state administration organization

public administration

Public Administration is a wide and complex reality.
Public Administration in Portugal is, traditionally, regarded from an organic and material perspective. From the organic perspective, public administration is the system of bodies, services, employees and of other public entities that, on a regular and continuous basis, meet public needs. From the material perspective, public administration is the work carried out by these bodies, services, employees and entities.

Taking into consideration the organic sense, it is possible to differentiate three main entity groups in Public Administration:

  • Direct State Administration
  • Indirect State Administration
  • Autonomous Administration

The relationship that these major groups establish with the Government, as the supreme organ of Public Administration in accordance with the Portuguese Constitution, differs and is increasingly feeble. Direct State Administration entities are subordinate to the Government (hierarchical power), Indirect State Administration entities are subject to State supervision and control (guidance, auditing and control powers) and Autonomous Administration entities are subject only to control (auditing and control powers).

Direct State Administration includes all the bodies, services and employees that are part of the legal entity "State", which directly and immediately and under the hierarchical responsibility of the Government conduct an activity that meets public needs.

However, not all Direct State Administration services have the same territorial competency, so that they fall upon one of the following categories:

  • Central services
  • Peripheral services

Central services have competency at national level, such as the General Directorates organized in Ministries, while Peripheral services have limited territorial competency, that is the case of Regional Directorates (for example, Education and Agriculture).

The second group - Indirect State Administration - includes public entities, separated from the legal entity "State", with legal personality and administrative and financial autonomy, set to develop an administrative activity that pursues State specific goals.
Indirect State Administration covers three types of entity:

  • Legal bodies of an institutional nature
  • Legal bodies under public law
  • Public enterprises

Legal bodies of an institutional nature - are endowed with legal personality set up by public power to pursue specific State functions, with independence with regard to the legal entity "State". Examples of this bodies are: Public Institutes, Public Universities with the exception of those deemed as private law foundations and Public Hospitals not converted into public corporate entities;

Legal bodies under public law, set up by public power act with patrimonial nature (ex: Security Forces Social Services);

Public enterprises - are profit making, business-based public bodies that provide goods or deliver services of public interest, in which the State or other public State entities hold all the capital (ex: North Lisbon Hospital Centre and Oporto Hospital Centre).

Autonomous Administration – Public Administration third main group - is composed of entities that pursue the interests of their members and that autonomously and independently define their orientation and activity. These entities fall upon three categories:

  • Regional Administration (autonomous)
  • Local Administration (autonomous)
  • Public Associations

These bodies have a territorial nature, in the case of Regional Administration (autonomous) and Local Administration (autonomous), and an associative nature, in the case of Public Associations.

Regional Administration (autonomous) follows the same organizational form as Direct State Administration and Indirect State Administration. For this reason, in Regional Administration (autonomous) direct Administration (with central and peripheral services) is distinguishable from Indirect Administration (with legal bodies of an institutional nature, legal bodies under public law and public enterprises).

Territorial and material jurisdiction distinguishes direct and indirect State Administration from Regional Administration (autonomous).

State administration competency covers all matters and is conducted throughout the country, while the bodies, employees and services involved in regional administration (autonomous) have their competency limited to matters of interest to the respective communities that are not constitutionally and statutorily limited to State Administration (for example, national defense and foreign relations) and exercise their competence exclusively over only the region, and within the limits of regional autonomy, as defined in the Constitution of the Republic and in the respective political and administrative statutes.

Local Administration (autonomous)
follows the same model: direct (central and peripheral) and indirect administration services (public enterprises). Local Administration includes the local authorities (legal bodies that are locally based endowed with specific representative bodies that target the specific interests of the respective communities). The competencies of the bodies and services of Local Administration are also restricted to the territory of the local authority and to issues laid down by law.

Lastly, the Public Associations (for example, professional Associations/Bars) are legal persons in the form of associations, created by public authority to ensure the pursuit of the non-profit making interests of a group of individuals organized to pursue such interests.