Public administrators face many dilemmas when they are conducting their jobs. Government work is not always seen as customer friendly, and many positions that public administrators have are not fully understood or appreciated by citizens. That being said, government work can be highly rewarding in the services that are provided for the betterment of those that need vital programs. In order to conduct such work, administrators face many ethical challenges that need to be overcome. Some potential areas of concern include deregulation, privatization, and decentralization, among others. As public administrators have duties and obligations to their position and those that they serve, sound judgment and good decision making is needed to ensure proper administrative practices. The purpose of this paper will be to examine ethical challenges, administrative responsibilities, and the dilemmas administrators face as they conduct their business and properly administer needed services.

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Public interest and administrative responsibility: traditional public administration has been defined through the services and principles that it applies in administering its function. Specifically, it utilizes hierarchy and rules in a permanent, stable environment. It uses internal regulation and administers with equality. One of the most criticized aspects of public administration is that it is often inefficient due to all of the rules, hierarchy, and regulation. These concerns in large part have developed an alternative model of contemporary public administration, which has been called new public management. This approach stresses elimination of inefficiency in an effort to enhance effectiveness. It was a common belief that this was needed in modern times to keep up with technology and changes in a more fast-paced society (Pfiffner, 2004.) This new public management represents the new issues and dilemmas within the role of a public administrator.

Deregulation, decentralization, and privatization: as new public management has proceeded to replace traditional public administration, it has had a major impact on how public administration runs and how it is perceived. As this form of administration favors loosening the structure for advantages in flexibility, creativity and responsiveness, it empowers a higher quantity of managers to make decisions with less oversight. The approach is more like how a business runs, where employees are measured more on their productivity and they are encouraged to take risks that could potentially pay off with improved results (Pfiffner, 2004.)

Although there are many reasons that government agencies choose to privatize, some of the most commonly cited include lack of personnel or expertise in an area or field, cost savings, and opportunities for more flexibility and less bureaucracy. Privatization can be accomplished in many ways, but common approaches include hiring outside contractors for a specific task, through grants or subsidies, and partnering with businesses instead of simply hiring them to perform the task. Services such as health care, food services, information technology, and project design and among some of the most commonly outsourced types. There are many issues with decentralization, privatization and deregulation. These include legal restrictions to the practice which vary by state, and lack of experience with the less structured approach. Another big problem is the number of government employees that find their jobs in jeopardy with the approach. This is why many unions that represent government workers fight this approach and strongly oppose it (Chi, Arnold and Perkins, 2003.)

Examples of new public management and contemporary public administration: The best way to look at examples is by looking at how individual governments have approached this new way of public administration. In Portugal for instance, the more contemporary approach became critical when they joined the European Union in 1986. Prior to this, their government was very controlled and focused inside its borders, which is how the public administration was structured. When they became a part of a larger, financially driven European structure, Portugal had to adapt so they could more easily blend into the new era. This new effort at public administration was introduced over a span of many years through a series of reforms, and although the reforms have worked they have often conflicted with those more traditional parts of government administration that have not been modernized. These conflicts are in part created by the needs to ensure equality of services among citizens, as well as the importance of maintaining ethical standards as oversight of government employees is weakened (Bilhim and Neves, 2005.) Other nations have taken more or less comprehensive approaches based on their needs. New Zealand went through a fast-paced and effective privatization where they relinquished longtime, public state enterprises such as oil production, insurance, telephone services, air transport and even postal services. In the United States, privatization has often taken the form on contract work, where contractors are largely relied upon to deliver goods and services on behalf of the government (Pfiffner, 2004.)

Ethical obligations in public administration: although it is easy to understand how contemporary public administration through new public management can pose ethical problems, it is equally important that public administration be able to adapt to a changing world in order to be able to effectively service the people that need the vital services that public administrators provide. Just as services have adapted, ethical accountability must also adapt. Administrators must continue to respect the legal framework that governs their positions. They must act with integrity and equality, they must be responsive to the citizens they service, and they should always take immediate action to provide those services (Radhika, 2012.)

  • Bilhim, J. & Neves, B. (2005, June). New ethical challenges in a changing public administration. Lisbon Technical University. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from
  • Chi, K.S., Arnold, K.A. & Perkins, H.M. (2003, Fall). Privatization in state government: trends and issues. Spectrum: The Journal of State Government. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from
  • Pfiffner, J.P. (2004). Traditional public administration versus the new public management: accountability versus efficiency. Institutionenbildung in regierung und verwaltung: festschrift fur klaus konig. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from
  • Radhika, D. (2012, February 23). Ethics in public administration. Journal of Public Administration and Policy Research. 4(2), 23-31.