An estimated 100,000 people reside in Deesville City with a mayor-council government. Providing assistance to the City Manager is the main highlight for this case study, as an intern to the local government office. This internship is part of the requirements for completing the Public Administration Program at Gill University. In this scenario, Deesville’s local administration faces an assortment of issues, majority of which relate to human resources and its administration and includes problems on budget management. In detail, the human resources and its administration concerns are currently taking place in three agencies or offices—the Police Department, the Public Transportation Department, and the Tag Office.
At present, the Police Department is experiencing a high rate of turnovers. In addition, employees staying on in the department are at very low morale. Opposite to the Police Department’s need to keep its people, the Public Transportation Department was forced to lay off some of its employees. As an effect, buses’ availability and schedules were disrupted, causing a wave of complaints from Deesville’s constituency. The Tag Office, another public agency with human resource issues, have circulating stories that employees are complaining about policies and procedures on religious practices. It was rumored to be discriminatory in nature; however, there are no concrete information at the moment to situate the complaints in terms of the sources or causes and their true nature. In addition to this, the Parks and Recreation Department is on a six-month deficit in their budget. They have even asked the city for additional funds, however, this could not be helped, as no spare funds are available.
For this assignment, the internship, as abovementioned, requires to provide assistance to the City Manager in addressing the said issues. As it was observed in an initial meeting, the City Manager appears to be under a lot of stress already, but the mayor has already instructed him to get all the matters addressed according to his expectations. As an intern, the acquired knowledge and skills on Public Administration and its core values, planning, and effective communication, from the lessons from Gill University should be put to the test in this scenario.
Prior to the Planning
Planning, in theory, is a process of coming up with activities and organizing them in order to achieve a certain goal. In this case, the goal is to resolve the issues in Deesville City. Woodrow Wilson (1887) once said that “the goal of administration is to discover what government can properly and successfully do.” Hence, before the planning process could take place, certain relevant information need to be established in order to solidify the foundations of the steps or activities to be incorporated in the plan. For one, the Police Department’s high turnover rate should be examined in terms of the reasons for employees’ early resignation. The Department must be asked if they are meeting their employees’ needs in terms of compensation, training and development, career movement, rest and recreation, and career improvement, among other things.
One concrete source of this query is Abraham Maslow’s (1945) “Theory of Human Motivation,” which described that people are motivated to increase performance and/or stay in their jobs because they are able to fulfill five levels of needs—physiological needs, safety, love or belongingness, esteem, and the last level, self-actualization. Employees’ situation in the Police Department could be initially determined through interviews or focus group discussions. Most importantly, former employees should be visited at home or their new workplace to determine their reasons for leaving the department.
Another set of information that should be gathered is the Public Transportation Department’s reason for cutting down on its staffing. Was there a shortage of budget? Were they setting up a re-organization process, hence, took the initiative to remove redundant or non-functioning divisions or positions? What was the process undertaken prior to taking on such drastic measures? In this aspect, it is important to give emphasis on examining the process that the department undertook before laying off employees, as Luther Gulick (1937) highlights the significance of combining top-down and bottom-up approaches in organizational management. Were there consultations before the administrators took action? Were the reasons understandable to the laid off employees and were these transparently shared with them? In addition, the Public Transportation Department should also be questioned on the lack of contingency plans to prevent disruption of bus availability and schedule. They should also be made aware of the seriousness of the impact of their decision to cut down on staff members.
As for the Parks and Recreation Department, investigation of their plans and finance records should be undertaken in the form of an external audit. They should be made to justify or answer the reasons for overspending. Similar to the Public Transportation Department, the effects of the six-month deficit should be clearly impressed to them, as well.
With regards to the Tag Office employees’ complaints about the policies and procedures on religious practices, a document review is recommended to determine if these policies and procedures are true to the said potential discrimination in the agency. An interview with employees should also be conducted, especially with those who are in minority groups who might be experiencing discrimination, but are not properly filing their complaints about it. They should also be asked if there are other members of their office who experience the same plight, so as to establish the extent of this issue.
Considering the Stakeholders
Taking action on the spectrum of issues and corresponding investigations described above also means considering the people with direct interest on these matters—the stakeholders. In this scenario, the primary stakeholders of Deesville are the city’s citizens, because the agencies under examination and that need resolutions are some of their major service providers. Problems occurring in these departments would definitely cause problems on the services being delivered to them. With this in mind, the planning process could also involve this set of stakeholders through a consultation. A quick way to conduct these consultations is through a survey that would determine their opinions, if not complaints, related to the problems described above. The survey could also elicit recommendations from Deesville’s citizens.
The employees of all the departments in discussion are also part of the primary stakeholders of this situation. The outcomes of the issues concerning budget or human resource had or will have a direct and painful effect on them. Of course, the changes that would be mapped out in the plan would also have a direct effect on the mayor and the city council, as they are the recognized leaders in Deesville.
It should be noted, though, that in this process of resolving issues in the four offices, the mayor-council structure should be established—whether it is a strong mayor-weak council structure or a weak mayor-strong council structure . Having this knowledge would give a strong foundation on the plan in terms of identifying the appropriate steps in relation to the decision maker or leader who has the power, by law, to approve the proposed changes. For Deesville, the mayor could have given the order to address the issues, but the council, on the other hand, could be the entity with the decision-making power. This aspect still needs to be ascertained.
