Difference Between Public and Private Administration

Public vs Private Administration

One difference between public and private administration that everyone knows is the profit. They also differ in their nature and the way they are governed. However, the terms public and private administration might appear somewhat technical for some. Indeed, they are not terms used in day-to-day conversation and one hears their usage occasionally. For the benefit of them, we will start from the definition of public and private administration. Of course, their definitions are simple and understandable, rendering the distinction between the two clear-cut. The term ‘Administration‘ refers to the organization and management of some particular thing. Thus, Public Administration, in simple terms, refers to the management and organization of public affairs while Private Administration refers to the management of private affairs.

What is Public Administration?

Formally, the term Public Administration is defined as the implementation of government policy or public policy as formulated by the executive branch of government. The concept of Public Administration is evident in any country that has a government. Think of it as the collective operation, function, and activities of the government. Government departments and agencies, ministerial departments, town, city, urban, municipal and/or provincial councils, and all other national departments fall within the purview of Public Administration. Some sources define it as the administration of public programmes or the implementation of political promises made during elections. Public Administration involves determining suitable policies and programmes for government operations and the implementation of such programmes after careful planning, organizing, directing, and coordination. The people that carry out the function of Public Administration are known as public administrators. They include not only elected government officials but also non-elected officials such as public servants either heading or working in the above-named departments. These public administrators are entrusted with an important task, namely, to find durable, efficient, cost-effective solutions to the challenges and problems faced by the public. Other duties include advising elected officials of the feasibility and effectiveness of certain programmes and/or policies, preparing and setting budgets, and operating the day-to-day affairs of public departments.

Public Administration affects the entire nation. Thus, its scope is large and complex. The ultimate beneficiary of Public Administration is the general public and the goal is to cater to the needs of the public while at the same time promoting social good. Such Administration is governed by the country’s constitution, laws, rules and regulations, and thereby, ensuring that the government does not act outside the law or abuse its powers. A government is typically accountable to the public, and in a democratic country where the activities of government are open and scrutinized, it will be held accountable either through the legislature or judicial review.

Difference Between Public and Private Administration

Public servant

What is Private Administration?

Private Administration is essentially more private and personal in nature. This means that it does not deal with the general public. Private Administration is the operation, management and administration of the affairs of a private company or business. In other words, it is the implementation of a company’s policy and objectives. Private Administration is non-political in nature. With the profit as its foremost aim, it operates under the direction of market-economic conditions. Thus, Private Administration involves the planning, organizing and implementing of policies and programmes that return a profit. Any activity that is unprofitable to the company or inefficient will be eliminated.

The ultimate beneficiary of Private Administration is the company itself and of course, its people. Private Administration also helps to determine the company’s performance and efficiency. Like Public Administration, it is governed by certain laws, rules and regulations, but these are only in relation to the business of the company and its conduct. For example, consumer protection laws. The concept of public accountability is not present in Private Administration although one may cite corporate social responsibility as an exception. In general, therefore, a private company is not accountable to the general public for their activities. Unlike Public Administration, the scope of Private Administration is fairly limited and not as large or diverse as its public counterpart.

 Public vs Private Administration

What is the difference between Public and Private Administration?

The difference between Public and Private Administration is thus clear.

• Public Administration is political in nature while Private Administration is not political and instead more personal.

• The focus of Public Administration is the implementation of government policy while Private Administration concerns itself with the implementation of company policies that have profit as their main focus.

• Government policies and programmes are aimed at the public. Thus, Public Administration seeks to promote the general welfare and good of the public, and cater to their needs.

• In Private Administration, the focus is on making a profit, expanding the growth and development of the company and ensuring the prosperity of the business.

• Activities and operations that fall under Public Administration are governed by a legal framework that aims to prevent abuse of power, unequal and unfair treatment of the public. Further, the officials in charge of Public Administration are accountable to the general public for their actions.

• Private Administration, in contrast, does not have the concept of public accountability and its scope is more limited.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Public servant via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. WMUK board meeting, Monmouth by Mike Peel (CC BY-SA 4.0)