Many people seem to be unclear of the difference between elected political leaders and the public service. I quote below an excerpt from Dynamic Governance to illustrate the distinction.
The main actors (1) in government are the political leadership and the public sector. Both groups are needed for effective policy-making and execution. In a democratic society, political leaders are elected and ultimately accountable to the citizens. The citizens entrust political leaders with the right to make public policy decisions and to exercise the power to implement them in order to achieve desired national goals. If they do not deliver economic and social outcomes that improve the lives of their people, they may lose the legitimacy to govern and may lose the right to do so in the next elections. The political leadership sets the national agenda, is ultimately responsible for the policy choices they select and accountable for the substance and impact of the policies. The political leadership sets the policy direction, tone and environment for the public sector.
The public sector runs the public institutions that are necessary to implement policy, provide service, ensure security, and enable human interactions and exchange. Public sector institutions such as the civil service are governance organisations created through legislation to make and implement public policies to achieve national goals. Officials in the public sector are not elected through the political process but are appointed under employment contracts similar to those of large private sector organizations. Public sector officials are expected to be politically neutral and be able to work with whichever political party is elected by the people. But they have to be politically sensitive to the social issues so that they can work synergistically with the political leadership in making and implementing public policies and programs.
– Neo, Boon Siong; Chen, Geraldine. (2007) Dynamic Governance: Embedding Culture, Capabilities and Change in Singapore. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing. pp. 55-56.
(1) “Actor” in this context refers to a person who does something.