The critical role of public administration as defined by John Rohr (a leading scholar of the US Constitution and its relation to public administration and civil servants) is governing the society. The authors have also argued that a government can exist without a legislature, even without a judiciary but never without administration. The government will become as dysfunctional as a lame horse in a derby race. Public administration as a part of Government has existed since the time of the monarchies, ancient Indias most prominent political scientist and economist Chanakya (373-283 BCE) in his treatise Arthashashtra; dedicates substantial chapters to Statecraft or the public administration of a state.
Public administration provides numerous services to the public and serves their interests in many ways. As explained by Felix A Negro, the real core of administration is the basic service which is performed for the public. It is the administration which ensures the security and protection of life and property of the members of the society by maintaining proper law and order.
The economical, cultural and even spiritual progress for that matter; of a society depends on the public administration. The day to day functioning of the Government machinery, external affairs and the most important of all, the national defense are the other important functions performed by the public administration of the country.
In the modern state, the role and scope of public administration is ever expanding and all encompassing. We are way past the laissez-fare state which was responsible for maintaining law and order only. The modern state which expects government to provide much more has seen the role of public administration change dramatically, since those times.
The current role and functions adopted by public administration owes its origin to the changes which the human history has witnessed in the last couple of centuries. The first important change was the industrial revolution which resulted in the urbanization of the large cities of the world. Secondly, there was a change in the political philosophy from minimalist state intervention (or laissez-fare) and individualism to social welfare. The two World Wars combined with the changing international scenarios with new countries, alliances and organizations like the formation of United Nations, generated a need to reform the goals of administration in the society; not just of within a nation but also with respect to the world.
Lastly, the increasing population of the world means tremendous pressure on the available resources. The role of providing for basic amenities like food and shelter has therefore fallen into the lap of the Government.
According to E N Gladden, there are three characteristics of an efficient public administration:
There is an increasing awareness amongst the citizens of a country regarding their rights and the duties of the Government. Thus, the role and functions of public administration has also become quite dynamic in nature and is constantly evolving in response to the changing needs and demands of the society. Technological intervention, incorporation of new management principles, taking into accounts the needs and aspirations of the end customer are some of the new trends in the areas of public administration.