TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

27-02-2023

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY

 

TRANSPARENCY


What do we mean by transparency?

 

  1. Although there is no universally accepted definition of transparency, there is general agreement that it refers to public access to information and the right to know.
  2. Transparency, in its broadest sense, refers to: how much citizens are entitled to access to information held internally; the information's breadth, precision, and currented; and what citizens can do as "outsiders" if "insiders" do not provide such access sufficiently.
  3. Excessive secrecy can hinder citizens' ability to challenge abuses of public power and lower the quality of public decision-making. Almost every aspect of society and governance can suffer as a result of this.
  4. As a result, transparency in terms of both the dissemination and disclosure of information as well as access to decision-making is crucial because it better enables civil society to:
  • impose accountability on the government and/or key decision-makers;
  • encourage good government;
  • enhance efficiency and public policy;
  • combat dishonesty.

 

Significance of transparency


“The International Human Rights NGO Article 19 has described information as "the oxygen of democracy" while the UNDP Human Development Report 2002 describes informed debate as the "lifeblood of democracies."

 

Democracy, accountability and participation

 

  1. A lack of information or access to it frequently results in feelings of powerlessness, mistrust, and frustration.
  2. The public can only truly participate in the democratic process when they are aware of the government's activities and policies, as well as their entitlements to benefits and services and whether or not they are receiving what is expected of them. 
  3. On the other hand, having access to relevant, up-to-date information can lay the groundwork for a natural exchange, enabling public and official access to decisions made and policies implemented more effectively.
  4. Transparency is an important principle of good governance because it can help to build the capacity of the poor and/or marginalized to participate in the formulation and implementation of policies if there is a degree of clarity and openness about how decisions are made to have an impact on these choices that affect their lives; and to encourage policymakers and decision-makers to use their authority for the greater good.
  5. Enhanced effectiveness and efficiency: Greater transparency may also directly or indirectly benefit the government itself. As a result, transparency is also regarded as an essential component of efficiency and public policy. Countries where information flows freely in both directions leads to:
  6. The efficiency of the government increases: Feedback on the effectiveness of policies in practice is necessary for even the most honest and competent decision-makers;
  7. Resource allocation efficiency can also be improved: Transparency reforms can result in significant net savings of public resources, as well as improved indicators of socioeconomic and human development, by ensuring that the benefits of growth are redistributed rather than seized by the elite.
  8. Information is "possibly the most important weapon against corruption," as stated in Transparency International's Global Corruption Report 2003. In the fight against corruption and its effects, having access to information is crucial because: Citizens, the media, and law enforcement agencies can use official records to uncover instances of corruption and mismanagement with free and guaranteed access to information.
  9. Transparency can reduce corruption in the future by raising the likelihood of corruption being discovered.
  10. The UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2005 formalizes this. The document, which calls on all state parties to ensure public transparency in general, openness in relation to civil servants and funding for electoral candidates, and transparency in public procurement and finances, has been signed by 140 nations and ratified by 95. These measures aim to encourage corruption prevention, detection, and punishment.

 

Initiatives To Enhance Transparency In India


Some of India's most important efforts to increase transparency include Citizens Charters, the Right to Information Act, e-procurement, e-Governance, and the Right to Public Service Legislation.

  1. Charter for Citizens: The organization's commitment to service delivery standards, quality, and timeliness, as well as a grievance redress mechanism, transparency, and accountability, are embodied in a Citizens' Charter. The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions' Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances coordinates the development and implementation of Citizens' Charters as part of its efforts to establish a government that is more receptive to and accommodating to the needs of its constituents.
  2. Right to Information: In India, the Right to Information (RTI) Act is a parliamentary act that sets rules and regulations for how citizens can access information. It took the place of the 2002 Freedom of Information Act. Under the Right to Information Act, any Indian citizen may request information from a "public authority" (a government entity or "state instrumentality"), which must respond promptly or within thirty days. Within 48 hours, the information must be provided if the petitioner's life or liberty is in danger. On June 15, 2005, the Indian Parliament approved the RTI Bill, which became law on October 12, 2005.
  3. E-Procurement: The Central Public Procurement Portal (e-GeM) is a robust and safe platform that gives the Indian government, most states, and local governments across the country complete transparency in public procurement.
  4. E-Governance: is defined as the timely, efficient, and transparent use of information and communication technology (ICT) at all levels of government to provide citizens with services, interact with businesses, and exchange information between government departments.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY

 

  1. Responsibility is likened with answerability; It is the obligation to report one's actions to specific groups, individuals, or organizations.
  2. The foundation of good public governance is accountability. International development organizations' policy statements and programs increasingly incorporate the tenets of accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion.
  3. Voice, answerability, and enforceability are mutually supportive concepts that serve as the foundation for these principles. Under Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), accountable institutions are cited as a priority on the international development agenda.

