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Administrative Discretion

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In any form of administration there are laid down procedures and rules that must be followed by administrators. These rules and procedures are there to enhance effectiveness and efficiency. In public administration these rules have been put forward with an aim of enhancing transparency and accountability. Many arguments have been put forward by different scholars in the field of administration in support and against usage of laid rules in public administration.  Max Weber is one of the leading scholars who advocates for usage of laid rules in public administration in his bureaucratic theory. Other scholars have been in support of administrative discretion instead of following laid rules. This paper seeks to investigate which of the two alternatives administration is best to be used by public administrators in management of public offices. The paper will focus on advantages and disadvantages of the two forms of administration.


Administrative discretion advocates for some freedom in running of public offices where by the public administrator does not have to follow the laid down rules in carrying out administrative duties and responsibilities.  Discretion in public administration encourages creativity and innovation in the way public offices are run and managed. A Discretion action tend to be informal thereby, it is usually not protected by those forms of protection remedies that are available to those following formal rules (Bryner, 1987). A public administrator tend to posses administrative discretion in cases where he or she has some degree of freedom in the area of making decisions among alternative courses of actions that are available. Administrative discretion enhances fast decision making in cases where there are emergencies. For example in cases of security threat a public administrator can take an action that is meant to deal with the threat. In some instances administrative discretion is abused by public administrators whereby they fail to exercise reasonable discretion or judgment. Administrative discretion can also be misused for personal gains. Public administrators may use their power to make administrative discretion to make decision that is meant to enable them gain economically at the expense of the public (Stillman, 1999). This has been the case in developing democracies where public administrators misuse administrative discretion to make administrative decisions that are meant to favor them as well as their allies.

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On the other hand, bureaucratic administration as put forward by Max Weber advocates for usage of laid down rules in public administration. Administrators have to follow these rules in all their decision making processes as well as in other administrative duties. One the advantage of this method of administration is that it provides administrators with procedures that help them to deal with various complex problems. This help to reduce problem that arises in cases where there no laid procedures to deal with problems. For example it helps administrators to deal with emergences that arise in cases during their administrative duties. On the other hand this method of administration has a lot of disadvantages (Buck & Morgan,1994). In the first case it discourages creativity and innovation in public offices Administrators have to follow down the laid down procedures which in most cases do not provide room for creativity and innovation that is much need in the modern world. It also leads to delayed decision making process in cases where a number of levels of administration are involved in the decision process.


Discretion administration is the best form administration in the modern world where there are so many administrative challenges. Some of the laid down rules may not be in a position to adequately address these challenges. Therefore there is need for public administrators to be given a room to make some administrative judgments in cases where the need arise.

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