General Studies Paper 2 (Indian Governance): Administrative Reforms

administrative reforms


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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2 (Indian Governance)


What is Administrative reform? Why is Administrative Reform needed in India? Discuss the six popular Administrative Reform phrases across the world. ( 15 Marks)



An administrative reform is a conscious, well-considered change that is carried out in a system for the purpose of improving its structure, operation or the quality of its workforce. According to Caiden (1968), “Reform is based on the simple idea that man should not wait for changes to take place naturally but should seek to speed, by artificial means, improvements in the world order.”


Administrative Reform

Administrative reforms can be defined as Deliberate use of authority and influence in applying new measures to an administrative system in order to change its goals, organizational structures, and procedures with the aim of increasing quality, efficiency, and effectiveness in the development of the services provided.

The administrative system of a state can never be permanent or be applicable to all cases. Administrative reform is defined by Gerald Caiden as “the artificial inducement of administrative transformation against resistance”. Caiden has further clarified the term reform- Reform is different from reorganisation or changes. But reorganisation is not ruled out of reform.

reforms are normative in nature. They are introduced for the attainment of specific purpose. It is generally said that the idea of introducing reforms arises only when the prevailing system appears to be unworkable or fails to meet the basic demands of society. The administrative reform falls in this category.

Administrative traditionally, the relationship between the government and the citizens was looked upon as a command and control system. Government was seen as performing the role of collecting taxes and maintaining law and order. Both functions implied government agencies telling citizens what to do and what not to do. However, current trends are changing this relationship of one-way traffic, where the government tells citizens what to do or not do. In democratic societies, there is citizen pressure on the government to be more effective and efficient. Today citizens are not only demanding excellence in service delivery by government, but also shaping the policy-making function. Recent developments related to the citizen movement in the country against corruption have brought this issue to the forefront. Clearly, the feudalist mindset where government is ‘raja’ (king) and citizens are ‘praja’ (subjects) is on the way out.

With such a paradigm shift, there are far-reaching changes needed in the way government functions. Systems and processes built for an era of command and control must give way to consultative policy-making and better value for the tax money citizens are paying. The changes needed to be made for implementing the new paradigm can be seen as coming together under the umbrella of Administrative Reform.


Why is Administrative Reform needed in India?

Human behavior, outlook, attitude and many others are constantly changing and the impact of changes falls upon society in general and upon administration in particular. The public administration must make sincere and serious efforts to meet the new demands which are resultants of changes in outlook and behavior. Viewed from this perspective the public administration can never remain static. The administrative system should be reformed so that it can meet the new demands of society. This provides the necessity of reforming administration.

  • Till the 1970s, in the developed countries, emphasis was on institution building, bureaucratization, nationalization and a wide variety of organizational and administrative capacity building for national and economic development. The last quarter of the 20th century, has seen an opposite trend – reversal of the traditional role of Governments – popularized as a ‘roll-back’.
  • With increasing capability of the private sector to take on more activities, focus of AR has gradually shifted to reducing the role of government. In developed countries therefore, this reduction is often seen as an end in itself. The purpose of AR can thus be seen as reducing the role or presence of government in citizens’ daily life, allowing private enterprise to deliver.
  • Administrative Reform is meant to improve administrative capability and capacity, for the purpose of achieving national goals effectively. With high poverty levels and undeveloped institutions, infrastructure, industry and other manifestations of modern economic development.
  • AR is more concerned with having an effective administration capable of bringing about economic, political and social development. The focus is therefore not on reducing the role of government itself, but on changing it so that government can divert more and more resources to developmental activities in line with emerging aspirations of citizens.
  • The institution of an efficient, effective and responsive administrative system is crucial to the delivery of democratic mandate in any political system.
  • Having adopted a Parliamentary form of government, India opted for continuity with the civil service system that existed during the British rule. The federal framework implied that States would have their own administrative arrangements.
  • Administration reforms was seen as capable of offering development and welfare goals and the challenge involved creation of appropriate structures and administrative capacity to address the challenge of delivery.


Administrative Reform across the world

There are six popular phrases summarize the various directions in which AR thinking has emerged in the developed countries.

