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Essay: Merit system in Public Administration

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The objective of this article is to perform an analysis of the merit system addressing the perspective of management, which forces us to question ourselves on how to make the human resources system work in the specific framework of the multiple and heterogeneous organizations that make up our public administrations. The analysis of this paper will be divided into four major parts. In the first part, new will talk about the background and the system of public administration. The second part will discuss the merit-based system. The third part, we will talk about the main characteristics of the system of public employment will be identified, and for this we will go into the study of current reality, taking into account the impenetrable historical perspective, to ask ourselves about what differences should be considered as authentic singularities and which are mere privileges or unjustified limitations. And in the fourth part, we go into the study the causes that justify the renewal or refunding of the current merit system, which could materialize in the future a statute in the public administration.

Public Administration

What is Public Administration? Public Administration is a system that is made up of institutions of the public sector, whose purpose is to serve society, as well as being in charge of the direct and permanent management of the State’s relations with individuals. In a more solid matter, public administration is the administrative system of a country, a state, or a city that exists primarily for two things: First, to provide public services to the community to whom it is owed. Second, to exercise public controls on people and property within their domain. The administrative development of the Government makes it a more agile, more efficient, more transparent and less expensive organization. Thus, a modern Public Administration generates certainty, promotes competitiveness and leads to the economic and social development of any country. It can be pointed out that the Public Administration is a system that seeks to be in direct contact with citizens to satisfy public order interests and guarantee coexistence in society. It is appropriate to indicate that the general welfare advocated by the State lies in the tranquility of providing basic needs to the population, through quality works and services, a fair regulatory system and the full and balanced development of the country. It should also be pointed out that the concept of Public Administration should not be confused with a public function since the latter should be understood as a performance of functions in public entities of the State, in which the Public Administration is exercised. In addition to the acknowledgment of the Public Administration’s obligation to provide an efficient service and which has also manifested itself in the consecration of the right of all citizens to quality in public management, in recent years the right to privacy has been recognized all people to have a good administration. To be more concise, good administration is a right of citizens, nothing less than a fundamental right, and also, a principle of administrative action. Citizens have the right to demand certain standards or standards in the operation of the Administration. And the Administration is obliged, in every democracy, to distinguish itself in its daily performance by its objective service to the general interest.

Good Public Administration depends not only on the State but on the adequate preparation of the people who exercise it in public bodies. They must have an open mind, work on the basis of reality and understand social problems from equilibrium perspectives, being able to develop their work from a plurality of approaches, for the benefit of the community. It is necessary to point out that this right responds to the citizenship-administration relationship, in light of the constitutional principles. However, a close approximation and implicit recognition of the right to a good administration could derive from a law or appendix that establishes that the aims of the public function are aimed at obtaining higher levels of efficiency of the state apparatus so that it can achieve a better attention to citizenship. In this way, it could be appreciated, therefore, that the State would seek to profile the public function towards good administration so that in this way it provides a better service to citizens. Undoubtedly a good administration begins, is carried out and culminates by those who exercise a public function, from there is born a series of principles to guarantee this right, which can be observed from the legal content of some of the said principles such as: respect, probity, efficiency, suitability, loyalty, and obedience. In the case of respect, respect adapts its conduct towards the respect of laws and policies guaranteeing that at all stages of the decision-making process or compliance with administrative procedures the rights to defense and due process are respected. In the case of probity, probity, acts with rectitude, integrity, and honesty, trying to satisfy the general interest and discarding any personal gain or advantage, obtained by himself or by an interposing person. In the case of efficiency, efficiency, provides quality in each of the functions under its roll, seeking to obtain a solid and permanent training. In the case of suitability, suitability is understood as technical, legal and moral aptitude, as an essential condition for access and exercise of the public function. The public servant must tend to a solid formation according to reality, training himself permanently for the proper fulfillment of his functions. Lastly, in the case of loyalty and obedience, these two act with fidelity and solidarity towards all the members of your institution, complying with the orders given by the competent superior, to the extent that they meet the formalities of the case and aim to perform acts of service that are linked to the functions to his position, except in cases of manifest arbitrariness or illegality, which he must inform the hierarchical superior of his institution.

