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Public Administration & Public Policies

(1) Public Administration & Public Policies

  What is Public Policy?

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Three chinese porcelain blue and white of officials. Each alert official modeled standing, his face in biscuit, wearing a hat and beaded necklace, his robe printed with dragons, a fan, ruyi-head sceptre or flute in his hand

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Government can make life more tolerable. Be it defending national borders, putting out fires, educating children, enforcing antidiscrimination laws, or tending to the aged, ill, or handicapped, public administrators, civil servants, and government bureaucracies perform many thankless services that social and economic institutions alone neither can nor want to undertake. Yet it is these tasks that enrich people’s lives, making it possible not simply to live, but to live well. Despite the important role that government plays in our lives, many of its organizations and functions remain a mystery to the average citizen.

Accountability

 Accountability is an essential concept for all democratic governments as it underpins the processes by which people, elected as politicians or appointed to public office, demonstrate that they are acting responsibly. The trust and confidence in governments provided by robust accountability processes explain why communities and individuals allow themselves to be governed in a free society.

There are various definitions of accountability in the public sector, but there appears to be general agreement that an essential element is external scrutiny. Scrutiny occurs when politicians, public officials, or agencies charged with specific responsibilities are called to explain their actions or decisions to a person or body with authority (for example a minister reporting to Parliament), or to the community directly, and to accept appropriate sanctions or directions. Scrutiny to demonstrate accountability can occur in three ways.

Political accountability ultimately occurs through the ballot box. Although elections are aclear test of the collective accountability of governments, politicians, and their parties, elections are sometimes considered only partly effective as an accountability mechanism because they are infrequent and do not explicitly consider all issues for which governments are responsible.

Parliaments or legislatures are a primary accountability mechanism where individual ministers are questioned on their actions, their policies are debated, and in particular, their management of public finances closely examined.

Scrutiny by the media, industry bodies, unions, and increasingly, special interest groups (for example Amnesty International and Greenpeace) is also now a significant part of the political accountability process.

Managerial accountability has risen in importance in recent years as public administration has increasingly adopted concepts largely drawn from the private sector. Managerial accountability is important in terms of defining the trail of authority from public agency staff through agency chief executives to ministers and then to Parliament and the community.

However, managerial accountability is limited in that it only focuses on the individual relationships without considering the overall accountability of public officers to the community they serve. A particularly difficult area is that of ensuring adequate accountability for public services provided by the private sector through contracts or privatization.

Legal accountability reflects the requirement that governments and public officials must work within the law, which defines not only the things that can or cannot be done but, in many cases, also how things must be done. While governments may seek to change laws, this is not always possible due to political constraints, and they must therefore act within existing legal requirements and processes. Many jurisdictions now also provide for more direct public accountability through an ombudsman, “freedom of information” and “whistle-blower” legislation, and through administrative appeals tribunals. Other definitions include individual accountability in terms of professional requirements, codes of conduct and personal ethical standards, the controls of peer pressure and social norms, responsiveness to the needs of citizens, and the requirement for community consultation. While useful in understanding the various ways in which politicians and other public officials are expected to act and respond, it is important that these other definitions do not detract from the core concept of external scrutiny.

Not surprisingly, accountability comes at a cost. These costs include the cost of elections, the protocols required for parliamentary inquiries, and the extensive documentation required to support public works and procurement processes.

Accountability processes also sometimes lead to minor reductions in efficiency in the provision of public services. However, the real or perceived costs of public accountability are a small price to pay for the demonstration of transparency and honesty in democratic governments. A major challenge for public administrators is therefore to provide cost-effective services while also meeting appropriate accountability requirements.

For more information: Hughes, Owen E. Public Management and Administration: An Introduction, 2d ed. New York: Macmillan, 1998.

* Published in Likedin

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(2) Public Administration & Public Policies

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American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, is a nonprofit and nonpartisan membership organization that advocates on behalf of its membership. It is considered one of the more powerful lobbying groups in the United States.

The AARP was founded in 1958 by Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, a retired educator from California. To gain membership in AARP a person must be 50 years of age or older. A third of the members are under the age of 60, 46 percent are 60 to 74 years of age, and 21 percent are 70 years of age or older. About half of all members are working either full- or part-time, and the rest of the members are retired.

AARP’s motto, spoken by its founder, Dr. Andrus, is to serve, not to be served. The vision of AARP is to excel as a dynamic presence in every community, shaping and enriching the experience of aging for each member and for society.

Efforts of the association are focused on four specific areas: health and wellness, economic security and work, long-term care and independent living, and personal enrichment. The AARP has a long history of advocacy for people age 50 and older and has gained a reputation as one of the fiercest lobbying organizations on Capitol Hill. In recent years advocacy efforts have been focused on the following issues:

1. Ensuring the solvency of Social Security

2. Protecting pensions

3. Fighting age discrimination

4. Providing prescription drug coverage in Medicare

5. Protecting patients in managed care and long-term care

6. Antipredatory home loan lending

AARP sponsors various programs for its members. The largest programs are the 55 ALIVE driver safety program, AARP Tax-Aide, and the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). The 55  LIVE program provides driver education to older drivers, which can lower the costs of their automobile insurance rates. Tax-Aide provides free tax return preparation primarily for low- and middle-income people age 60 and over.

