(Sample Material) Gist of IIPA Journal: Action Plan for an Effective and Responsive Government

(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal

Topic: Action Plan for an Effective and Responsive Government

INTRODUCTION

The Government, both at the Centre and the State, share the concern for ensuring responsive, accountable, transparent, decentralised and people-friendly administration at all levels. There is, however, considerable frustration and dissatisfaction amongst the people, especially the weaker sections of society, about the apart irresponsiveness and lack of accountability of public servants, even as expenditure, on staff continues to increase. There is increasing anxiety about growing instances of corruption and criminalisation in public life and administration. The people particularly the vulnerable, groups, are also greatly concerned about the investigation of offences. Their faith in the registration of offences, their timely investigation and the delivery of prompt justice has been corded.

Time has come for a strong message to be conveyed that administration is for the people and not for the public servants themselves. There has to be a change of attitudes, and public servants should realise that efficiency will be measures not in terms of what the services purport to offer, but in terms of public satisfaction. Simultaneously, there has also to be a cleansing of the services and codification of the ethics, value systems and the interface with the politicians.

Necessary corrective steps must be taken to arrest the present drift in Government and public services, and take urgent measures to restore the faith of the people in the fairness an capacity of administration.

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With this objective, the Prime Minister had inaugurated a Conference of Chief Secretaries in November, 1996 on ‘An Agenda for an Effective and Responsive Administration’. In the Conference, a number of issues were raised which emphasised the need for bringing about a transformation in the public services to make them more efficient, clean, accountable and citizen-friendly.

Following the Conference, a national debate has been generated throughout the country to elicit views from a side cross-section of people. Responses have been received from retreats organised in Missouri and Hyderabad, and a number of leading academic institutions in Delhi and other places.

Written communications have been received from officials, experts, voluntary agencies, citizens groups, media etc. Follow up action has been initiated on same of the priority areas to demonstrate the determination of the Government of India for implementing these reforms and to provide models of adoption by the state Governments.

The focus of these discussions has been to evolve a concrete Action Plan, for gearing up the Government machinery to provide a responsive, transparent and clean administration to the people and to address issues of reform and morale in the civil services. The Action Plan proposed to be discussed in the Conference includes initiatives the following areas:

1. Making administration accountable and citizen-friendly,
2. Ensuring transparency and the right to information, and
3. Taking measures to cleanse and motivate Civil Services.

The adoption and implementation of the proposed Action Plan for an effective and responsive administration would require a strong political will, and reiteration from both the Central and the State Governments of their commitment to provide an accountable and responsive administration.

ACCOUNTABLE AND CITIZEN-FRIENDLY GOVERNMENT

The citizen’s perception of the State and its functionaries is primarily based on its role as service provider, law enforcer and regulartor. Improving the quality of administration and providing a responsive interface between the citizen and the public services require initiatives in following areas:

1. Citizen’s Charter

The State Governments and the Ministries/Departments at the Centre are all involved in some manner or the other in providing public services. Apart from an overall lack of transparency and accountability in the System, most delivery systems suffer from ad hocism and delaly. It is therefore important to identify and publicize the standards of services and time-limits that the public can reasonably expect particularly in critical activities with a public interface Government of India has directed Ministries/Department’s and other agencies with public interface to formulate a Citizens’ Charter law down time-limits and standards for services avenues of grievance redressed, and put In place monitoring systems and independent scrutiny to ensure implementation of the Charter. A number of Departments have already formulated such Charters. Though the Charter is not proposed to be made justifiable, if would carry a moral commitment of the Government and would provide a framework, under which public services can be evaluated.

2. Redressal of Public Grievances

The poor record of most public agencies in the area of prompt and effective Redressal of public grievances is a major cause of public dissatisfaction and a subject of criticism by the representatives. Public grievances primarily arise out of the inaccessibility of official’s failure to even acknowledge applications non-enforcement of any kind of time-limits, and unsympathetic attitude of officials of various levels.

3. Decentralisation and Devolution of Powers

Responsive Government would also require complete decentralization of delivery of services trough fully empowered elected local Government bodies, both in rural and urban areas, consistent with the spirit of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, The Central/State Government need to take steps to strengthen the financial and administrative capacity of the local bodies and vest them with adequate resource and powers.

