Difference between Public and Private Administration

Some scholars over the years have identified some salient difference between public and private administration. The major difference between public and private administration are as follows:

Extent of Scrutiny: Public administration is subject to greater legal elaboration and scrutiny than private administration. Public administration is usually subjected to legislative criticism and investigation and so more liable to commission of inquiry and public outcry.

For this, there is much emphasis on keeping elaborate records of activities ad decisions and for which public administration tends to be more procedure minded than goal oriented.

Service Target: Public administration is principally intended to serve the public interest, while private administration focuses more on furthering its private ends. The public administration goals are mainly socio-economic and political, while private administration goals are largely economic and profit oriented.

Thus even though some public organization may be established to undertake commercial activities like telecommunication and transportation, the primary objective of such organizations still remains provision of services to the general public with profit making being accorded a secondary place.

Ownership: A business organization is owned by a limited number of persons called the shareholders while public organization is owned by the entire citizens of the state. Consequently, control over business and public organization is exercised by shareholders and government respectively by board of directors on their behalf.

Scope of Operation: The activities of a business enterprise are like the sale of electrical goods or the manufacture and sale of drinks. These characteristics contrast with those of governmental administration of a state which has a responsibility for external defense, external relation, the provision of currency, the maintenance of law and order within its territorial boundaries and overall economic and social well being of the citizens.

Accountability: In public administration, officer who are expected to discharge their duties to the general public are expected to do so all fairness and impartiality, they are also expected to observe certain norms of accountability which are unknown to the business organization. The term “public” means government business and those government businesses are open to public scrutiny.

Internal Structure: Government owned companies and parastatals have identical structures with private sectors organizations whereas the structure of government ministries is different.

The structure of a business organization is tailored to suit its operational requirements e.g. a manufacturing business will have production, marketing finance, personnel, industrial relations and administration department. A commercial enterprise will be structured differently.

Aims: A business organization may sometimes engage in the discharge of its social responsibilities e.g. charitable donation, improvement of the environment, contribution to education and research but its principal aim remains profit making and the social activities are merely supportive of the profit objective.

The aims of a business organization are summed up in a profit making and those of a public organization as public service.

Qualification: The objective of business enterprise is both specific and quantifiable. Therefore, the objective of public service includes certain non quantifiable and intangible dimension.

Manner of Recruitment: In public administration, the recruitment of officials is normally done under a general guideline provided by the government usually in form of civil service rules. These guidelines a relate to federal character principle or quota system as in the case in Nigeria.

In private administration, emphasis is more on merit in the process of recruitment. Sometimes, it may follow no established pattern or criteria and so maybe arbitrarily done. In this case, some forms of informal relationships with owners of the private administration may be the bases of recruitment.

Generally, personnel administration in the public administration follows rigid rules and procedures like open or public advertisement of vacancies, competitive examination and interview while personnel administration in the private sector enjoys a much larger measure of initiative and flexibility particularly in the are of recruitment, discipline and promotion.

Extent of Impersonality: Public administration is highly impersonal and bureaucratic in nature and form while private administration, on the contrast, thrives under personal relationship and usually less bureaucratic and more flexible in its operation.

Political Influence: public administration is most often subjected to political participation and influence while in private administration, it is usually conducted under internal order and decision-making. As such, efficiency and effectiveness of public administration is subjected more to capable political leadership than in private administration.

The activities and programmes in public administration are influenced more by politics and as well evaluated more on the basis of political considerations.

Methods of Operations: Public administrators are criticized for their slowness in making decision and taking action, which is red tape. Business organizations exercise greater initiative in decision making and disposal issues.

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