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Unveiling the Illusion: Understanding Where True Power Lies in Government

There are many misconceptions about where true power lies in the public sector. While there are material differences in governments across the world, the systematic principles and composition of the public sector bear similarities defined by their core purpose. Differences in every country are shaped by legislation and their system of governance, but the principle largely remains the same.


Many people believe that true power rests in the political office, but this is a grave misconception, and here's why:


Civil Servants vs. Politicians: Politicians are elected and bound to term limits, while civil servants are mostly permanent employees of the state. Civil servants are the backbone of the government machinery, responsible for implementing policies, managing programs, and providing continuity in governance across different administrations. They often have deep expertise in their fields and play a crucial role in shaping policy proposals and advising elected officials on the practical implications of their decisions.


Administrative Role: The administrative component of the work is undertaken by civil servants who work collectively to compile memos, reports, and recommendations submitted to their political principals. These documents are crucial for informing decision-making at the highest levels of government. Civil servants are also responsible for managing government resources, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, and providing essential services to the public.


While politicians set the overall direction and priorities of the government, it is the civil servants who translate these into actionable plans and policies.


Decision-Making Process: The political branch of the government does not typically deal with day-to-day administrative work. Instead, their role is to set the vision, goals, and direction of the government, based on inputs and advice from civil servants and other stakeholders.


While politicians have the authority to make final decisions, these decisions are often informed and influenced by the information, analysis, and recommendations provided by the executive permanent government employees. Civil servants play a crucial role in ensuring that decisions are well-informed, evidence-based, and aligned with the government's overall objectives.


The misconception that true power lies in the political office can lead to misunderstandings about the nature of governance and the roles of different actors in the public sector. While politicians play a vital role in setting the direction and priorities of the government, it is the civil servants who are responsible for implementing these decisions and ensuring that government programs and services are delivered effectively and efficiently.


The irony is that underperforming governments often assume that changing political officials will bring about change, while the real culprits of incompetence and malfeasance remain permanently employed. In reality, improving governance requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying causes of inefficiency, corruption, and mismanagement. This includes strengthening the capacity of civil servants, enhancing transparency and accountability, and promoting a culture of excellence and professionalism in the public sector.


In conclusion, while politicians may hold the reins of power in the public eye, the real power in the public sector lies in the hands of the dedicated civil servants who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that government functions effectively and serves the public interest.


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