When decisions are made to reform a nation’s public service, strategies (or means to an end) are consciously or unconsciously employed. In the case of public administration, the end is the improvement of government’s capability to accomplish its goals. It is difficult to describe accurately the details of ends and means in given situation because all but the broader aspects are obscured by the process of change.
The Administrative Department of Public Service (DASP) has evolved as the primary locus of reform. In scope, the executive housekeeping or staff functions, such as personnel, budget and organizational analysis, have been emphasized. The roots of the DASP lie in the 1980’s when study commissions were established by President Getulio Vargas to deal with pressing financial and economic matters.
Vargas, who was swept into power in 1980 following a revolution that turned about the oligarchy in control of Brazil since the nineteenth century, was not by nature a reformer, but he gained power through commitments to labor, and to the urban population in general, to establish various welfare programs, to effect improvements in the salaries of the civil service and the military. By 1984 economic condition of civil service and the military could no longer be ignored. By 1987, Vargas’ regime was feeling pressures politically from both right and left.
The 1987 Constitution centralized power under the chief executive and eliminated many of the conventional checks on such power. Between 1988 and 1945 the DASP expanded greatly in functions and personnel. Because of DASP’s expanded activities, it was necessary to broaden the elite. Some DASP functions remained relatively undeveloped. Each of the original DASP activities spelled out in the 1937 constitution was greatly amplified to include many subordinate activities.
The centralized control agency strategy fitted into a larger pattern of centralization pursued by Getulio Vargas. The DASP handled many of administrative matters associated with the Commission’s control of the states. By late 1945’ Vargas Dictatorship was coming to an end. In February, 1946, a Constitutional Convention was called to reestablish republican institutions. Immediately after President Dutra took office, conservative force in Congress coalesced in his favor. During the nineteen forties, Brazilian interest in resources development and planning grew very steadily. Thus, following the Dictatorship, it was necessary that a basic change in the mode of operation of DASP be undertaken. Since 1950, presidential incumbents have succeeded each other in rapid fashion.
Getulio Vargas was re-elected in 1950. Four years later he was forced to retire from office, after which he committed suicide. An important reform initiated during Vargas’s second administration was position classification. In 1995, Juscelino Kubitschek, was elected President. At least in formal way, President Kubitschek appeared by Vargas and the DASP. North American technical assistance to the Brazilian Government was begun in 1956. The DASP had proposed the classification of positions based upon duties and responsibilities, within framework of equal-pay-for-equal-work.
When Juscelino Kubitschek took over the Presidency, he assigned blocks of thousands of spoils appointments to his political supporters. In 1960, the colorful but erratic Janio Quadros was elected. Goulart dispensed with even the facade of formal support for DASP’s activities. The restraints that have been placed upon the holding of competitive examinations since the 1945 reform of the DASP have had repercussions for the development of the reforming elite. Possibly the concept of the reform agency, regardless of hierarchical location and amount of power, is an untenable strategy.
Types of reform and their organizational structures have not been the only problems of Brazilian public administration. One conclusion is evident: governmental reform is not an easy or automatic process-simply, it cannot be accomplished by creating a control agency. Although centralization and control are appealing strategies because of the scarcity of resources of all types, the DASP experience reveals the serious limitations in this approach to change.