The absence of ‘vertical’ impartiality in public administration

Public administration is an industry that employs half a billion people globally and covid-19 reminded us of its importance. One of the tenets of governance – democratic and perhaps totalitarian – is the impartiality of public administration. With such noun – impartiality – it is meant the capability of public administration to serve executive branches governed by different parties with the same loyalty: a ‘servant to any master’. Impartiality also implies the same capability vis-à-vis the citizens, i.e. the equal treatment and non-discrimination of all citizens. These ‘impartialities’ are ‘horizontal’, because they are addressed at entities that are on the same – horizontal – plane. On the other hand, literature shows that organizations do not behave with ‘vertical’ impartiality: public administration and public employees give themselves precedence vis-à-vis the rest of society. The absence of vertical impartiality has implications for public law.