Priorities for Taking Action
Having this principle in mind, and considering that the general public is the primary stakeholder of the changes to be made, the priority action point is addressing the issues in the Public Transportation Department. At the time being, temporary positions may be opened to the public to fill in the positions necessary to restore and normalize the bus availability and schedule. This would be a transitory arrangement while the department is undergoing thorough examination and eventually, taking on administrative decisions and actions to permanently address its lack of personnel. If the concerns were found to be related to availability of sufficient funds, to personnel management, or to organizational development processes, it would be proposed that assistance from the city government should be provided. When the situation reaches relative stability, appropriate actions should be employed on the department’s leadership and on the responsible persons who allowed the public transport availability to suffer.
Since the departments’ and Tag Office’s employees are also considered as primary stakeholders, their issues would be given equal attention. Firstly, the Parks and Recreation Department would be requested to submit a budget plan for the next six months, making do with what remains of its funds. They would also be requested to prepare a plan for cost-cutting measures for implemention until the end of the year. A lower budget cap would, likewise, be provided, along with the directives to map out priority programs. Corresponding organizational changes would also be proposed to ensure cost-efficient program implementation and fund use in the future.
A proposal for the review of policies and procedures on religious practices in the Tag Office would also be made. This proposal would be supported by a formal report on the findings of the investigation conducted on this matter. The employees’ names would not be exposed to protect their interests, but the report’s credibility would be established through the city’s legal support. Materials on labor laws prohibiting discrimination in any form, including those religious in nature, would also be provided to strengthen this proposal. It could help further by advancing the proposal from review to amendment of the said policies and procedures.
Matters in the Police Department also require attention, as their issue compromises both the department’s performance and public safety. In this regard, the department would be requested to submit a personnel recruitment, management and development program that reflects innovative approaches to increase staff retention. Contents of this program would be based on the feedback gathered from the department’s current and former employees. Further actions could be taken; however, these would be the immediate and incremental steps to gradually address the issues discussed.
Integrating the Core Values of Public Administration
Zeger van der Wal and Leo Huberts (2008) identified a long list of Administrative Values that public administrators should keep in mind. Their list includes accountability, benevolence, collegiality, dedication, effectiveness, efficiency, expertise, honesty, humaneness, impartiality, inclusiveness, incorruptibility, innovativeness, integrity, lawfulness, obedience, organizational interest, participative, pluralism, profitability, public interest, reliability, representative, responsiveness, self-interest, serviceability, social justice, sustainability, and transparency . Based on this list, the action plan, indeed, embraces these values, as these are fully integrated in every step and decision that the proposed action plan takes account of.
As a start, conducting a thorough and unbiased examination of the issues—but always keeping in mind that the government and its agencies are mandated duty-bearers to its constituency—embodies accountability, impartiality, serviceability, responsiveness, and social justice, among other values. Holding the department leaders responsible for the problems that arose and for the impact these problems created on ordinary citizens, likewise, live true to these administrative values. In addition, ensuring that all four departments are properly treating employees through proper compensation, development opportunities, establishing a work environment that is enabling to cultural diversity, and consciously committing to accountability and honesty by setting an example is another way of embracing these core values.
Persuading the City Leadership
According to John Kingdon (1984), ideas are picked up and taken on based on their technical feasibility, acceptability anchored on the general social values, and its repercussions. The action plan, prior to its conception, underwent a scientific process of data gathering, combining numbers and actual stories of the people involved. Proper information was gathered to establish the actual nature of the problems. This enables the plan to apply appropriate solutions, with consideration to the possible risks that could arise during the process of implementation.
The action plan could also be described as anchored to the general social values, as it adopts Public Administration’s core values. These core values served as its guiding principles for the proposed changes to improve the situation and the proposed measures to hold the appropriate persons responsible for the problems currently being faced. In addition, the action plan looked into its stakeholders and how its implementation would take effect on each of these groups. Thus, the means are taken into account, as much as the end results were aimed for. This action plan, hence, shall be communicated to the mayor based on the three themes Kingdon presented—technical feasibility, social acceptability, and its repercussions. This way, the action plan is reflected as both evidence-based and forward looking to its results and possible implications.
Addressing problems in public administration requires a combination of the government’s leadership, people’s initiatives, and a good planning process that is well-prepared for. It is also more of taking in the public’s opinion and balancing it with the government’s ideas of development and change, rather than taking solutions from just one person. This is what Mary Parker Follet (1926) describes as “power with, rather than power over.” In this principle, she elaborates that orders should be dictated by the situation and that situations evolve with circular, instead of linear processes. Also, Follet sees conflict as a positive and constructive component, which is an agreeable concept, as conflict is also an instigator of change.
Public Administration, according to Leonard D. White (1926), relates the conduct of government business to the affairs of any other business. Therefore, it does not operate in a vacuum where its processes stand alone. Ordinary people’s lives are affected by decisions and changes that administrative leaders make. That is also why it is guided by core values and it should be sought through at all times. Otherwise, administration, in keeping with White’s assertions, can become the heart of the problem of modern government.
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