Line Staff and Auxiliary Agencies in Public Administration

It is not just difficult but impossible for a single man to carry out all the administrative responsibility single handedly. Any leader requires a body of people whom he can direct and lead to achieve the desired goals of the organization. The literal meaning of staff is learning as it was used in the army and it has been borrowed from there and used in civil organizations. As Mooney points out that, there are too many functions, too diversified knowledge and too many things to think about which is difficult for a single leader to encompass.

The distinction between line and staff agencies is more of degree than of the kind. Staff personals are involved in involved in planning and thinking. The execution and implementation of those plans and policies are the jobs of the line agencies. Like, pointed out earlier, in some cases the staff functions are similar to line functions and line functions to that of staff. The other way of looking at it is that the staff agencies collect data for the formulation of policies which can be further executed and complemented by line agencies.

The main function of the staff agencies as identified by L D White are:

  • Keep the Chief Executive and top officials informed and updated with relevant information

  • Assisting the Chief Executive and other officials in foreseeing problems and planning of the future

  • To ensure that the matters which require the final decision making by the Chief Executive, reach his desk in time and that rational, logical, thoughtful and informed decisions are taken on those matters

  • Evaluate the matters which may be settled elsewhere to be excluded in the Chief Executive’s list

  • Assist him in managing his time well

  • Securing compliance by subordinates through the means of established policies and execution guidelines

The example of such staff agencies are the British Treasury and the Budget and Economic Affairs Department of the ministry of Finance which helps formulate the financial policies of the Union Government of India. In USA, the general staff agency is the President’s Executive office which has two parts, the White House and the Bureau of Budget.

Ever since the increased scope of the government activities lead to the process of specialization. Due to which there was a need to separate the primary and secondary activities of the administrative agencies. The house-keeping activities were segregated and organized under specialized offices. These activities are known as the auxiliary or the institutional activities.

As per Willoughby, the primary activities are those activities that a service performs to accomplish those very purposes for which it exists. Like the primary activity of the Home Affairs department is maintaining peace and order. The secondary activities are those which the service needs to keep performing so that it may exist and operate as a service. Again, for the Home Affairs department, those services may be recruiting people, buying furniture and stationeries etc. the functions of auxiliary services are:

  • Exercising financial controls and collecting revenues for the departments whose needs they have to meet

  • Supplying equipments and arranging Services

  • Acting as a record office

  • Recruiting personnels


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