What are Transparency and Accountability? What are the needs for transparency and accountability in governance? What is the difference between them? What are the initiatives to enhance transparency and accountability in India? Read further to know more.
Transparency and accountability are critical for ensuring good governance in the public sector. Transparency is unquestionably required for accountability. Transparency and accountability are inextricably linked and mutually beneficial.
Transparency, in general, is assumed to result in better governance, more accountability, and less corruption.
What is Transparency?
The free flow of information is the foundation of transparency. All citizens have the right to information about State policies that affect them, such as legislative activities, policy-making, legal provisions, policy enforcement, administrative budget, public expenditure, and other relevant political information.
Transparency is also essential for ensuring accountability and enabling genuine participation. The greater the degree of transparency, the greater the level of good governance.
What is Accountability?
It means that administrators and administrative bodies must carry out the functions and responsibilities of their positions. Government, private sector, and civil society decision-makers must be accountable to the public as well as institutional stakeholders.
The government must be accountable at all levels because accountability is closely related to the need to eliminate corruption, which is widely regarded as a major deficiency in governance.
Also, read Good Governance.
Need for Transparency in Public Administration
- Transparency is required to ensure the effectiveness of the public service delivery system. However, simply knowing what entitlements are and who is responsible for fulfilling them is insufficient to ensure that public services are delivered in a passable and effective manner to the ‘intended’ recipients.
- Citizens in a good civil society are most concerned that their government is fair and just. To be effective, a government’s governance systems and subsystems must be efficient, economic, ethical, and equitable.
- Furthermore, the governing process must be just, reasonable, fair, and user-friendly. In addition to promoting transparency and people’s participation, the administrative system must be accountable and responsive in order to achieve these and other qualities and good governance.
- Transparency ensures that people understand what is going on and the reasoning behind the decisions made by the government or its functionaries at various levels. Accountability ensures that a civil servant is responsible and accountable to the government, society, and the people for every action and inaction in government and its consequences.
Accountability of Public Servants
- Civil servants are held accountable in all democratic countries to both the political executive and the citizens for ensuring responsive, transparent, and honest policy implementation and service delivery. However, ensuring accountability for performance is a difficult task in government; there are numerous complexities involved in holding public officials accountable for outputs and outcomes.
- Setting and measuring performance targets is easier for service delivery agencies, especially when the service provided is tangible and thus an easily measured unit, but for many public organizations where the output is policy-related and thus not very concrete, performance assessment becomes much more complicated.
- The spread of responsibility and authority across different levels of government, as well as the lack of a link between authority and accountability, contribute to a system in which plausible alibis for non-performance abound, particularly for activities that cross-departmental dividing lines or different functional divisions within departments.
- Accountability mechanisms in any country are broadly classified as those located within the state and those located outside the state.
- Accountability of the executive branch of government to Parliament and citizens is, of course, a fundamental feature of a democracy.
Major Differences Between Transparency And Accountability
Conducting activities or performing actions openly and clearly.
Being responsible for one’s actions and having the ability to provide sound reasoning for actions.
Openness and clarity
Acknowledgement and being responsible for one’s actions.
Initiatives To Enhance Transparency In India
Citizens Charters, the Right to Information Act, e-procurement, e-Governance, and Right to Public Service Legislation, are some of India’s major initiatives to improve transparency.
- A Citizens’ Charter represents the Organization’s commitment to service delivery standards, quality, and timeliness, a grievance redress mechanism, transparency, and accountability.
- The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances coordinates efforts to formulate and operationalize Citizens’ Charters in its efforts to create a more responsive and citizen-friendly administration.
Right to Information (RTI) Act
- It is a parliamentary act in India that establishes laws and procedures for citizens’ access to information. It superseded the previous Freedom of Information Act of 2002.
- Any Indian citizen may seek information from a “public authority” (a government entity or “state instrumentality”) under the RTI Act, which is required to respond promptly or within thirty days.
- If the petitioner’s life or liberty is at stake, the information must be delivered within 48 hours. The RTI Bill was passed by the Indian Parliament on June 15, 2005, and went into effect on October 12, 2005.
The Central Public Procurement Portal is a strong and secure platform that provides complete transparency in public procurement for the Government of India, most states, and local governments across the country.