III. Merit System

What is the merit system? According to Phelps & Lehman (2005), the merit system is a system that “uses educational and occupational qualifications, testing, and hob performance as criteria for selecting, hiring, and promoting civil servants” (Phelps & Lehman, 2005). The public administration system in order to comply with the purposes and functions regulated in federal, state and municipal laws, has to have in its internal organization human elements that develop administrative and technical activities. These human elements are called “public servants” or “public official,” the primary activities and goals of these “public servants” and “public officials” are to fulfill detailed tasks in order to protect the public interest and the common good. Also, the duties of “public servants” and “public officials” are directed to promote the development of public works, improve public services, and ensure the material welfare of the community contributing to the promotion and protection of local, state, federal, and national interests. The public administration according to several experts is considered the scientific activity, technical, juridical, and one of the means that the state uses to obtain that the services are attended in the best way, with the highest degree of efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and quality of their acts, for the development of the country.

To talk about the merit system in the public administration, it is obviously necessary to consider that the public administrator must be at the service of the administrator in a concrete relationship from person to person, and their work must be useful to the community. This is the basic norm, the fundamental criterion for evaluating and judging their behavior. The public servant is the bridge that communicates attitudes and solutions of government with needs and social demands. It is also the way in which consensus is built, extended and consolidated when the results of government action are positive. However, through it and when governments do not achieve the desired and expected results, the general consensus is lost or diminished. For this reason, we must consider that the interests of the community are in charge of their best men and that their government is efficient and sufficient, is a permanent and universal aspiration of the people. Such an obvious need that the personal merit of the officials, particularly of the high commanders, is considered as important or of greater significance than the very structure of the administrative mechanisms arranged to facilitate the management of such interests. As the universal experience shows, a country can be led to ruin, material and even moral prostration in few designs due to the inefficiency of the conduct of public business, of interventionism exaggerated or costly, and unnecessary and useless growth of the state bureaucracy.

The reasons for this inefficiency differ depending on the country concerned but there are two causes that we believe should be highlighted here as the main reason for the mistakes in the management and preservation of government interests. The first refers to the rulers who often forget that to administer a country is to apply the Constitution, put it into action, recognize the existence and value of its ideals, its doctrine and the basic assumptions previously agreed upon that must be made. It seeks to reinforce behaviors that favor attitudes, commitments, efforts, and achievements of our people. Give back according to what people deserve because of their work. Distributive justice is based on responsibility, meritocracy, and necessity.

The second is directly related to the quality, professional merit, and motivation of the administrators who must take care of said preservation and management. In that sense, the mission of governments in contemporary society is of vital and growing importance. They carry out tasks related to the improvement, conservation, and development of public life and tend, by commitment, to guarantee the objective commissions that allow society to develop as a vigorous and enterprising body. In this situation we will point out that governments need to modernize their management processes, taking as a point of reference citizen reactions, democratizing the public administration, guiding it to be equitable and effective and nurturing it from the advantages of organizational change, are requirements for a new service public. The merit system should be established in order to retain the “best employees”, which requires linking the rewards to performance, attitude, commitment, and effort. It also requires knowing the balance between economic resources and ambitions, which should seek to convert an expense into an investment. That is to say, to allocate our scarce resources to where we obtain the most profitability in the short and medium term.

Moreover, a competent public service is concerned with guaranteeing fundamental pillars of social life: such as governance, institutional stability, and citizen participation. The concept of merit has had two predominant emphases, one of social equity and the other of administrative purity. In the mid-twentieth century, the concept was institutionalized as a central principle of public administration in several countries that sought the solution to the problems of inequality and privileges within their government structures. Merit can be defined as a philosophy of administration framed in the capacities of people who enter or aspire to enter the public service, whose application seeks to discourage the use of criteria not related to the professional performance of public employees or job applicants.

But for this system of merit to operate, it is necessary that we briefly address the issue of neutral bureaucracy, why? First because the bureaucracy must be neutral in political matters, understanding in this respect by political party leadership, not in the form and action of the government according to the precepts of the science of administration and for this it is necessary to act with the sense of “suitability” “, Which is considered as the professional attitude required of a person to perform their work within the public administration but invested with duties as important as secrecy, and fidelity in terms of the activity developed by the official to influence the success of state policy.

