Machinery of Government

Literature Review

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Literature Review

Machinery of Government

            Machinery of government encompasses how resources, responsibilities, and functions are allocated across different ministries and departments in a government. It reflects the priorities of the government and the strategy in place to achieve these priorities. To add on, changes can be recommended or implemented to facilitate new policies or government directions. Naidoo (2019, p. 578) points out that the machinery of government is instrumental in highlighting a state’s organizational apparatus in terms of its efficiency in influencing policy commitments. To this extent, the process mainly relies on politics of change and political leadership in addition to structural logics. Aspects of machinery of government comprise of political and policy content. In this context, ministries are designed to create opportunities for highlighting challenges in policies and determine priorities that may influence the development of new organizational arrangements. Resource allocation can be prioritized to important initiatives and potential obstacles are eliminated accordingly.

            Machinery of government is based on a particular set of features that operate to ensure the establishment’s overall success. The first feature is clear objectives. According to Sundakov (1997, p. 279), the most important element in the machinery of government processes is that the objectives are clearly outlined and specified. Government officials and institutions should comprehend their responsibilities and the ultimate goal to achieve. The responsible officials also have the competence and the freedom to achieve the set goal within their power. The system also encourages accountability whereby government officials have incentives and sanctions to facilitate the accomplishment of set targets and objectives. Sundakov (1997, p. 281) adds that performance assessment should be incorporated to promote accountability and to improve the quality of outcomes. Finally, the machinery of government should have adequate flow of information regarding shared objectives, daily operations, and performance evaluation across all platforms.

Changes in Machinery of Government

            As governments evolve to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the public, their machinery is also bound to change. Davis et al., (1999, p. 34) note that changes in machinery of government are crucial as they shed light on important questions regarding government structure and its operations. In other occasions, these changes can be substitutes for policy change. However, this substitution could generate a distinction between different reorganizations in the government setting based on addressing internal ministerial or departmental issues, responding to poor policy, or a combination of both. Machinery of government change is only successful if the source of the underlying problem is understood and determined. However, it is important to note that reorganization typically does not occur in a coherent process but rather, it takes place in isolation. This presents a significant problem because it does not guarantee the achievement of the set objectives by implementing machinery change.

Cases of Non-Cyber Machinery of Government

South Africa

            The South African machinery of government experienced its most significant change after the country gained its independence in 1994. The four main factors that facilitated reorganization included surrogacy for policy change, private sector values, responding to the public’s need for change, and reinforcing new political actors’ agenda (Naidoo, 2019, p. 584). Naidoo (2019, p. 587) provides a breakdown of the three main periods of change which are primarily characterized by a change in presidency (from Nelson Mandela to Thabo Mbeki to Jacob Zuma). Under President Nelson Mandela, the country experienced relative fluctuation along with a significant increase in the ministerial departments between 1994 and 2000. This change was also associated with the country’s transition and was characterized by major departmental restructuring within the first two years. The government focused on creating new departments while altering and disbanding some of the existent ones (Naidoo, 2019, p. 590). During this era, organizational change was primarily motivated by the pressure from the public for immediate change and from inter-party power sharing especially after the country just gained its independence.

            The second period was under President Thabo Mbeki, and was characterized by the stabilization and consolidation of ministerial department numbers. The main goal was to streamline and fine-tune the existing departments (Naidoo, 2019, p. 592). Mbeki’s reorganization approach could be characterized as surrogacy for policy change, whereby he centralized and tightened the policymaking process while expanding the political control of the Office of the President. As his term came to an end, there was some dissatisfaction dramatically attributed to political tactics, the need for continuity, the need to stabilize the policy agenda, and structural inertia (Naidoo, 2019, p. 593). Ultimately, his approach bore limited results since his design catered for specific individuals rather than the interests of ministerial departments and little attention was paid to the inter-connectedness of the work and the overall workload associated with the structural design of Mbeki’s approach.

