10,000 3,000

Topic Description




The term bureaucracy is derived from a French word bureau, (meaning desk) and it referred to a cloth covering the desk of the 18th century French Monarchs. However, the modern use of the term has deviated significantly from this French derivation. (Obiajulu, S.A, and Obi, E.A, 2004). It was a German sociologist, Max Weber, who has given prominence to the concept of bureaucracy. Weber regarded bureaucracy as a universal social phenomenon and the means of carrying “community action” into rationally ordered “societal action” (Sharma and Sadana, 2007:1). Max Weber’s concept of bureaucracy is concerned with outlining the characteristics of the ideal type from a functional point of view. His views probably championed the application of the concept to institutions rather than to officials employed in such institutions. Unlike others before him, his approach is more formalistic. His ideal type bureaucracy is a triumph of complex impersonal rules and an effective separation of the organization offices from their incumbents. According to Okoli, F.C. (2009) Bureaucracy is a professional corps of officials organized in a pyramidal hierarchy and functioning under impersonal, uniform rules and procedures.

The characteristics of bureaucracy were first formulated in a systematic manner by the German sociologist, Max Weber (1864-1920), whose definition and theories set the foundations for all subsequent works on the subject. They refer to the division of labour in the organization, its authority structure, the position, and role of the individual member, and the type of rules that regulate the relations between organizational members. A highly developed division of labour and specialization of tasks is one of the most fundamental features of bureaucracy. This is achieved by a precise and detailed definition of the duties and responsibilities of each position or office. The allocation of a limited number of tasks to each office operates according to the principle of fixed jurisdictional areas that are determined by administrative regulations. In a bureaucracy, authority is legitimized by a belief in the correctness of the process by which administration rules were enacted; and the loyalty of the bureaucrat is oriented to an impersonal order, to a superior position, not to the specific person who holds it. Once a candidate enters the bureaucratic organization, his office is his primary occupation. It constitutes a “career.” That is to say, it implies stability and continuity, a “life’s work.” There is an elaborate system of promotion based on the principles of both seniority and achievement.

The most important and pervasive characteristic of bureaucracy (one that to some extent explains all the others) is the existence of a system of control based on rational rules that is, rules meant to design and regulate the whole organization on the basis of technical knowledge and with the aim of achieving maximum efficiency. According to Max Weber, “Bureaucratic administration” means fundamentally the exercise of control based on knowledge. This feature makes it specifically rational (The theory of social and economic organization, 1947:P339). However, real organizations can be more or less bureaucratic according to their degree of proximity to their ideal formulation.

By the term ‘’policy process’’, we are referring to the public policy process or the making, implementation, evaluation and feedback of public policy. Chandler and Plano (1980) define public policy as the strategic use of resources to alleviate national problems of government concerns. Okoli and Onah (2002) define public policy as the choice of alternatives on the bases of priorities to solve specific political and social economic problems. Obikeze and Obi (2004:94) define it as “simply government action and programmes of actions” towards solving societal problems.

According to Onyishi, public policy is concerned with those processes that are directly or indirectly associated with government programmes, decisions targeted at the critical needs and aspirations of citizens and groups within nation-state or parts thereof.  In the reality of every definition of public policy by scholars, it maintains the following important features that; public policy originates from the government, it is meant to solve societal problems, it usually entail the use of state resources including the state agencies to achieve policy goals.

According to Onah R.C. (2005:97) policy making has increasingly become a crucial aspect of the function of government. This is sequel to the rising expectation of the citizenry with respect to the responsibility of governments. The formulation of public policies and the translation of these policies into specific programmes and projects may be seen as a series of disparate activities, which makes up a never ending whole. Policies are formulated and implemented with the specific objective of effecting desired changes in some aspect(s) of human life activities. Therefore, public policy is a policy undertaken or made by government and government actors.

According to Ikelegbe (2005), the policy process refers to the methods, conditions, procedures, structures, resources, activities, interactions and its environment. It refers to how policies come about, how it is implemented, and the impact it achieves. Ikelegbe explains the policy process using the holistic perspective of the systems theory. According to the system, policy-making is seen as an interaction between the environment and the political system in which demands generated from the environment are converted into the outcomes or solutions. It is simply an input-conversion-output process. From the systems perspective, the policy process in government could be subdivided into the following sub systems. The policy generation process (environment demand system). The policy formulation process (the political/conversion system) The implementation system (government agencies), and The evaluation process (feedback system)

The civil bureaucracy or civil service is the term used to describe the system of authority relationship that exists between men, office and methods that government uses to implement its policies and programmes. It does not cover political appointees such as ministers and advisers or members of the judiciary at the federal, state, and local government tiers of government. The primary function of the civil servants is to advise the political executives or appointees on all aspect of governmental activities to ensure formulation of policy, which is consonant with the objectives of government of the day. Advice in the context of policy initiation and formulation also includes the collection of relevant data, together with carefully considered alternatives, which could enable policy decisions to be made by the political heads. Related to this function is to ensure that policy decisions of government are carefully implemented. From this brief statement of the roles of the bureaucrats or civil servants, it will be seen that the civil service (bureaucracy) is about the most significant single institution affecting the lives of the citizenry in a polity, its influence is all pervasive, more so in today Nigeria where it is striving to attain good governance.

