Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit: Union Government and Administration: Attached offices

Sample Material of Public Administration Study Kit (Paper - II)

Union Government and Administration: Attached offices


The manual of office procedure defines these offices as where the execution of the policy of the Government requires decentralisation of executive direction and the establishment of field agencies, a Ministry has under it subsidiary offices which are called attached and subordinate offices. Attached offices are responsible for providing executive direction required in the implementation of the policies laid down by the ministry to which they are attached. They also serve as repository of technical information and advice to the ministry on technical aspects of questions dealt with by them. The subordinate offices function as field establishment or the agencies responsible for the detailed execution of the decisions of Government. They generally function under the direction of an attached office, or in cases where the volume of executive direction involved, is not considerable, directly under the ministry.

Organisation of Attached Offices

The organisation of these offices differs from that of ministries and departments, usually the head of such an office is a technical officer called Registrar, Director General or Chief Engineer, etc. Below him there are a few technical or nontechnical officers who help him in his duties. The proportion of technical and non-technical Secretariat Officers differ from office to office. There is, no common pattern of organisation of attached offices. The status of heads of these offices is also not same. Some of them are headed by an Additional Secretary or Joint Secretary while some others are headed by a Deputy Secretary or Director.

The staff of these offices come from the General Secretariat Service upto the rank of Section Officers.


The attached office have dual function. They provide technical information for the policy formulation as well an executive direction for its implementation. They are considered field organisations because they not only issue executive directions to the subordinate offices, but are also responsible for its implementation. They have to coordinate the activities of the subordinate offices and keep the Secretariat informed about the various problems faced in the implementation of the policies. The attached offices, thus, could be considered as the headquarters of the field organisation rather than an extension of the Secretariat.

Relationship between the Attached and Subordinate Offices

The Manual of Office Procedure does attempt to demarcate the spheres of activity of the two categories of offices. According to it, the attached offices “are responsible for providing executive direction required in the implementation of the policies laid down by the Ministry to which they are attached.” In other words, such an office plays dual role, that of directing the subordinate offices below and submitting proposals to the secretariat
above. On the other hand, a subordinate office is a mere field agency “responsible for the detailed execution of the decisions of the Government.” Such a role is by no means unimportant. In fact, being at “the delivering of goods end,” its role can be very crucial. In actual practice, however, we find no such clear-cut distinction of functions as between the two categories of offices. At best such distinction is blurred. Even the Manual recognises that though the subordinate offices generally function under the direction of the attached offices, in some cases they may function directly under the ministry. This makes confusion worse confounded. As early as 1945-46, Tottenham exclaimed in exasperation, “No one has ever been able to arrive at a really satisfactory definition of an Attached Office.” The only justification for such a distinction seems to be to justify lower scales of pay for the ministerial staff in subordinate than in attached offices. Tottenham, therefore, recommended the abolition of distinction between the two categories of offices. The First Pay Commission, 1950 also found such distinction “artificial” and recommended its abolition. It recommended the regrouping of offices into three categories: (i) policy-making organization, that is, secretariat proper; (ii) offices of the executive heads and advisory organizations; and (iii) offices subordinate to the above two categories. The Second Pay Commission, 1959 also suggested a functional classification based upon two criteria, namely, that offices which were associated with the shaping of policy by furnishing technical data and advice and by giving executive directions to the field agencies and which were responsible for implementing the policies of the government, should be designated as Attached Offices; while offices mainly responsible for the execution of government policies and programmes, should be called Subordinate offices. The Administrative Reforms Commission examined the problem in the wider context of secretariat and non-secretariat organizations and their relationship and made certain recommendations. However, despite all the above recommendations the older pattern still continues. But, while the attached offices have been able to better the conditions of service of their employees and achieve a higher status almost co-equal to that of the secretariat, the subordinate offices continue to slog in their subordinate status.


The Secretariat formulates policies and operative directions to ensure the implementation of policies while implementation of policies takes place at the field level, hence, the organisation of the field office is of great importance. Generally, the field office is organised on a geographical basis in India and each Ministry of the Government of India has its field offices covering a local area within a State. India is a very vast country, therefore, for each department of the Government of India it is not, possible to deal directly with all field offices. Hence, most of the departments have state level or regional level (including more than one State) offices in an area.

The functions of the Government have become increasingly complex and multifarious. Therefore, in addition to the traditional departmental organisations a number of other forms like company, corporations. etc., have come up to perform the governmental functions. The expansion of the business activities of the government has given birth to two new forms of organisations Government Company and Statutory Corporations. Likewise, many Registered Societies have been established to handle research’ and training activities.