In such a way that one of the most important aspects of merit is the guarantee offered to the public employee and the population that the employee in a merit system and in a neutral public administration can only be removed from the performance of their work when it is demonstrated that has failed to the aforementioned principles or a clear violation of any of the laws or regulations that govern the public service within the public administration. Hence, the merit system understood as the public career, is the means by which a system immersed in the dynamics and activity of the public administration is used to ensure continuity and purity in the functioning of administrative institutions. This we believe is achieved in large part when the public servant career is granted a security of employment or permanence in his position, so that changes and political winds that affect the departure of the rulers, in turn, do not alter their contractual relationship with the government; that is, one of the premises is that the merit system must seek an orientation towards serving citizenship, serving the people and not the political parties.

IV. Importance of the Merit System

Why is it important to improve the public administration system through systems like the merit system? By improving the management of public administration, we seek to: increase the effectiveness of the institutions, which implies improving their performance through the development, improve the processes and structures that give orientation to life; minimize the costs of operation and administration of the dependencies and the units through the standardization of processes, the elimination of unnecessary procedures, and regulatory deregulation; and to maximize the quality of goods and services provided by the Government by facilitating the timely delivery of them. The experts promote a transformation in Public Administration, with the aim of having institutions oriented towards achieving results, with honesty, transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness. This transformation implies a regulatory reform, in all the norms, processes, procedures and requirements of all the services that are provided to the citizens. Also the improvement of electronic systems with the implementation of an interoperability model, which for the first time allows integrating the information on public sector systems. Additionally, frontal and preventive actions are undertaken to abate corruption and greater weight is given to transparency and accountability.

The merit system promotes a transformation in public administration, with the aim of having institutions oriented towards achieving results, with honesty, transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness. This transformation implies a regulatory reform, in all the norms, processes, procedures and requirements of all the services that are provided to the citizens. Also the improvement of electronic systems with the implementation of an interoperability model, which for the first time allows integrating the information on public sector systems. Additionally, frontal and preventive actions are undertaken to abate corruption and greater weight is given to transparency and accountability. In this development process, the public servant is the center of change. However, by redesigning the processes and structures, the greatest transformation in the Government must be those of us who work in it. Thus, the human resources of the Federal Public Administration must improve their performance by balancing innovation, control and the integration of performance measurement systems.

The existence of this professional career system benefits both public servants and citizens. The former benefit from transparency and generate equal opportunities in the processes of income, promotion, and development; generate legal certainty in performance and promote competition by merit. The latter are benefited by having professional, honest and more efficient public servants in the provision of services. The merit system brings a sense of professionalization to public administrations which is important for several reasons: first, because the better prepared public servants are, the better the quality of goods and services that governments can provide to citizens; second, because the management of public resources will be more efficient if their administrators are well trained, and third, because it improves the image of government institutions before the public.

To use the merit system to see the level of professionalism means to improve the selection processes to attract the most qualified candidates in the labor market. It creates mechanisms for public servants to have the knowledge and skills required to perform their functions; assess periodically that public servants comply with the goals set and if they do so in the most effective and efficient way possible, but above all, if their actions contribute to improving the living conditions of the population.

The main natural persons who give life to the State are precisely those go through the system and get to work within it. Good Public Administration also depends on the quality of its public servants, their capacities to perform their functions, as well as their probity. Thus, good administration is one that satisfies the needs and interests of citizens, through a professionalized and meritocratic civil service that makes it possible. Serving the State and being a collaborator of it implies great responsibility due to the important and delicate missions that must be fulfilled for its proper functioning. Among the fundamental parts that make up every State is the Judicial Function. As a fundamental part of the State, it also needs natural persons to promote its proper development. At present, the doctrine considers that when the public administration exercises administrative function, it must do so through the legal forms that are allowed to it. These forms are regulations, administrative acts, administrative contracts, acts of the administration and, finally, administrative facts.

V. Human Resources and Principles

The systems are the sets of principles, rules, procedures, techniques, and instruments through which the activities of the public administration are organized, which must be carried out by all or several entities of the state powers, federal, state, and municipal bodies and other levels of government. There is two type of system that human resources can take. The first system is the functional systems and the second system is the administrative systems. In the case of the administrative system, the purpose and goal of this system are to regulate the use of resources in Public Administration entities, promoting efficiency and effectiveness in their use. In the public sector, the administrative system of human resources management is made up of subsystems, that is to say, by a set of interrelated processes that are part of this System. The subsystem is located in the first level of disaggregation of the system. Thus, the functions are organized and translated into processes and products of the subsystems of the administrative system of human resources management that is regulated. In effect, functions are structured through a process that is a set of related and coordinated tasks required to achieve a result, which follows a logical sequence within the process and is related to each other. Likewise, they transform input elements into goods and or services for internal or external clients of the entity. This process has the effect or consequence of a product, which constitutes the intermediate or final results of a specific process. The process is located in the second level of disaggregation of the System; such a process is part of a specific subsystem and it is decomposed in turn into one or more activities.