            The third period occurred under President Jacob Zuma’s leadership, which began with the immediate expansion of the scope and size of ministerial departments with the goal of diversifying national bureaucracy. Machinery reorganization in this era was mainly influenced by the need to satisfy the agenda of the new political actors (Naidoo, 2019, p. 593). Based on this analysis, it is evident that South Africa’s machinery of government is both functionally splintered and overstretched (Naidoo, 2019, p. 594). In its current state, the machinery is still undergoing new changes aimed at streamlining public fund allocation and to improve stability.

United Kingdom

            Similar to South Africa, the United Kingdom has experienced significant machinery change since 1945 albeit on a smaller scale. The study by Davis et al. (1999, p. 39) highlights that the state experienced change to a medium degree up to 1964, followed by a rapid increase up to 1974, which then fell to a low degree after that. The United Kingdom experienced its most important change in 1970 when the Prime Minister facilitated significant change in government agencies as an approach towards restructuring the government. Beyond this, most of the changes were simple reorganizations focused on addressing emerging problems, reallocating functions, or restructuring portfolio responsibilities (Davis et al., 1999, p. 41). A major factor influencing these reorganizations was the conflict between consolidation and specialization characterized by choosing broad departments that offered few advantages and narrow-based departments. Unlike South Africa, changes in the United Kingdom machinery occurred progressively whereby leaders focused on adding or reducing departments minimally. The ultimate goal was to maintain some form of consistency with incremental adjustment that encompassed considered minor changes to ensure that the machinery aligned with the policy priorities and activities of the government.

UAE Machinery of Government

It is essential to understand that the executive branch of the United Arabs Emirates is not as limited many may perceive. According to Yates (2021, p. 119) the general notion that the executive arm comprises entirely of the Cabinet is only convincing for low policy places. Yates further asserts that the term Cabinet is utilized instead of the constitutionally mandated term, Council of Ministers, as the word “Cabinet” is now commonly used across the UAE. The paper by Yates informs that the GCC country has a bifurcated executive branch, which comprises of the Federal Supreme Council, the President, the Vice President, the Federal Supreme Council, the Cabinet, and the judiciary, which serves under the leadership of the Federal Supreme Court (Mawlana, 2020, p. 16). Federal Supreme Council is the highest constitutional authority in the UAE and is made, which is the highest ranking constitutional authority in the country comprises of the Rulers of the all the seven Emirates, and enjoys the ultimate judicial, executive, and legislative powers (Yates, 2021, p. 120). The Council elects the President and Vice President to serve for five years (Yates, 2021, p. 121). Also essential to mention is that the defense and security governance structures formed under the presidency is responsible for making high policies. The structures is supported by arrangements and structures and are formalized under law. A fundamental part of the government machinery is the UAE Armed forces that serves as the UAE President as its Supreme Commander. The President gives all instructions to the Army, especially those aimed at safeguarding the country against potential violations (Ardemagni, 2016, p. 46). The analysis affirms that the government machinery of the UAE is structured around key components that ensure practices happen as effectively as possible.

Cyber Machinery of Government


            Turkey integrates a multifaceted cyberspace governance policy with close security and military connections to the West, in addition to domestic internet policies comparable to the Russia-China axis. National cyber-security and policies related to information and communication technologies are mainly overseen by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, which also has the authority of developing action plans, policies, and strategies (Eldem, 2020). This department is also responsible for safeguarding information databases, communication systems and infrastructures, ensuring information privacy and security, in addition to identifying and mitigating potential infrastructural threats and attacks. 

