A Critical Analysis of the Policy Making Process in Public Administration Essay

South Africa has changed over time and ever since the democratic elections lots of laws and policies have been changed as well. When a policy is being made it will always involve interaction between the population and the institutions that have to perform the policy making functions. Interaction takes place by means of elections, meetings between the people and officials, public opinion surveys, media campaigns, etc. No policy can be made in an disorderly manner, so if the information which is needed to decide on a new policy is not correct, no planning can be made.

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For example, if a policy must be made which involves the standards of schools, research surveys must be done in all the schools of the state. This must then be interpreted and evaluated correct by the person or persons doing it. 2. Public Policy In any society, governmental entities enact laws, make policies, and allocate resources. According to Cloete (1993) a policy is a declaration of intent to do something or to have it done by specified institutions or functionaries as prescribed.

There are a few steps that need to be completed successfully to have a policy such as a series of decisions have to be taken, the implementation of a policy means another series of decisions, and for policy analysis another series of decisions have to be taken. Cloete (1993:80) states that the constitution is a policy statement because it declares “the action to be taken by specified institutions and office bearers who follow stated procedures and respect prescribed conduct guidelines and values for the creation and maintenance of the state.

However, a policy statement is never static because of human society constantly moving and developing it causes a constant change in policy to adapt to the changing needs and expectations of the population. Public policy can be generally defined as a system of laws, regulatory measures, courses of action, and funding priorities concerning a given topic formed by government entity or its representatives. As a government action it is generally the principled guide to action taken by the administrative or executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs. Schuster, 2009)

Therefore, a major aspect of public policy is law, which includes specific legislation and provisions of constitutional or international law. Furthermore, Gerston (2008: 7) also states that a public policy is also the combination of basic decisions, commitments, and actions made by those who hold or influence government positions of authority. These arrangements result from interactions amongst those who demand change, those who make decisions, and those affected by the policy in question.

Issues such as health, crime, education, social welfare and foreign policy can be addressed by public policy. Leaders of religious and cultural institutions can also make public policies for the benefit of the congregation and participants. I personally feel that public policies have a blend of both politics and government, and that public policies are there to address a public issue by instituting laws, regulations, decisions, or actions to control the problem at hand. 3. Public Policy Making

Public policy making is a complex process that involves the interplay of numerous individuals and interest groups competing and collaborating to influence policymakers to act in a particular way. According to Cloete (1993) the term policy making should be used to refer to functions performed to obtain policies. Individuals and groups are always trying to shape public policy through education, advocacy, or mobilization of interest groups. Thus, policy making consists of the performance of a group of generic administrative processes.

According to Cliffs (1987) policy making involves a number of functions to be performed namely: the identification of matters on which policies have to be made and the investigation of the matters requiring new policies or policy adaptations. When new public policies are created, there are generally three key things involved in the process: the problem, the player, and the policy. The problem is the issue needs to be addressed, the player is the individual or group that is influential in forming a plan to address the problem in question, and the policy is the finalized course of action decided upon by the government. Schuster, 2009).

The general public will make the government aware of an issue through writing letters and emails, or making phone calls to local government leaders, the issue is then brought forward during government meetings and the process for creating new public policies. 3. 1Key actors in public policy making process In essence Wasby (1973: 50) states that he population plays a huge role in policy making and that is why there will always be a numerous amount of role-players in policy-making.

The main categories of actors in the policy making process are official actors who have statutory or constitutional responsibilities such as legislative, executive, and judiciary. Unofficial actors have participation with no explicit legal authority such as interest groups, media. Most of the critical work on public policy is done in committees, which review legislation, propose and vote on amendments, and, in the end, decide whether a bill will die at the committee level or be elevated for consideration by the full body. Legislatures consider bills submitted to them by the political executive office-bearers.

The courts have the ability to interpret legislative and executive actions: judicial review. Courts are the weakest because their authority rests on the legitimacy of the law and their ability to argue their case. Legislatures and executives initiate public policy, while courts react to the practical effects of such policies. Elected executives focus on agenda-setting, (Cliffs, 1987). The judicial system in a democratic country like South Africa has a major role in the public policy making process. All policies are formulated keeping in view the existing laws and legal provisions.

