Maladministration Revisited


  • Gerald Caiden


This essay reflects an academic career investigating maladministration, bureau-pathology and corruption that disturb, upset and harm people everywhere. These have plagued humanity from the dawn of civilization. They take so many different forms of wrongdoing, misconduct and malpractice that they penetrate every organized human activity. Presented are a lifelong obsession with this societal dysfunction, unusual definitions replacing earlier attempts (Caiden 1991) at universality and conclusions about major controversies concerning specific aspects of their causes, harm and possible effective ways of curbing their presence. The emphasis is on the moral mission of the discipline of public administration to bring maladministration more into the open, institute counter measures and retain optimism that the struggle is a worthwhile objective of public administration, civic action and ethical leadership. Probably, public administration can never be transformed into an objective universal natural science simply because all administration remains more of an art based on judgement and experience than formal learning of universal principles, proverbs and untested fashions and fancies of the moment. Reality is not so simple and circumstances are never the same from one moment to the next. Every administrator has the choice between doing good or bad. Personality and character still count. But the organization’s culture and the conduct of the administered can be obstructive and defeating, defying efforts to change and correct; in effect, conducive to institutional paralysis as illustrated in country studies. In curbing maladministration, (a) priority should be given to what its victims most fear and condemn and to seeking effective processes of reassurance and rectification, (b) brave moralists should not be branded outcasts, spoil sports, and disagreeable just because they take a different line, (c) actions should speak louder than words and deeds count more than platitudes, (d) organizations should be more honest with themselves and heed complaints and criticisms even if unjustifiable, and (e) understand that reforms rarely go sweetly, are bitterly contested, and require commitment, persistence, and adaptation in their application. Nothing is likely to be perfect or go perfectly.