The number of executive agencies or field agencies of the Government may be classified into the following categories:

(i) An attached office, for example, Central Public Works Department, Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and storage etc.
(ii) A subordinate office, e.g., Sardar Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad, Inspector of Explosives, Nagpur, etc.
(iii) Departmental Undertakings, e.g., ordinance factories,
(iv) A Company registered under the Companies Act, e.g., Hindustan Steels Ltd.
(v) A Corporation or Board set up under a Special Statute e.g. Damodar Valley Corporation, Tea Board, Coffe Board, Tobacco Board, etc.
(vi) A Society registered under the Societies Registration Act e.g., Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.

Pattern of Relationship between the Secretariat and the Field Office

In actual working of the Secretariat and the field offices, different kind of relationships between the two agencies have developed in different organisations. Therefore, it would be pertinent here to discuss these emerging patterns.

The first pattern, is a complete merger between the Ministry and the attached offices. The examples are the Railway Board and the Ministry of Railways ; Posts and Telegraphs Board and the Ministry of Communication. This pattern suits to the organizations which are dealing with operation and commercial functions. The problems arising, are of emergent nature, therefore, merger of policy making and executive functions leads to efficiency. Second, the senior officer of the Ministry along with his position in the Ministry. is appointed as Head of the Attached office. In this way he becomes responsible for the formulation and implementation of the policy; with the assistance of common office staff located in the Ministry. Examples are: The Joint Secretary in the Department of Labour and Employment who is also the Director-General of Employment and Training. Similarly, the Additional Secretary in the Department of Food is also the Director General of Food.

The merit of the system is that it eliminates the distance between the Secretariat and the attached office. The demerit is that it blurs, the distinction between the Secretariat and the head of the executive department. Therefore, it is not suitable for general application.

Third, the Ministry and the executive department have separate offices but common files and a single file bureau or records cell. located in the organisation of the executive department. The attached office submits proposals on its own files and refers the Ministry along with the papers complete in all respects. After the proposal is disposed off by the Ministry, the file is returned to the executive head. The single file system has been adopted by many ministries and attached offices. The example is the Ministry of Defence and the Air-Force Headquarters. The advantages of this system is that it avoids duplication of files, saves lot of time and decisions are taken quickly. Fourth, in this pattern, the Ministry and the executive department both have a common office, common files and a common file bureau, under the control of the executive department. The common office serves the Secretariat and attached office and the clerical staff puts up papers for both the sets of officers. At the secretariat level all noting is done by the officers of and above the rank of under Secretary. Such a system was in
operation in the Directorate-General of Posts and Telegraphs before the formation of the Posts and Telegraph Board.

This pattern was recommended by the Second Pay Commission and Estimates Committee of the Lok Sabha. The advantage is that in this system a proposal is examined only once which results in quick disposal of business and saves lot of money.

Fifth, in this pattern the Ministry and the executive department (attach office) have separate offices and separate files but the head of the attach office is given an ex-officio Secretariat status. The example is that of textile Commissioner who is ex-officio Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Textiles. The merits of the system are, that the head of the attached office brought in closer contact with the Ministry’s office. gets more closely involved in policy making and gets certain powers to take decisions on some matters. The system saves lot of time and makes field experience available to the Secretariat in a greater measure to enable it to take decisions. The demerit of the system is that it violates the principle of separation of policy making and implementation on which the Secretariat is based.

Sixth, in this pattern both the Ministry and the executive department have distinct and separate offices and files of their own. Consultation between them takes place through self-contained communications. The pattern is based on the difference between staff and line. The Ministry is staff and the attached office is line. The examples are the office of the Chief Engineer. Central Public Works Department in relation to the Ministry of Works and Housing. and the Director-General of All India Radio in relation to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The merits of the system are claimed as it scrutinizes the proposals in wider perspective, controls the enthusiastic specialist by scrutinizing his proposals and provides for the division of work between the Secretariat and the attached office. On the other hand the demerits of the scheme are that it involves duplication of work being processed in two offices, proposals of the head of the department are examined by the clerical staff level in the Ministry and the Secretary’s views are hardly detached and objective but full of political considerations.

The above patterns of organisation represent the attempts at bridging the gulf between Secretariat and non-Secretariat organisations through devices such as giving of ex-officio Secretariat status to the heads of the executive agencies; introduction of the single file system, placement of executive agencies, etc. Recently, some other measures were also taken to remove the deficiencies in the system. Important among them are, giving them greater autonomy by liberal delegation of authority from the Secretariat to them. Frequent consultation can solve lot of problems, therefore, proposals should be formulated after consultation with each other and the most radical suggestion is the abolition of distinction between the Secretariat and non- Secretariat organisations. The Study Team of the Administrative Reforms Commission on the Machinery of the Government of India, recommended in February 1968, the abolition of distinction between the two.

The ARC in its report (September 1968), however, opposed to the general abolition of the distinction between the Secretariat and its executive agencies, even though the Commission was emphatically of the opinion “that there should be no duplication of functions between its Secretariat organisation and the executive agencies of a Ministry or Department.” The Commission analysed the work of attached and subordinate offices and found that broadly speaking it could be divided into the following six categories.


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