However, the role of bureaucracy in the processes of public policy has actually awakened the interest of the researcher to embark on the assessment of the contributions of the bureaucrats and their various positions in the policy process in Nigeria. The contemplation of many people about who makes public policy and the conclusion of many, that public policy is entirely made by the political office holders has generated much controversy and thereby leading to this study, “an assessment of the roles of bureaucracy in the policy process in Nigeria”.


The founding fathers of the field of Public Administration initially made it clear that Public Administration is quite different from politics or political science. While political office holders should be concerned with the formulation of the state will or what is simply known as policy formulation, bureaucrats should be concerned with the execution of the state will or what is simply known as policy implementation. Later on, it became difficult to hold to the view that there is a watertight division between politics and administration, in other words, the acceptability of the fact that there is no absolute dichotomy between the political office holders and bureaucrats in the role of policy formulation has caused a problem of understanding.

It is indisputable that public policy must be generated before the actual formulation takes place. However, the problems associated with differing perspectives concerning who generates public policy and the consequent arguments about whose responsibility it is to make policy has constituted a matter for investigation.

Also, the problem of having the skills, knowledge and experience to make policy has become a matter of concern as many people get more confused on the position of bureaucrats to involve in the making of public policy.

Traditionally, the implementation of public policy is the sole responsibility of bureaucrats, but largely, bureaucrats have been observed to be involved in the enormous task of participating in other stages or processes of public policy. However, the acceptability of this fact has been faulted by many people and thereby necessitating a problem.

Public policy evaluation has gained wide participation of various actors in the policy process and this has led to several agitations regarding the involvement of bureaucrats and their positions in the policy evaluation process.

Based on the above stated problems, this study intends to find answers to the following research questions.

  1. Is there any significant relationship between political office holders and bureaucrats during policy formulation?
  2. Are bureaucrats involved in generating public policy?
  3. Do bureaucrats have the knowledge and experience to participate in the making of public policy?
  4. Do bureaucrats participate in all stages and processes of public policy?


The broad objective of this study is to assess the role of bureaucrats in public policy process.

Accordingly, the following concrete and specific objectives are sought;

  1. To ascertain if there is significant relationship between political executives and bureaucrats during policy formulation.
  2. To find out if bureaucrats are involved in the generation and formulation of public policy.
  3. To ascertain if bureaucrats have the skill, knowledge and experience to participate in the making of public policy.
  4. To examine whether bureaucrats participate in all stages and processes of public policy.


This study has been deemed very imperative in view to overcoming the problems associated with differing perspectives on what could be the roles of bureaucracy in the policy process.

This study will help to provide a better understanding of the kind of relationship that exists between political office holders and bureaucrats in public policy making.

This study will also help to provide an in-depth knowledge on the level of involvements of bureaucrats in the generation and formulation of public policy.

This study will be of paramount importance to the Nigerian populace hence they would want to know if bureaucrats have the skills, knowledge and experience to participate in the making of public policy.

Also, this study will help the readers to actually understand whether bureaucrats participate in all stages and processes of public policy.

However, this study will serve as a guide for both political executives and bureaucrats to develop more workable relationships in handling policy issues.

Finally, this work will be useful in the academic environments for both students and researchers in this field or related areas of study. The study has also added to the existing knowledge of the researcher.


This study centres on the role of bureaucracy in the policy process and therefore has been carried out to investigate the contributions of bureaucrats at various stages of the policy process, as well as how they pilot major affairs of public policy in Nigeria.

The study was carried out at the Federal Civil Service Commission Abuja, and Federal Ministry of Health Abuja, Nigeria. The study also investigated the contributions of both the official and unofficial policy makers on the policy process in Nigeria.

However, the researcher encountered some difficulties in the course of carrying out this study. Finance posed a major problem to the study. This topic is made up of two wide areas of study (bureaucracy and public policy) therefore making the topic to be too vast and required adequate financial strength to carry out the study. This study would have been carried out in many government establishments at the States and Local Governments in Nigeria but because of financial constraint, it was restricted to Federal Civil Service Commission, Abuja and Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja. Yet finance still hindered the researcher from gathering the much-needed information for the study.

There were some constraints experienced during the collection of data for this work. Some of the respondents working in the above-mentioned areas of investigation refused to give out certain information due to fear of litigation. Few other respondents were not able to respond to the questionnaire administered.

Notwithstanding the above noted constraints, the researcher made tremendous efforts in gathering valuable information/data from the Federal Civil Service Commission and the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja.