Ecology of Public Administration

The ecology of public administration is a manifestation of the environmental forces that check the practice of public administration in any given society. In the natural or biological sciences, the term ecology refers to the interplay of a living organism, with its physical and social environment. Like living organisms, bureaucracies are conditioned by their environments, and the conditioning is naturally mutual.

As noted by heady Ferrell, “bureaucracies as well as other political and administrative institutions can be better understood, if influences and forces that shape and modify them are identified and ranked to the extent possible in order of relative importance, and if the reciprocal impact of these institutions on their environment is also explored”.

 If bureaucracy is to survive as a viable instrument of administration and there is little indication of its willing abandonment in any country or society, then there is a primary requirement for administrators to comprehend its nature and take account of this changing ecological situation.

The ecological approach has also been utilized by Fred Riggs in the ecology of public administration and his administration in developing countries. In his work, Riggs conceptualizes the prismatic model of administrative system which deals with a range of social phenomena and behavior which influence the political and administrative aspects of life in developing countries.

The ecological approach in public administration focuses attention on the dynamic relationship between a public administration system and its total environment, physical, culture, historical economic and political.These variables to a large extent singly or collectively determine the content, direction and consequence of policies and policy implantation in the public service.

Consequently, the energies and time expended and activities of the local government are informed by the sensitivity and intensity of these tasks on environmental factors.

The Political Environment:

Nigeria has a mixed and dual economic system in which the ownership of means of production is shared between private and public sectors, with the later having become increasingly involved in the modern industrial sector in recent years. Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa, which is richly endowed with resources, ranging from fertile land through countries minerals, to promising human resources.

Time was when the problem was what to do with surplus oil revenue. There was, therefore, balance of payments. This was so up till the middle 1970s. By the late 1970s the balance of payments problem has assumed crisis proportions, destroying any impression of a social contract between rulers and the ruled.

The country is now experiencing crisis of liquidity and indebtedness. As at October 1990, Nigeria’s foreign debt stood at about US $29, 430 billion. Nigeria has leadership problems no doubt but the World Bank (IMF) induced structural adjustment programme (SAP) has had a devastating effect on the country’s economy. Structural adjustment programme (SAP) is essentially a strategic management option adopted in the face of declining economic fortune.

SAP has led to worsened conditions. The quality of life has declined as prices have risen, as infrastructures have crumbled and services have deteriorated and employment opportunities have been reduced. Almost everyone had suffered, but the rural peasant urban slum dwellers, female headed household and children of rural poor have felt the negative effect of adjustment most severely. Poverty has consequently increased in breadth and depth in Nigeria.

Public administration should, therefore, devote sufficient time to the pursuit of poverty alleviation programmes. It is only when the citizens are less stressed and less hungry that they can appreciate other programmes of government including the democratization process voluntary efforts, and patriotism. Development cannot take place when the people are hungry.

The Physical Environment:

Like the social environment, development agencies exist in varying physical environments. Nigeria is a very large country, occupying a geographical area, totaling approximately 923,769 square kilometers. For instance, local governments in the northern part of the country have large expanse of land.

Some institutions in delta and rivers states are in the river-line areas. Others are in the tropically difficult areas. A good number of local government areas are linked by tarred roads. Now poorly maintained because of the economy and biased government prioritization. The disposition of the physical environment informs the peculiarity of institutions.

Development agencies should therefore put it in perspective and devote sufficient energies to it for effectiveness harnessing the human and miner resources in these areas.  

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