According to Wasby (1973) the judiciary enters the area of policy making delivering suggestive or advisory judgments aimed at the effective achievement of the goals of the country as contained in the Preamble and the body of the Constitution. The judiciary issues directions for formulating a particular policy or changing the existing policy to suit a particular purpose. The judiciary being the sole guardian of the Constitution ensures that none of its provisions are contravened by the legislative, executive or administrative actions. Interest groups have been part of the political scene since the founding.

Arrangements exist to link interest groups and public institutions to enable these groups to make regular inputs for policy-making purposes. According to Cloete (1993) political parties can play a vital role in making of policies. During elections they concentrate on weak policies of their opponents and suggest better policies for the state. Media’s primary function in policy process is agenda-setting. Media coverage correlates with institutional attention. Media also plays a very important role in educating members of the population about political and dministrative matters.

Policy Making stages Grindle and Thomas offer a more interactive version of the stages model. Their central insight is that “a policy reform initiative may be altered or reversed at any stage… by the pressures and reactions of those who oppose it” (1991:126). However, conflict over policy tends to center at that point in the process where a reform initiative has been agreed to in principle by decision makers somewhere in government and is moving on for further ratification and eventual implementation.

Most of the heavy policy action comes after these early decision stages. A policy established and carried out by the government goes through several stages from inception to conclusion. These are Agenda-setting, Formation, Adoption, Implementation, Evaluation, and Termination. 4. 1 Agenda- setting The “agenda” is the list of subjects or problems to which government officials, and people outside of government closely associated with those officials, are paying serious attention at some given time (Rainey, 2003).

Before a policy can be created, a problem must exist that is called to the attention of the government. Illegal immigration, for example, has been going on for many years, but it was not until the 1990s that enough people considered it such a serious problem that it required increased government action. Public problems will only reach the political agenda if they converted into political issues. This happens when an interest group demands government action on a problem, or when there is public disagreement over ways in which a problem should be addressed.

According to Farmer (1995), the agenda- setting process narrows the set of all possible issues to the set that actually becomes the focus of attention. People rather limited capacity to seriously attend to many things at once is also characteristic of political systems, where agenda-setting is the bottleneck. Following Kingdon (1984:8), these can be conceived as three process streams- processes through which participants affect agendas such as problems, solutions and politics. Academics, for example, tend to be more involved on formatting proposals than are politicians, who seldom draft detailed policy documents.

Problems Cliff (1993:7) states that problems are recognized and defined according to processes that are different from the ways in which policies are formulated and political events unfold. Many problems can also be seen either as private misfortunes for those who experience them or as public policy failures that government should address. But private problems need to be linked to public causes to attract government attention. When a young woman drops out of secondary school because of an unplanned pregnancy, for example, that may be a private misfortune.

But only when women’s organisations and educators complain that adolescent pregnancy threatens the growth of skilled work force, and thus undermines economic development, does adolescent pregnancy become a problem for government that calls for government response. Only when a private misfortune is translated into a problem of educational attainment and economic growth does it become something that must concern policy makers. ” Problem definition is the active manipulation of images of conditions by competing political actors.

Conditions come to be defined as problems through the strategic portrayal of causal stories” (Stone, 1989). 4. 1. 2Solutions Policy alternatives are developed according to their own criteria of selection, whether or not they are solutions to recognize problems or sensitive to political considerations. Career civil servants, technocrats, academics, and policy advocates with nongovernmental organisations all play more of a role in framing of policy alternatives in Africa is further complicated by the presence of international donors, who may not share the same priorities or interests and who often do not speak with one voice. Ogden, 1971). 4. 1. 3Politics Political events flow along on their own often unpredictable schedule, whether or not they are related to problems or policy proposals.

The third family of explanations for how a subject or a problem rises or falls on a government agenda has to do with politics. Developments in the political sphere can be powerful agenda-setters, for example, a change in government, a change of government ministers, a significant swing in national mood, can all move a subject onto or off of a government agenda.