AARP’s third-largest program, SCSEP, trains and transitions low-income older persons into paid employment. AARP has local offices around the United States that participate in advocacy efforts and offer such programs  summarized above for members.

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(3) Public Administration & Public Policies

The Life and Work of Jane Addams

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Jane Addams Biography - Women's Rights Activist, Anti-War Activist, Philanthropist (1860–1935)

Addams, Jane (1860–1935) social worker, philanthropist Jane Addams was a U.S. philanthropist, social worker, Progressive politician, and Nobel Prize winner at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.

(Laura) Jane Addams (6 September 1860–21 May 1935) is widely credited as the founder of the modern discipline of social work, but she could also be regarded as a sociologist of the socalled Chicago school. It is in Chicago that she also was most active as a social philanthropist and Progressive politician. A local social service foundation that she opened in 1889 on the Chicago West Side, Hull-House, still exists today.

Addams’s political activities included service on Chicago’s Board of Education (starting in 1905), presidency of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections (starting in 1909), and delegacy at the Progressive Party convention in 1912, where she seconded Theodore Roosevelt’s nomination as its presidential candidate. More broadly, it has been said that Addams, as an early advocate of urban social renewal, was indirectly involved in “every major social reform between 1890 and 1925.”

Finally, Addams was a foremost advocate of feminist thought, perhaps best known for her suffragette pamphlet “Why Women Should Vote” (1915) and as a pacifist and internationalist.

In the last of these capacities, she came out in opposition to the U.S. entry into the First World War, and participated as delegate at the 1915 International Congress of Women convened at The Hague. She was then to be recognized as the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. This illustrious career had modest if predictive beginnings. She was born in Cedarville, Illinois, the eighth of nine children, as the daughter of a mill owner and local political leader. Because of a congenital spinal defect and later heart trouble, Jane was plagued by poor health throughout her life but became better after her spinal difficulty was remedied by surgery.

After college studies and extensive traveling in the 1880s, Addams went on to found the philanthropic social service foundation of Hull-House on Chicago’s West Side in 1889. The services offered to poor people ranged from kindergarten sessions to continuing adult education.

Cultural and recreational facilities, as well as an employment exchange, were added later. The broader civic and political activities Addams pursued were to follow as her reputation grew.

Unable to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony, she died in 1935 of a combination of heart trouble and cancer and was interred in her birthplace of Cedarville after a farewell ceremony in the courtyard of Hull-House.

Addams was herself ambiguous, even critical, toward welfare voluntarism, also advocating a strong role for government action. Thus her life included local government service as well as private social involvement and support to trade unionism. This was evident not least in her personal participation in the (ultimately defeated) campaign to save the Italian-American anarchist labor activists Sacco and Vanzetti from execution. Addams was arguably also opposed to liberal individualism, since she emphasized community-based social integration. Finally, beyond suffragism, Addams’s feminism has remained relevant also for present-day gender struggle. Residents of Hull-House were instrumental in bringing family-planning services to Chicago and in opposing withholding of abortion services, elements in a fight for reproductive rights that still divides America today.

On January 19, 2012, it was announced that Jane Addams Hull House Association would close in the spring of 2012 and file for bankruptcy due to financial difficulties, after 122 years. On Friday, January 27, 2012, Hull House closed unexpectedly and all employees received their final paychecks.Employees learned at time of closing that they would not receive severance pay or earned vacation pay or healthcare coverage.[47] Union officials said that the agency closed while owing employees more than $27,000 in unpaid expense reimbursement claims. The University of Illinois at Chicago's Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (unaffiliated with the agency), however, will remain open.

For more information:

Addams, J. The Second Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York: Macmillan, 1930.

Addams, J. Twenty Years at Hull-House. New York:Macmillan, 1910.

Addams, Jane. “Why Women Should Vote.” In Woman Suffrage: History, Arguments, and Results, edited by F. M. Borkman and Annie G. Poritt, 131–150. New York: National Woman Suffrage Publishing, 1915.

Elshstain, Jean Bethke. Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy: A Life. New York: Basic Books, 2002.

Fischer, M. “Philanthropy and Injustice in Mill and Adams.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 24, no. 4 (1995): 281–292.

Haslett, D. C. “Hull-House and the Birth Control Movement: An Untold Story.” Affilia-Journal of Women and Social Work 12, no. 3 (1997): 261–277. “Jane Addams, Mother of Social Work.”

Jane Addams Hull House Association.

Selmi, P. “Social Work and the Campaign to Save Sacco and Vanzetti.” Social Service Review 75, no. 1 (2001): 115–134.

Siegfried, C. H. “Socializing Democracy: Jane Addams and John Dewey.” Philosophy of the Social Sciences 29 no. 2 (1999): 207–230.

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