The challenges that the State has decided to face and that, consequently, the entities through their Human Resources Offices must manage can be summarized in six points. The first point is to generate a change in the approach or culture of human resource management in the State, moving from a purely administrative role to one that is based on the development of the server. The second point is to promote within their organizations a culture of orientation to the citizen, as well as the principles of ethics and integrity in the public sector. The third point is to become key strategic partners within the entities for the achievement of institutional objectives. The fourth point is to plan strategically and in an integrated and articulated human resources functions with the functions of all other areas of the entity. The fifth strategy is to strengthen their technical capacities, with a view to developing and applying the methodological tools that each subsystem of human resources poses. Lastly, to promote the professionalization of the public sector.

The functions of the Human Resources Offices of the entities of the Public Administration are the following. The first function of a human resource office is to execute and implement the provisions, guidelines, instruments or management tools established by the entity. The second of the function of a human resource office is to formulate guidelines and policies for the development of the personnel management plan and the optimal functioning of the human resources management system, including the application of management indicators. The third function of a human resource office is to supervise, develop and apply continuous improvement initiatives in the processes that make up the human resources management system. The fourth function of a human resource office is to conduct the study and qualitative and quantitative analysis of the provision of personnel at the service of the entity according to institutional needs.

The fifth function of a human resource office is to manage job profiles. The sixth function of a human resource office is to administer and keep updated within the scope of its competence the National Registry of Personnel of the Civil Service and the National Registry of Sanctions of Dismissal and Dismissal that integrates it. Lastly, a human resource office deals with other functions that are established in the regulations and the provisions of the governing body of the system.

Merit System Principles

Every State agency, non-profit and private agency should keep in mind the principles of the merit system. These principles allow these agencies to have fair and open merit system. According to Title 5, United States Code, Section 2301(b), the first principle is to “recruit a diversity of applicants. Hold fair open competition. Select the best-qualified applicants” (). The second principle according to Tittle 5 is to “Treat employees and applicants fairly and equitably, and with respect for their privacy and constitutional rights” (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009). The third principle according to Tittle 5 is to “pay employees fairly. Recognize and reward performance” (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009). The fourth principle according to Tittle 5 is to “hold employees to high standards. Put the public interest first” (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009). The fifth principle according to Tittle 5 is to “use the workforce efficiently and effectively” (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009). The sixth principle according to Tittle 5 is to “retain employees based on performance. Effectively address poor performance” (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009). The seventh principle according to Tittle 5 is to “provide employees with training and development” (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009). The eight principle according to Tittle 5 is to “protect employees against arbitrary action, favoritism, and political coercion”. Lastly, the last principle according to Tittle 5 is to “Protect employees against reprisal for whistleblowing or exercising a right” (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2009).

The previously mentioned principles are essential for every human resource department due to the fact that those principles are the basis for enforcing and implementing the merit system. These principles are responsible to give a direction and orientate HR staff members on how to hire and be fair, on how to proceed once a person is hired, on how to raise the salary of that person. These principles can be compared to the highest standards and ethics an HR department should have for a company.


We can conclude by stating that the merit system in Public Administration is very important and a key factor. As Albert H. Aronson states in Merit System Objective and Relatives “To do this, it must not only select persons of capacity and relate their tenure to performance, but it must recognize the individual’s desire to use his highest skill, to develop his potentialities, and to gain recognition for his contribution to the organization” (Aronson, 1950). The recognition of the right to good Public Administration is of great importance since it is imperative to observe whether its action is aimed at both the real service of the population and the objective service of the general interest. Understanding that the general interest is concrete and that, ultimately, is aimed at improving the living conditions of people in a certain society. The recognition of the right to good Public Administration is of great importance since it is imperative to observe whether its action is aimed at both the real service of the population and the objective service of the general interest. Understanding that the general interest is concrete and that, ultimately, is aimed at improving the living conditions of people in a certain society.


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