In the interest of the efficiency and economy, it was considered desirable that the departmental organization should be broken into two new directions. These new directions were ‘staff agencies’ and auxillary agencies’ as distinct from ‘line agencies’.
The term “staff agency” has been borrowed from military terminology and is commonly used in contradistinction to the term “line agency”. As the growth of armies became complex, the field commanders who were engaged in the task of actual fighting felt the need for specialized services which led to the formation of the general staff with subsidiary staff agencies under them.
With the growth of large corporations particularly in the United States, the need was felt to adopt a system similar to the army staff to advise on matters which were not directly connected with business. The system took its roots first in the private business managements and later on, travelled to the government organisations. As we know, the Chief executive has to perform diverse type of functions.
If these functions are to be performed efficiently, the head of the service must have full information about the problems which he has to meet. Whenever the service is one of magnitude, and the functions are of a technical character, the need for such information and technical advice of officers having expert knowledge become all the more important.
As Willoughby points out for this advice reliance cannot be placed entirely upon the officers subordinate to the head of the service because these officers are:
Firstly, the ones who for the most part raise questions to be answered; they are interested parties seeking something which it is the duty of the head to determine whether to grant it or not.
Secondly, these officers know only their own side of the question and are not usually aware of the other side.
Thirdly, to reach a decision a careful investigation of the factors involved in the question may be necessary. Experience shows that only to a limited extent it is desirable to entrust to officers these investigations.
These officers may not have time, ability and that equipment which is required for the work.’ Naturally it follows from these considerations that special organizations to make research and act as the technical adviser or aid the head of the service should be set up. These special organizations are designated as ‘staff agencies.
Henry Fayol has rightly observed “Whatever their ability and their capacity for work the needs of great enterprises cannot fulfill alone all their obligation. They are thus forced to have recourse to a group of men who have the strength, competence and the time which the Head may lack.
This group of men constitutes the staff of the management. It’s a help or reinforcement a sort of extension of the managers’ personality”. Charles worth, “a staff officer is one who specializes in research, observation, and study, and who draws up plans and proposals for approval by the top executive, to whom he is attached collaterally.”
F.A. Cleveland also says, “The staff agencies reach conclusions and help the management reach conclusions, both about what happened and what is proposed; their function is to know the facts and with knowledge they make and submit plans, but there they stop. The responsible controlling personnel of the management must decide.”
According to Mooney, the staff is “an expansion of the personality of the executive. It means more eyes, more ears, and more hands to aid him in forming and carrying out his plans.”
Characteristic Features of Staff Agency:
The most characteristic features of the staff agencies are:
(i) That they have no responsibility or authority for the actual performance of the duties for the performance of which the services are created and maintained.
(ii) Their function is exclusively of a research, consultative and advisory character.
(iii) They possess no power to give orders.
Functions of Staff Agencies:
The main functions of the Staff Agency have been summarized by L.D. White as follows:
(i) To ensure that the Chief Executive (and other officials at the top) is adequately and correctly informed;
(ii) To assist him in foreseeing problems and planning future programmes;
(iii) To ensure that matters for his decision reach his desk promptly, in condition to be settled intelligently and without delay, and to protect him against hasty or ill-considered judgments;
(iv) To exclude every matter that can be settled elsewhere in the system;
(v) To protect his time;
(vi) To secure means of ensuring compliance by subordinates with established policy and executive direction.
Pfiffner has categorized staff agencies in three units, viz., general staff, technical staff and auxiliary staff. The general staff helps the chief executive in administrative work generally by collecting information, by research, by sifting the information received so that it acts as ‘filter and a funnel’ to the executive.
Like a funnel, it receives all business intended for the chief executive but ensures like a filter that what passes to him is only that which is essential to decision-making. The functions of the general staff are of an administrative kind and do not require a very high degree of technical skill or knowledge.
Auxiliary staff consists of units which perform certain duties and functions to meet the material demands of other departments.
The functions of the staff agencies have broadly been termed by Pfiffner as follows:
(a) Advising, teaching and consultation.
(b) Co-ordination not merely through plans but also through human contacts.
(c) Fact-finding and research.
(e) Contact and liaison.
(f) Assisting the line.
(g) Sometimes exercising delegated authority from the line commander.
According to Mooney, there are three functions of staff agencies, namely:
(ii) Advisory, and
The informative function of the staff is to collect for the chief executive all the relevant information on which his decisions may be based. This also involves research, study and enquiry.
The advisory function means that the staff in addition to supplying the relevant data for decision, also advises the chief as to what, in its opinion, the decision should be.
The supervisory function is to see that the decision taken by the chief is duly communicated to, and implemented by, the line agencies concerned.
F.A. Cleveland rightly observes “The staff agencies reach conclusion; their function is to know the facts and with knowledge they make and submit plans.”
Thus, the main functions of the Staff Agency are to furnish to the executive all relevant information regarding the case, to put up at the proper time and to offer its own advice on the matter. But it should not go beyond that. Sometimes there develops a tendency on the part of the staff to take executive power in its hands or on the part of executive to assign it primary activities which is not a desirable tendency.
The staff agency stands outside the main line of administrative hierarchy. Its function is not to command but to advise. It is not a part of the main executive but only, if we may so call an adjunct to it. In the words of Henri Fayol the staff “….is a help or reinforcement, a sort of extension of the manager’s personality to assist him in carrying out his duties….”
Some Examples of Staff Agencies:
Executive Office of the President of USA, White House Office, National Security Council set by National Security Act 1947, Bureau of Budget in the USA and British Treasury, Cabinet Secretariat, Cabinet Committees are the examples of staff agencies.
In India the Department of Economic Affairs, Finance Ministry, Cabinet Secretariat, Cabinet Committees, Planning Commission, Administrative Reforms Commission and Administrative Vigilance Commission, Home Affairs Department, Prime Minister’s Office fall in the category of staff agencies.
2. Line Agencies:
The principal agencies which are organized on the basis of major substantive purpose, and are concerned with the provision of services for the people, or regulating their conduct in particular fields are termed ‘line’ agencies.
They are concerned with the primary objects for which government exists. From top to bottom a single “line” of authority extends downwards from Secretary through the Deputy Secretary, Under Secretaries, Superintendents and clerks.
The activities of line agencies are primary, i.e., “those which they perform in order to accomplish the purpose for which they exist”. For example, the primary activity of the Secretary of Home Affairs Department is to maintain peace and order in the country.
The line agencies are thus concerned with the fulfillment of the primary objects of the government. They deal directly with the people and implement policies laid down by the Legislature. The people come directly in touch with the line agencies which constitute the pivot of administrative structure. The major line departments of Government of India are Defence, Home, Health, Education, Railway and Transport.
Line agencies are of three kinds, viz.,
(ii) Corporation, and
(iii) Independent Regulatory Commission.
Department is the largest and most prevalent form of administrative organization. The public corporation is a new organizational device imported in public administration from private business administration. The Independent Regulatory Commission is a mixture of the departmental as well as corporation system. At the top it has a corporate character, but internally it has a departmental structure.
In view of the fact that the main duties of a staff officer are to advise, assist and suggest rather than to operate, he requires the qualities of an expert and not of an administrator.
Firstly, he must have a sound general knowledge of the entire administration and not an expert knowledge of one particular department only.
Secondly, he should have the capacity to negotiate rather than command.
Thirdly, he should prefer to work from behind the curtain. His function is to advise and after advice to withdraw so as to give the executive time to take his decisions.
Lastly, he should be willing to accept the decisions of the executive. It is no business of his to see that the executive accepts his advice or not. He should not grudge if the executive does not accept his advice. He should ungrudgingly go on assisting the executive.
The Report of the President’s Committee on Administrative Management (1937) nicely sums up the general nature of the staff in the words “These aides would have no power to make decisions to issue instructions in their own right. They would not be interposed between the President and the Heads of his departments. Their function would be to assist him (President) in obtaining quickly and without delay all pertinent information possessed by any of the executive departments so as to guide him in making his responsible decisions and then when decisions have been made to assist him in seeing to it that every administrative department and agency affected is promptly informed. They would remain in the background, issue no orders, make no decisions, emit no public statements. They should be men in whom the President has personal confidence…. they should be possessed of high competence, great physical vigour and a passion for anonymity.”
3. Auxiliary Agencies:
Pfiffner does not distinguish between staff and auxiliary agencies. He includes auxiliary agencies within the term ‘staff’. According to him, there are three kinds of staff services general staff, technical staff and auxiliary staff. The general staff is the staff which helps the chief or other officer in his administrative work by advice, collection of information, research and sifting of important issues from the unimportant ones.