4. Review of Laws, Regulations and Procedures

In the changing administrative scenario, particularly in the context of economic liberalisation a number of existing laws and regulations have lost their relevance. The laws and regulations militating against the interest of the weaker section of the society and the poor are required to be urgently amended. Similarly, existing procedures also need to be changed to make the whole process of approvals, sanctions, are simpler and transparent. Government of India has initiated a comprehensive exercise fur amending the Civil procedure Code, Company law and a number of other laws, as well as to reduce the time taken in disposal of cases in civil and criminal courts. It is necessary the State Governments undertake similar exercises in this regard and effect necessary changes in the laws and regulations.

It has been noticed that secrecy and lack of openness in transaction in responsible for corruption in official dealings, apart from being contrary to the spirit, of an accountable and democratic Government. Consequently there is a demand for introducing greater transparency in the functioning of Government, departments and public bodies.

There is, also a need to ensure to the peoples a easy access to all intonation relating to Government operations and Government decisions as well as that on the performance of the Government except to the extent specifically excluded by law. It is increasingly realised that, more the effort at secrecy, the greater the chances of abuse of authority by the public functionaries. Therefore, the following two areas/issues need to be addressed in this regard:

1. Transparency in Government and Right to Information

There is a widespread consensus on the need to assure freedom of information to the public and to amend such laws that stipulate unnecessary restrictions on free access of the public to information. Government decision need not be clouded in be secrecy, except in the interest of national security. Based on the discussion of an Inter-Ministerial Working Group, a sistutory scheme to ensure freedom of information subjects to certain safeguards, and to amend a number of central legislations, has been undertake a similar legal exercise, while endorsing the Central initiative, and ensure greater openness in the working of the Government departments, public agencies and elected local bodies, and provide information on procedures for various statutory approvals.

2. Access to Information

It is also important to improve the access of the public to, information from public offices through streaming of internal procedure, computerization, and by setting up public facilitation counters of offices.

It is proposed that all the offices under the Government of India and the Public Sector undertakings will have computerized facilitation/information counter so that information and assistance is available to the public on various essential services and approvals. The State Governments may consider setting up of similar facilitation countries.

The State Governments may consider setting up of similar facilitation counters not only at the municipal and district levels, but also in the various State Directorates.

IMPROVING THE PERFORMANCE OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE

The civil services in India have played a significant, indeed a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the country and in bringing about major developments in post-independent India. However in recent times the services have been facing a grave crisis of identity and role definition. People now believe that public services are meant to benefit government servants and politicians and net the public. The emphasis here is on all public’s services which, subsume all technical, professional law enforcement and administrative personnel. Though issues relating to efficiency and effectiveness of the administrative machinery have been discussed from time to time the reforms initialed have only dealt with mind procedural changes, without really addressing the issue of improvement in the quality of services. The Government had initiated an exercise to discuss the specific reforms that could be undertaken improve the image of the services and enhance their effectiveness. The following proposals had emerged in this regard:

1. Code of Ethics

Adoption of the Code of Ethics of public services based on Constitutional principles and values, with appropriate amendments in the existing codes of conduct. Such a code, not only seeks to regulate the role of the civil servants, but also specifies the relationship between employees in public services and politicians, so that the basic commitment of the civil servants towards the welfare of the public and the principles enshrined in the Constitution is reiterated.

2. Cleansing the Administration

Though the rationale for the civil service in promoting the progress and integrity of the countr is as valid today as before, there is an urgent need to tackle corruption and the increasing erosion of moral values in public life.
These measures, once adopted, would need to be widely publicized to instill public confidence, both in the probity of all political and administrative functionaries, and in prosecution of the corrupt without exception.

3. Stability of Tenures and Constitution of Civil Services Board

Frequent and arbitrary transfers of public servants affect the ability of the system to deliver services effectively to the people. It has been seen that implementation of area development programmes and poverty alleviation schemes suffer where the officials are shifted frequently. Since the success of such schemes depends on having officials with sufficient local knowledge and understanding to execute the schemes. Hence, it is felt that arbitrary transfers really operate against the interest of the people. In this context, the scheme for State Governments to constitute high-powered Civil Services Boards to decide on transfer and positings of senior officials, on the same lines as the one already followed by Civil Services Board at the Centre.

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