So before debating to the meaning of public administration, it will be wise to know and understand the meaning of the term “Administration”. Administrative activity in social life has been in existence from time immemorial.
To define administration and public administration is very difficult task. No one has yet produced a single definition of administration and public administration that is fully acceptable to both practitioners and scholars, certainly not one that is readily understandable to laymen without any pre-existing knowledge of the subject matter. An effort has been made by many scholars to define Administration and Public Administration in their own way.
In simple words, simple administration means, whenever, two or more men co-operate to each other to do a certain things that neither of them could have done alone, the rudiments of administration appears.
Administration is associated with group activity being undertaken for a particular purpose. If eleven friends join together to remove a heavy stone from their football fields, the administration is born. This simple act has the two basic characteristics:- (1) Purpose (2) Cooperative action.
When these two elements exist, then other roles of managing, leading or directing and coordinating automatically follow. In its broadest sense, administration can be defined as the activities of groups cooperating to accomplish common goals.
Administration is a process common to all group effort public or private, civil or military, large scale or small scale. It is a process at work in a departmental store, a bank, a University or high school, a railroad, a hotel or a city government.
It is a cooperative effort directed towards the realisation of a consciously laid down objective. As Nigro observes “Administration is the organization and use of men and materials to accomplish a purpose”.
L.D. White defines, “The art of administration is the direction, coordination and control of many persons to achieve some purpose or objective. To sum up, administration is process involving human beings jointly engaged in working towards common goals”.
While defining administration it has been observed that whenever people cooperate to achieve some ends, the activities which they have to perform to achieve the goal in view is administration. Public administration is a particular sector of the broader field of administration.
In modern usage Alexander Hamilton defined Public Administration and worked out its philosophy. Government activities are undertaken for public good, so administration of the governmental affairs is known as public administration.
The collection of tax by the Income Tax Officer, the arrest of a criminal by the police, construction of public roads, high ways, river bridges, canals etc., are some of the activities of public administration. Public Administration is distinguished from other forms of administration by the fact that its ultimate purpose is general interest and public-good.
Defined in broadest terms by L.D. White- “Public Administration consists of those operations ‘having for their purpose, the fulfillment or enforcement of public policy”.
This definition covers a multitude of particular operations in many fields-the delivery of a letter, the sale of public land, the negotiation of treaty, the award of compensation to an injured workman, the quarantine of a sick child, the removal of litter from a park, manufacturing plutonium and licensing the use of atomic energy.
Public Administration includes the activities of all public officials concerned with administering whether as administrator or clerk. Public administration is taken as covering the administrative activities of the government as a distinct from its other activities.
Harvey Walker in his ‘Public Administration in the U.S.’ writes, “The work which Government does to effect to a law is called administration” John M. Pflffner in his. ‘Public Administration, said that’ “It would be seen that administration consists of getting the work of Government done by coordinating the efforts of people so that they can work together to accomplish their set tasks.”
Many writers, including even political scientists and University professors, use it as severing the fields of governing. In this sense the sovereign power, the legislative body and the judiciary are all considered as being occupied in Public Administration. Luther Gullick defines Public Administration in narrow sense, “Public Administration is that part of science of administration which has to do with the government and this concerning itself primarily with the executive branch where the work of the government is done”.
By going through the two schools of thought regarding the meaning and definition of Public Administration in the end there is substantial agreement among writers on Public Administration with regard to the definition of the term.
They hold that Public Administration is concerned with the activities of the executive of administrative branch only. Simon says that by “Public Administration is meant in common usage, the activities of the executive branches of national, states and local governments, independent boards and certain other agencies of a specialized character, specifically excluded are judicial and legislative agencies within the government and non-governmental administration. But this does not mean that the legislature and judiciary do not require any administration.”
The problems of administration are present in all the three branches of the government i.e., legislature, executive and judiciary. The handling of a bill in the legislature requires administration of a delicate character, similarly administration of a high order is required in dealing with a case in a court of law.
But it is felt that if all the complex activities of all the three branches of the government, which are undertaken to fulfill public purposes, are studied, the subject will become unwieldy, lead to confusion and lose its unity and identity.
But all agree that the legislature and court are a part of the environment within which Public Administration must be carried on. The activities attitudes and methods of these agencies will often powerfully influence the process of administration in the organization with which we are concerned.
In general way, it can be observed that Public Administration is primarily concerned with the implementation of public policy as it has been laid down by representatives of political bodies. It does not mean that Public Administration has no role to play in the formulation of public policy. Policies are also framed by civil servants and their role in this sphere must be recognised.
In a nutshell, public administration is decision-making, planning the work to be done, formulating that, and goals, working with the legislature and citizen organization to gain public support and funds for governmental programmes, establishing and revising organization, directing and supervising employees, providing leadership, communicating and receiving communication determining work methods and procedures appraising performance, exercising controls, and other functions, performed by government executives and supervisors.
It is the functional part of the government, the means by which the purposes and goals of government are realised.