The technical staff consists of the technical officers such as engineers, doctors, financial experts, etc. The auxiliary staff consists of officers or units which perform certain duties and functions common to the various administrative departments but which are incidental in character.
Willoughby calls them “institutional” or “house-keeping” activities. Gaus names them “auxiliary technical staff services.” L.D. White prefers to use the term ‘auxiliary services’. According to Willoughby and White, these services may not be called ‘staff because they do not render any advice or assist in the sense in which ‘staff units do. They render certain services of house-keeping nature to the departments.
Auxiliary agencies are the agencies which serve the line agencies rather than the public. They perform functions common to all the departments.
A line agency in order to perform the primary duties for which it exists must provide itself with and maintain a plant; it must establish and operate a system for the recruitment of its personnel; it must perform the work entailed in contracting, purchasing, storing and issue of supplies; it must contain a system for keeping of accounts.
In the not too remote past, each department performed these functions separately, i.e., it kept its own accounts, handled its own funds, purchased all its supplies and equipment and made its own contracts. But today with specialization of functions in public administration it has become desirable to organize these functions under separate agencies called Auxiliary Agencies.
Advantages of Auxiliary Agencies:
The organization of these separate organizational units called Auxiliary Agencies has the following advantages:
(i) The officers in ‘line’ agencies who have the responsibility for the performance of primary activities are relieved of the duties not directly pertaining to the performance of such activities and thus will be in a position to devote themselves exclusively to their duties.
(ii) This system ensures specialization of functions and it is but desirable that if they are to be effectively performed, they should be put under the charge of those persons who are expert in those fields.
(iii) It secures economy in administration as it avoids duplicity of work. A single auxiliary agency does a particular work common to all the departments and thus saves time and money, e.g., the Printing and Stationery does all the printing work for all the departments.
(iv) The system secures the advantage of closer supervision of the auxiliary functions. Improved methods may be rapidly introduced as each agency is concerned with only one type of activity.
(v) It will have the advantage of increased scope of operations and reduced unit costs, such as in large-scale purchasing, common Godowns, etc.
Disadvantages of Auxiliary Agencies:
Auxiliary agencies have been criticized on the following grounds:
(i) The establishment of auxiliary agencies means “tearing the department” which tends to weaken the responsibility of the ‘line’ agencies.
(ii) The auxiliary agencies may make encroachments upon the responsibilities of the ‘line’ agencies and thus conflict may ensue between them.
(iii) The auxiliary agencies tend to consider their mission superior to the objects sought by the line agencies and hence happen to subordinate questions of welfare to economy or mere symmetry.
(iv) Sometimes undue delay results in getting the required services or goods on account of long negotiations with the auxiliary agencies, e.g., the students may not get a lecturer for a very long time who is to be selected by the Public Service Commission or the college office may not get stationery for a long time from the Printing and Stationery Department.
It happens many a time that the amount sanctioned for a building by the Finance Department lapses because the Public Works Department” does not undertake work in time.
The dangers inherent in auxiliary agencies have been well stated by Willard N. Hogam. He argued that the system resulted in a division of authority and responsibility; that the auxiliary agencies had pushed beyond their limit of usefulness; that they had evolved into a position to hinder and harass executive policies and decisions.
Thus it is difficult to lay down any hard and fast rule on the point. L.D. White is of the opinion that the auxiliary agencies are “one of the important means of ensuring unity in the executive branch, partly in the control of programme and policy, partly in the area of administration. In a vast enterprise they have become a sine qua non of executive leadership and administrative integration. It would be impossible to carry on the business of any large jurisdiction without them. Moreover, there are clear gains in the direction of economy due both to a large-scale common operation and to the accumulated experience of experts specializing in the various management fields. On the other hand, that the management services can handicap the line agencies by ’empire building’ on their own account is beyond doubt ; this is a risk to meet which requires not only internal restraint on their part but a firm hand on the part of the chief executive whom they serve.”
In conclusion it may be remarked that the case for establishing an auxiliary agency regarding any matter should be adjudged on the exigencies of the situation. “While the auxiliary agencies have ample justification under favourable circumstances, there is a point of marginal utility beyond which the unity and sense of full responsibility of the line department becomes the greater good”.
We should never forget that the nature of an auxiliary agency is primarily facilitating rather than controlling.