- It is defined as the use of information and communication technology (ICT) at all levels of government to provide services to citizens, interact with businesses, and communicate and exchange information between government departments in a timely, efficient, and transparent manner.
Right to Public Services legislation
- It is made up of statutory laws that ensure the timely delivery of a wide range of government services to citizens, as well as a system for disciplining errant public servants who fail to provide the service required by the statute.
Initiatives To Enhance Accountability In India
- Public Accounts Committee, CAG, Lokpal, CVC, Lokayukta, CPGRAMS and Public Interest Litigation are some of India’s major initiatives to improve Accountability.
Public Accounts Committee
- The Public Accounts Body is a committee of elected members of the Indian Parliament tasked with auditing the government’s revenue and expenditure. They ensure that parliament has control over the executive, on the premise that parliament represents the will of the people.
- Social Audit in Local Governments: In the context of government schemes, a social audit is an accountability mechanism that measures, assesses, and identifies gaps in service delivery while also promising to close those gaps with the direct participation of intended beneficiaries.
- In essence, social auditing is a monitoring tool that allows citizens to not only keep track of funds spent, but also to evaluate the effectiveness of a scheme by examining its impact, determining whether the scheme has benefited its target audience, and allowing an organisation to evaluate the scheme’s long-term sustainability.
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)
- The CAG is a constitutionally mandated individual tasked with overseeing the government’s finances and operations.
- He or she is critical in making the government more transparent and accountable to the legislature as well as civil society. The Constitution seeks to ensure that he has significant autonomy from other branches of government.
- The CAG audits the federal and state government’s finances, as well as entities owned or funded by the government.
- Its role, like that of the auditor of a private company, is to ensure that proper accounting standards are used to account for financial transactions. It also ensures that financial transactions adhere to applicable standards.
- The CAG also assesses the performance of various government agencies, businesses, laws, and even welfare programmes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
- A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman agency in the Republic of India that represents the public interest.
- It has jurisdiction over the central government in order to investigate corruption charges against its public officials and other corruption-related matters.
- Following Anna Hazare’s Jan Lokpal agitation in 2011, the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act was passed in parliament with revisions in 2013. The current Lokpal Chairperson is Pinaki Chandra Ghose.
Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)
- The Central Vigilance Commission is the apex vigilance institution, independent of any executive authority, and is tasked with overseeing all vigilance activity under the Central Government as well as advising various authorities in Central Government organizations on vigilance planning, execution, review, and reform.
- Vigilance entails taking clean and timely administrative action to improve staff efficiency and effectiveness, as well as the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the organization because a lack of Vigilance leads to waste, losses, and economic deterioration.
- The CVC was established by the government in 1964 in response to the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, which was led by Shri K. Santhanam. The CVC Act, passed by Parliament in 2003, gave the CVC statutory status.
- The CVC is independent of any Ministry or Department and is only accountable to Parliament.
- The Lokayukta, or Indian Parliamentary Ombudsman, is appointed by and for each of India’s state governments.
- It takes effect in a state after the state legislature passes the Lokayukta Act and a person of good standing is appointed to the position.
- The position was created to handle complaints about the government’s or its administration’s working integrity and efficiency as quickly as possible.
- The Maharashtra Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayuktas Act of 1971 was the first state to establish Lokayukta.
Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS)
- Addressing the general public’s grievances is one of the hallmark efforts for governance reform launched by the Indian central government.
- In June 2007, the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances established CPGRAMS.
- Any Indian citizen can use the public grievance process to bring their problems, grievances, or requests to the attention of Ministries and Departments at the national and state levels of government.
Public Interest Litigation
- PIL was introduced by Justice P. N. Bhagwati as a means of securing public interest and demonstrating the availability of justice to socially disadvantaged parties.
The national public information infrastructure must be strengthened and expanded through the construction of information networks, allowing for greater access to digital information and the use of information technology. It is critical to change the way government employees think.
This will be used to organize programs for orientation, training, and capacity-building. States may be urged to create an impartial public grievance redress authority to handle allegations of delays, harassment, and corruption.
Furthermore, if the governance structure is sufficiently open, accountability will be promoted. Transparency and accountability should be linked to an organization’s mission, which prioritizes achieving public welfare.
Article Written by: Remya