by a civil servant.