  1. Re-inventing Government:
  • The re-inventing government movement has spawned an incredible amount of research and has changed practices at all levels of government both in the United States and outside. The Osborne-Gaebler book of 1992 popularized the reinventing theme based on the principles of citizen empowerment, leadership to give direction, competition, total quality management, decentralization, performance budgeting, civil service reform, and privatization.
  • It is based on the thinking that government finds itself with a lot of very dedicated people trapped in bad systems – budget systems that provide incentives to waste money, personnel management systems that are cumbersome and yet offer little incentive to achieve results. In the new scheme of things, government needs to be more productive, and therefore fundamental changes are required instead of quick fixes.
  • Despite its popularity, the reinventing theme has invited criticism as it assumes that government should be market-like, that citizens should be regarded as customers, that government employees (including bureaucrats) are the problem, and that downsizing, cost reduction, and deregulation are the way to increase government efficiency and effectiveness.
  1. National Performance Review (NPR):
  • Having promised a comprehensive reorganization and change in government in his election campaign, President Clinton initiated the National Performance Review in March 1993,. The first phase of NPR announced on September 7, 1993 is a redistribution of control over administration between the president and Congress, and among government agencies. This phase focuses on how government works rather than on what government does.
  • The second phase announced after the November 1994 elections addresses what government does. NPR II advocates consolidating, developing, privatizing, and terminating programs. It addresses perceived public concerns not only with how government works but also with the size, scope, and intrusiveness of federal operations.
  • Criticism of NPR: The focus on technical compliance has led to agencies interpreting compliance as implementing NPR tools rather than finding solutions to policy problems. The accountability system measures output rather than outcome.
  • Under such a system questions about implementation become questions about compliance and therefore what counts becomes what matters, rather than what matters being what counts. To a large extent, this problem continues with the present day Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) assessment in the US.
  1. New Public Management (NPM)
  • New Public Management (NPM) emphasizes market efficiency in the public sector. It has also highlighted critical managerial issues such as pay-for-performance, performance measurement, participatory decision-making processes and flexible organizational culture. NPM vision is that of public managers as entrepreneurs of a newer, leaner and increasingly privatized government, emulating not only the practices but also the values of business.
  • We have already seen private players competing successfully with the public sector; and in the process industry structures have changed to customers’ advantage. Banking, telecom and courier services are obvious examples of today. In fact, even without direct competition, agencies like Railways have improved to a great extent, thanks to technology and adoption of basic management principles like inventory management and turnaround time.
  • Criticism: Behind the business practices and values found so attractive by the proponents of NPM lies the simple principle – maximize value for money. However, it is not simple to figure out how costs will be minimum for a certain value or vice versa. NPM can provide government agencies a good reference point to enhance service delivery only in well-defined areas. But when it comes to issues like serving vulnerable constituencies, handling multiple and conflicting citizen needs, and managing different interest groups, NPM doesn’t really have very many answers.
  1. Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT)
  • Introduced in the 1980s, Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) requires procurement of services through competitive bidding. Initially applied to a relatively narrow set of functions, CCT was extended to most manual services and then to a number of white collar functions in Britain.
  • By the mid-90s, however, there was widespread dissatisfaction with CCT. Theory suggested that competitive supply would prove more efficient than monopoly provision, except where transaction costs neutralized the effect. But in practice, CCT often failed to deliver genuine competition. Costs associated with monitoring contract compliance turned out to be higher because the relationships between contracting parties started turning into short-term, low trust relationships. Cases were also seen where authorities were determined to avoid outsourcing and therefore ended up manipulating the process.
  • By 1997 it became clear that while CCT had made the costs of services more transparent, the detailed prescription of the form and timing of competition led to unimaginative tendering and often frustrated rather than enhanced real competition. CCT was therefore withdrawn in the UK and replaced with the Best Value regime.
  1. Best Value
  • Best Value thinking about government functioning emphasizes the need to ensure that services meet the needs of the citizens, not the convenience of service providers. Best Value programs in the UK were designed to promote user involvement in a range of local services including social care, housing management and, more recently, education. This has put pressure on government agencies to engage with the public, and more so with communities who are less vocal.
  • Almost all of the Best Value pilots have conducted residents’ surveys to identify current deficiencies in services and test out public reaction to proposals. A number of authorities have consulted local people about the sorts of information they want access to, the issues about which they wish to be consulted and their preferred mechanisms for consultation. Britain’s Local Government Act 1999 in fact requires authorities to consult not only the service users but also the tax payers.
  • Critics claim that in practice most of these consultations have been a charade. Authorities had already made up their minds about what was needed, but tried to give the appearance of consultative decision-making. Another issue with Best Value is that of consultation fatigue among local people. As one of the Best Value pilots puts it, “We usually ask a question ten times and use the information once. We must learn to ask once and use the answer ten times in different settings.”
  1. Alternative Service Delivery (ASD)
  • Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) is a Canadian phenomenon that has spread and made a wider impact. ASD refers to the many and varied organizational forms and delivery mechanisms governments use to achieve their objectives. Lessons learnt from ASD experiences across Canada and in countries like Tanzania, Latvia and New Zealand improve the prospects of getting service delivery right. Unbundling bureaucracy through ASD is seen by many as an innovative response to the pressures of scarce resources and public’s insistence on improved service. ASD is a platform for developing relationships among the public, private and voluntary sectors.
  • ASD reflects the reality that governing is an untidy business, and will remain so. The challenge is to take ASD to the next level and serve greater interests. Today’s public service must be flexible, consultative, outcome focused and proactive in supporting innovation from the bottom up. As a new generation of public managers take over, there is renewed emphasis on innovative means to deliver government services.



Success of administrative reforms depends upon certain preconditions; i.e The authority must be serious and sincere about the reforms. The authority is sure that the reforms in public administration will bring about desired and improved results. If not, the authority should not try to reform. The authority, through its machinery, should try to gauge the attitude or mentality of the people about the reform proposals. In a democracy nothing can be imposed upon the people by applying coercive measures. The authority shall try to anticipate what people actually want and what the reforms are prepared to offer. There shall be conciliation between the two. The authority must be able to prove or establish that the present form of public administration is not able to satisfy the requirements of the general public. The public will also agree with the authority. When this happens, administrative reform will be able to achieve success. There is also the problem of implementation. For the successful imple­mentation of reform, efficient government machinery is essential.

People’s cooperation is also deemed as a precondition. Even various forces -both national and international may try to scuttle the reform proposals. In this regard utmost alertness on the part of authority is required. it is the duty of the authority to create a favourable atmosphere for the reform proposals so that the general public can accept it easily.


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