 

TYPES OF ACCOUNTABILITIES

 

  1. Public accountability: means that elected and unelected public officials alike are obligated to provide citizens with explanations for their actions and decisions. Political, legal, and administrative mechanisms are used to ensure that public officials remain accountable to and accessible to the people they serve and to prevent corruption. This is how government accountability is achieved. Corruption may flourish if such mechanisms are not in place.
  2. The essential political responsibility: free and fair elections are the mechanism. Elections and fixed terms make elected officials accountable for their performance and provide challengers with opportunities to offer citizens alternative policy options. When their terms are up, voters may remove an official from office if they are dissatisfied with their performance.
  3. Legal responsibilities: components incorporate constitutions, authoritative demonstrations, orders, rules, codes, and other legitimate instruments that banish moves that public authorities would be able and can't initiate and how residents might make a move against those authorities whose direct is viewed as unsuitable.
  4. Responsibility can be vertical, wherein the connection between casting a ballot residents and political occupants decides the nature of public products and races act as an instrument to incite responsiveness in light of the motivations for pioneers who need to win and hold power.
  5. In a political system that is founded on the notion of the "separation of powers" and checks and balances, accountability can also be horizontal and within state institutions. Institutional checks can stop power abuse and excessive centralization.
  6. It can also be diagonal, in which vertical and horizontal accountability are combined. As a result, citizens, civil society organizations, NGOs, the media, and the judiciary all work directly with the state to improve service delivery through media exposure, social media campaigns, protests, and other activities.

 

Measurement of Transparency


Globally, transparency and accountability are measured using these key frameworks or indices to measure progress over time.

  1. Open Budget Index (OBI) by the International Budget Partnership: It assesses the public’s access to information on how the central government raises and spends public resources. 
  2. Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by Transparency International: One way of measuring transparency and accountability, is by ascertaining levels of corruption. 
  3. Other relevant indices and include the World Press Freedom Index, Voice and Accountability Index and the World Bank CIPA Indicators. 

 

Significance of Accountability

 

  1. Improving and maintaining performance: When evaluating the ongoing effectiveness of public officials or bodies, accountability is critical to ensuring that they are performing to their full potential, providing value for money, fostering faith in the government, and being responsive to the community.
  2. Good governance relies on accountability to keep public servants focused on the right perspective, including goals; There must be specific ways for society to hold the servants accountable.
  3. Democracy in government: A fundamental principle of democratic governance is public accountability. As a part of the chain of command, accountability extends beyond just superiors to stakeholders like citizens and civil society.
  4. Answerability: In cases where an act of omission or commission is established, accountability serves as an answerability component to justify the action and an enforcement component to take action.
  5. Corrective measures: In the event that standards are broken, it provides for corrective measures, including punishment.
  6. The trust of the public: The public's confidence in the performance of the government rises when there is accountability.

 

Mechanisms for ensuring accountability in India


India has several Constitutional and legal mechanisms which aim to ensure transparency and accountability in Governance; a brief of some these mechanisms is as below: 

  1. Comptroller and Auditor General of India (C&AG): (CAG) of India was established by Article 148 of the Indian Constitution. This authority's primary responsibility is to audit the receipts and expenditures of Indian state and federal governments, as well as those of government-funded organizations and corporations. The state and central governments' Public Accounts Committees (PACs) and Committees on Public Undertakings (COPUs) rely heavily on the reports produced by the CAG.
  2. Central Vigilance Commission (CVC): The Focal Watchfulness Commission was set up by the Public authority in February, 1964 on the proposals of the Advisory group on Avoidance of Debasement, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to exhort and direct Focal Government organizations in the field of watchfulness. The CVC are intended to be the highest vigilance institution, independent of any executive authority. They oversee all vigilance activities carried out by the Central Government and provide guidance to various authorities in Central Government organizations on how to plan, carry out, evaluate, and improve their own surveillance efforts. The Central Vigilance Commission became a multi-member commission with "statutory status" on August 25, 1998, as a result of the President's promulgation of an Ordinance.
  3. Right to Information Act, 2015 (RTI): The Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, which establishes the guidelines and procedures for citizens' access to information. Any Indian citizen is allowed to request information from a "public authority" (a government body or "instrumentality of state") under the RTI Act, and that "public authority" must respond quickly or within thirty days. Section 4 of the Act also emphasizes proactive disclosure, requiring every public authority to computerize their records for widespread dissemination and to proactively publish specific categories of information so that citizens have little recourse for formally requesting information.
  4. Initiatives for e-Government across all schemes: From the computerization of government departments to the finer points of citizen-centered service orientation and transparency in programs like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (MGNREGA), India's e-government has steadily progressed: The act says that the first step is to get all the records about the plan, like muster rolls, which the government keeps. Surveys are prepared based on these readings, and social auditors administer the surveys throughout the audit area and carry out spot inspections.

 

How to improve accountability in governance: Way Forward

 

  1. Strengthen existing parliamentary accountability mechanisms, such as question hour, zero-hour, debate, and discussions, to improve control measures for parliament.
  2. Codes of behaviour: for public officials and institutions must incorporate mechanisms to maintain accountability.
  3. Changes in public institutions' culture: from a top-down, exclusive approach to a bottom-up, all-encompassing one that includes all process stakeholders.
  4. Ombudsman: appointing an ombudsman to handle complaints and ensure that public agencies are held accountable.

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