            Turkey integrates a cyber-security strategy that reinforces the information security and cyberspace in economic and national security prosperity. The ultimate goal is to develop infrastructure aimed at guaranteeing overall system and stakeholder security across the national cyberspace (Eldem, 2020, p. 455). In 2013, the National Cyber Security Strategy prioritized the protection of critical infrastructure including energy, vital public services, finance, and electronic communication by integrating a multistakeholder governance model (Eldem, 2020, p. 458). This strategy focuses on promoting international information sharing and cooperation to solidify domestic cybersecurity legislation while integrating international regulations. On a regional scope, Turkey engages in regional efforts across Europe, an aspect that has further strengthened its cyber machinery (Eldem, 2020, p. 460). However, with this approach, Turkey’s cyberspace policies overlook the importance of freedom and privacy that the internet offers its citizens. One example of this was in how the government used digital technologies to address the Gezi protests and the Gulenist network where it employed second and third-generation information control approaches (Eldem, 2020, p. 461). The result of these measures was increased friction, which ultimately disrupted cyberspace and compromised the achievement of Turkey’s initial cyberspace objective. Turkey’s position in the Euro-Atlantic alliance was also affected due to these measures.


            Australia’s cyberspace policy emerged as a response to the early incidences of hacking across the country and on the global space in 1989. The government incorporated the United States model of cybersecurity which favored a confidential, decentralized, and voluntary strategy which saw to the development of AusCERT (Australian Cyber Emergency Response Team) (Smith & Ingram, 2017, p. 645). The AusCERT system was efficient to some extent, but it bore some challenges. It promoted relationships between cyber securities experts which facilitated the exchange of sensitive information beyond what would have been anticipated by the government (Smith & Ingram, 2017, p. 647). As a result, the government gained from gaining insights on incident response thereby improving international cooperation and domestic security. However, the system lacked support and leadership especially since the government did not embrace its responsibility between 1990 and the early 2000s (Smith & Ingram, 2017, p. 650). There was an increase in cyber threats which the CERT system could not sufficiently address due to underfunding. Another problem currently facing Australia is the absence of a unified response platform that tends to its domestic cybersecurity (Smith & Ingram, 2017, p. 657). Consequently, the state is at risk of failing to address collective action problems existent in cyberspace.

Location of the problem in current literature

            Based on the literature, there is a need for a sustainable cyber machinery system in the government. As evidenced from Turkey and Australia, cyberspace is a delicate aspect and establishing a suitable mechanism would be appropriate to guarantee long-term economic and cyberspace security. Turkey’s system navigates between integrating elements of the West with more inclination to the Russia-China axis, and in the end, it compromised the public’s privacy for national security. Conversely, the Australian government integrates a U.S. model but it has limited involvement in the state’s cybersecurity, with the heavier load falling on non-governmental organizations. The establishment of an effective, practical, and sustainable system, therefore, should navigate through the set parameters accordingly to guarantee national security without infringing on human rights.


Ardemagni, E. (2016). United Arab Emirates’ Armed Forces in the federation-building process: Seeking for ambitious engagement. International Studies Journal, 12(3), 43-62.

Davis, G., Weller, P., Eggins, S., & Craswell, E. (1999). What drives machinery of government change? Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, 1950–1997. Public Administration77(1), 7-50.

Eldem, T. (2020). The governance of Turkey’s Cyberspace: between cyber security and information security. International Journal of Public Administration43(5), 452-465.

Mawlana, A. (2020). Examining the UAE military: Its roots, development, and prospects. Istanbul: Center for Islam and Global Affairs. ISBN 978-605-06675-3-0

Naidoo, V. (2019). Transitional Politics and Machinery of Government Change in South Africa. Journal of Southern African Studies45(3), 575-595.

Smith, F., & Ingram, G. (2017). Organising cyber security in Australia and beyond. Australian Journal of International Affairs71(6), 642-660.

Sundakov, A. (1997). The machinery of government and economic policy in Ukraine. Ukraine: Accelerating the Transition to Market. Eds. Peter K. Cornelius and Patrick Lenain. Washington, DC: IMF, 275-287.

Yates, A. (2021). Challenging the accepted understanding of the executive branch of the UAE’s federal government. Middle Eastern Studies, 57(1), 119-133. doi: 10.1080/00263206.2020.1824908

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