Politicians typically employ a calculus of political feasibility to determine whether a problem should be granted a high place on the policy agenda. 4. 2Formation In this stage policies are created and/or changed. According to Chandler (2000) policy formation means coming up with an approach to solving a problem. Congress, the executive branch, the courts, and interest groups may be involved. Contradictory proposals are often made. For example, the president may have one approach to immigration reform, and the opposition-party members of Congress may have another.

Policy formulation has a tangible outcome: A bill of rights goes before Congress or a regulatory agency drafts proposed rules. The process continues with adoption. 4. 3 Adoption “A policy is adopted when a Congress passes legislation, the regulations become final, or the Supreme Court renders a decision in a case” ( Farmer,1995). This stage is also when a policy is brought into force, for example, by state or federal legislation. New or changed public policies are often adopted by means of a decision of cabinet, or an individual minister, without any legislation change.

This stage includes the actions and mechanisms whereby policies are brought into practice, that is, where what is written in the legislation or policy document is turned into a reality. The content of the policy, and its impact on those affected, may be modified substantially, or even negated. A statue usually provides a broad outline of a policy. For example, Congress may mandate improved water quality standards, but Environmental protection agency (EPA) provides the details on those standards and the procedures for measuring compliance through regulations.

According to Rainey (2003) the Supreme Court has no mechanism to enforce its decisions; other branches of government must implement its determinations. Successful implementation depends on the complexity of the policy, coordination between those putting the policy into effect, and compliance. For example, the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the justices realized that desegregation was a complex issue; however, they did not provide any guidance on how to implement it.

Here, implementation depended upon the close scrutiny of circuit and appeals court judges, as well as local and state school board members who were reluctant to push social change. Dye indicates that implementation involves all of the activities designed to carry out the policies enacted by the legislative branch. These activities include the creation of new organizations and departments, agencies, bureaus, and the assignment of new responsibilities to existing organizations. These organizations must translate laws into operational rules and regulations.

They must hire personnel, draw up contracts, spend money, and perform tasks. All of these activities involve decisions by bureaucrats and decisions that determine policy (Dye, 2005). One critical aspect of policy implementation is the high degree of discretion afforded to the bureaucrats and agency procedures to transform laws into action as outlined by Dye above. 4. 4. 1 Challenges and pitfalls of policy implementation Theodoulou and Kofinis identify three key challenges which they believe can routinely impede the effective implementation of public policy.

Those three challenges are: 4. 4. 1. 1 Clarity of policy goals Clear policy or program goals help specify the ends or objectives desired from the policy action. Ideally, policies should be formulated with consideration of what the actual specific goals of the policy are goal stated with clarity and specificity not only provides direction but also improves the basis by which policies can be evaluated, for accountability, efficiency, and effectiveness (Theodoulou and Kofinis, 2004, p183). 4. 4. 1. 2 Information intelligence

Information intelligence refers to the strategic necessity for constant feedback as to how implementation is progressing, as well as the preliminary assessments of impacts. Given the increasing reliance on multiple bureaucracies, information and feedback is essential to gauge the degree of interagency and intergovernmental cooperation and conflict, which may be affecting implementation. Information intelligence requires a high level of communication and feedback not only from the agencies involved but also from the population affected by the policy action.

According to Ogden (1971) when they are terminated, it is usually because the policy became obsolete, clearly did not work, or lost its support among the interest groups and elected officials that placed it on the agenda in the first place. In 1974, for example, Congress enacted a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour. It was effective in reducing highway fatalities and gasoline consumption. On the other hand, the law increased costs for the trucking industry and was widely viewed as an unwarranted federal intrusion into an area that belonged to the states to regulate.

The law was terminated in 1987. . Conclusion It is clear that policy making is not a task that can be undertaken by a single institution. Numerous private and public institutions must work together to ensure the well-being of the population. Policies cannot stay the same year in and year out. Changing circumstances demand constant evaluation of the existing policies. The top officials’ must take the lead in evaluating and proposing policy changes. It is therefore very important for Directors- General of state departments and town clerks to evaluate the results of their work and to inform their supervisors about needs for policy change.

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