Fundamentals of public administration

By Begum Rokshana Mili and Amir Mohammad Nasrullah

M. Shamsur Rahman*

Fundamentals of public administration. By Begum Rokshana Mili and Amir Mohammad Nasrullah. Dhaka: Bangladesh Institute of Islamic Thought (BIIT), 2014, Pp. 326, ISBN: 978-984-8471-20-3.

Reviewer: M. Shamsur Rahman, Founder Vice Chancellor, Jatiyo Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University at Trishal, Mymensingh, Bangladesh. E-mail: ijit@iiitbd.org

Fundamentals of Public Administration, written by Begum Rokshana Mili and Amir Mohammad Nasrullah, is a valuable addition to the existing literature on Public Administration. There are plenty of textbooks on Public Administration in USA, India and other countries but these are meant for their respective audiences, not Bangladeshi students and academics. Barring few exceptions including the book by AMM Shawkat Ali, a retired secretary of the government of Bangladesh, there are not many books to cater for the students studying six universities where public administration is taught as a discipline. This book should help ameliorare the problem of the serious dearth of English textbook on Public Administration.

This book is an abridged version of fundamental concepts of Public Administration. It discusses most of the terms and concepts albeit briefly. The book has abundance of quotations from the works produced by scholars from America and Europe. No elaborate attempt has been made to make the concepts clear and easily understandable by teachers to teach the students. Furthermsore, the authors explain the concepts without citing examples from Bangladesh Administration. As a result, the students will have the problems of understanding and grasping. However, the book may be useful for the young teachers who will begin teaching as their career in Public Administration. Going through this book, they will quickly learn the concepts and terminologies and will consult other books as exhaustively referred to by the authors.

The book consumes a total of 308 pages in addition to references and the bibliography. The book is split into nine chapters. The bibliography is very exhaustive. A select bibliography would have been more helpful for the interested readers.

Chapter one contains definitional aspect of administration, goal and philosophy of administration. Here the authors could have stated the goal and objectives of Bangladesh administration as reflected in the constitution of Bangladesh for quick understanding of the students. In the same chapter under the heading ‘Importance of Public Administration as a Specialized Subject’ a small portion of discussion would have been included on ‘Teaching and Research of Public Administration’ in Bangladesh. Under the heading ‘Approaches to Public Administration’ two vitally important approaches have been left out from discussion and these are statistical and psychological approaches. Both are very important approaches. The former approach is widely used in all sectors of administration while the second approach relates to concepts like motivation, and leadership. Attitudinal or behavioral studies derive from social psychology. The fourth chapter on ‘Governance’ is well written. But ‘Good Governance’ is not the fundamental concept of public administration. It was developed in the 1980s and 1990s though its essence is old. It is as old as Kautillah’s Arthasnhastra, Platonic justice, Aristotatollian constitutionalism and social contract theories. The main idea of governance to me is “3 Es” referred by the authors in the book. Good governance is over used by all scholars. It is applicable in case of all sectors of administration.  The concept may be likened to the proverbial “Potato” which can be used in all types of dishes. Public Administration also involves two core values like ‘Policy Planning’ and ‘Policy Implementation’ and Personnel Administration, which has not been taken up for discussion in the book. In chapter six, ‘the Dynamics of Organization’, concepts like ‘authority and power’, ‘centralization and decentralization, and coordination, deserve a little longer discussion with examples from Bangladesh administration. Similarly the discussion on planning, in chapter nine is unusually short. A variety of things come under planning such as centralized planning, decentralized planning, socialistic planning, capitalist planning, top down planning, bottom up planning, macro-micro-meso planning etc. need to be discussed in an integrated manner.

The authors have tried to explain many terms from an Islamic perspective which, however, is not reflected in the title of the book. If the authors sincerely desired to explain the concepts in administration in Islamic terms, which apparently the authors desired, then the book should be re-titled as ‘Fundamentals of Public Administration: an Islamic Perspective.’ Mere adding Islamic administration with Public Administrative concept is not desirable because there is a fundamental difference between the two. Public Administration is developed by the Western scholars with secular values, whereas Islam combines spiritual and material values with sovereignty lying exclusively with almighty Allah (SWT). It is hoped that the authors in future would write a book with a title like Islamic Administration: Major Concerns.

On the whole I find the book interesting, well written in plain language. I am sure this book will create an impact upon the students, the teachers and readers of general interest. My comment about the book is that the authors are the best judge of deciding as to what extent it will help the students since they meet and converse with the students in and outside the classes. I congratulate the authors for undertaking pains and patience to produce such a valuable work.