(Sample Material) Gist of IIPA Journal: Recent Initiatives for Administrative Reform in India P.S.A. Sundaram

(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal

Topic: Recent Initiatives for Administrative Reform in India P.S.A. Sundaram


Apart from the issues outlined above, recent efforts for administrative reform in India have also been influenced by international experiences in the field of public administration and civil service reform. These experiences have involved:

  • changing role of Government from the regulator to the facilitator, with an emphasis on the refocussing and narrowing of common responsibilities;
  • the systematic identification of regulatory constraints to investment and other economic activities, as well as delivery of services and approvals to the people, followed by efforts for simplified rules and procedures, decentralisation and delegation;
  • arising from the delineation of the areas to be vacated by Government, or to be entrusted for alternate systems of delivery, increasing attention to the scope for privatisation, various forms of public-private partnerships, and formalised consultative mechanisms with various stakeholders;
  • emphasis on entrepreneurial role of Government, commercialisation of infrastructure, performance standards, costing and marketing of outputs of Government, delivery of services at the operational level, matching of revenues and costs, improving financial planning and management systems, securing value for money in Government etc.
  • customer orientation and emphasis on quality and standards of service, as symbolised in the Citizens’ Charter of Clients’ Charter in Malaysia or Performance Pledge in Hong Kong;

  • comprehensive revision of traditional public service systems, accompanied by a tight monitoring of staff numbers and costs, limits on staff increase, appointment of senior management on contract, departmental autonomy for hiring and firing of staff, flexible remuneration and incentive schemes, flexible use of negotiated cost ceilings for individual departments in the place of centralised control of Finance Ministry, etc.;
  • reviewing administrative structures, by distinguishing between the core responsibilities from policy and the managerial aspects of implementation, as seen in the British executive agencies, or the trend towards corporatisation of potential commercially-oriented departments;
  • firm steps to control corruption through a variety of measures including establishment of independent agencies, such as those in Hong Kong and Singapore, to pursue preventive vigilance, exemplary prosecution and mobilisation of public opinion;
  • widespread access of public to information on Government procedures and transactions as the only basis for accountable and open Government, often through legislations such as those in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and USA;
  • harnessing information technology for provision of information and assistance to the public, service improvements, transition to a paperless Government, and increased effectiveness and interlinking of Government agencies; and
  • continuous efforts to mobilise public support for reform and employee-cooperation, based on strong and sustained political commitment to the entire reform process.

Indian Response

The Indian response has been at the following three levels:

1. To identify and initiate reforms in Government structures and organisational systems in Government in order to achieve the macro-objectives of economic reforms, efficient policy formation and execution;

2. Efforts for redelineation of the functions of Central, State and local Governments in the context of cooperative federalism and decisions on transfer of Centrally sponsored schemes to the States on the one hand, and implementation of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments on the other, along with devolution of resources commensurate with the assigned functions; and

3. Immediate steps for effective and responsive administration, which would also lay the basis for sustainable improvements at the macro level.

Let us now discuss the efforts undertaken by the Central and State Governments in recent months for reforms in administration of civil services to promote the effective and responsive administration.


Focus of Action Plan

In the course of the recent Conference of Chief Ministers convened by the Prime Minister in May 1997, the Conference endorsed the Action Plan focussed on:

1. Accountable and citizen-friendly administration,
2. Transparency and Right to Information, and
3. Improving performance and integrity of Civil Services.

In the context of the above said objectives, the question of accountability is no longer being interpreted narrowly as the responsibility for the achievement of assigned tasks within a department/agency. Accountability is seen as an element of citizen-orientation of Government, resting upon the satisfaction of the people or the clients with the services provided by the Department, equally with the concept of internal accountability to the Head of the Department, and accountability of the Minister to Parliament. This would, in turn, call for the introduction of greater transparency in the functioning of Government and public bodies, including procedures for various statutory approvals, allotment of land and property, systems of assessment and levy of taxation, award of tenders, procurement of goods and services, delivery of services by local bodies, identification of beneficiaries under various Government schemes, systems of providing loans, subsidies, etc. Equally important would be means of widespread and easy access of citizens to all information relating to Government operations and Government decisions, except to the extent specifically excluded by law or regulations. This is sought to be ensured by instructions recently issued by Government to all Central Government Departments and agencies for transparency in Government operations, and opening of information and facilitation counters in all the Departments and Offices with public interface. The enforcibility of the access of the public to non-exempted information will, of coursebe assured as soon as a legislation for Freedom of Information is enacted by Parliament, as announced recently by the Prime Minister. This is expected to be accompanied by amendments to Official Secrets Act and related regulations, such as the Code of Conduct Rules governing Central Government employees.

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