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Transparency and Accountability in Governance

  • Citizens Charter
  • Lokpal
  • Other Institutional Measures

Citizen’s Charter:

Citizen’s Charter is for improving the delivery of goods and services provided by the Government. Back in 2008 a survey of Transparency International and Centre for Media Studies has found that below poverty line households paid a total bribe of USD 177 million in 2007 alone to avail basic Government services like Health, Electricity, Water Supply etc., There are several Public programs that suffer from inefficiency and corruption at the level of delivery. This has rendered disillusionment among the people about the role of Government and thus there was a need to take the Governance to the doorsteps of people in a time bound and efficient manner.

Citizens Charter Bill 2011 aims at providing rights to citizens for time bound delivery of goods and services and provide a Grievance Redressal Mechanism. The bill made it mandatory for every Public Organization (ie., ones working under Central, State, Local Governments) to publish a Citizen’s Charter and failure to comply with it makes the concerned official in the Organization liable for disciplinary action and a monetary fine. Such a bill was previously recommended by Second Administrative Reforms Commission.

The illustration below represents the core areas of focus of Citizen’s Charter in India

 

How it brings Accountability and Transparency:

  • By publishing the Vision and Mission Statements it makes the role and purpose of all Public organizations clear.
  • The list of services to be performed by any organization enlightens the citizens to approach the right organization for the required service.
  • It also aims at bringing in clarity among every department in the organization by making each of their roles clearly known to the public and specifications for approaching the correct layers of organization reduces discretion and corruption.
  • The penal provisions for non compliance is a step in the right direction to improve the efficiency of public organizations.
  • The timelines to deliver a particular service were also to be provided by these organizations and thus reduces delays.
  • It also enables a citizen centred administration and citizen participation in governance.
  • Overall it focuses on citizens as a client and focuses more on their satisfaction and thus improving the image of the Government among the citizens.

Limitations: 

  1. The working of this act was not found to be satisfactory because of the following reasons
  2. There is no penalty for shortfalls in goods and services provided by the Government. For Example: if the quality of goods are low in Fair Price Shops there is no remedy through it. The same applies to a number of Government services.
  3. The Charters are not properly followed by many organizations and thus they continue to suffer from red tape and corruption.
  4. They are not in consonance with the work culture of the organization thus it is rendered ineffective.

Lokpal and Lokayuktas:

Lokpal and Lokayuktas bill aims at reducing corruption by setting up of a separate institution of Lokpal at the Central level and Lokayuktas at the State level. These organizations will investigate cases of corruption against the public servants in the respective Government organizations. The following flowchart explains the structure and functions of Lokpal.

Flowchart source: RTI activist

How it can Promote Accountability and Transparency:

  1. Lokpal and Lokayuktas being independent investigation agencies (ie., they are free from Government interference) can make an impartial enquiry on corruption related offences across all public organizations.
  2. Their proceedings have Judicial character and thus they serve as a legal remedy to public grievances.
  3. Many countries around the world has an institution of independent Lokpal and they were found to significantly reduce corruption. For Example, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Limitations:

  1. Lokpal does not have an independent investigation wing. They are to be made available through the CBI. This can seriously hamper their functioning
  2. Lokpal does not cover lower level public servants (i.e., Group C and D officers and below)
  3. In  the Chairman of the Lokpal has not been appointed by the Government and thus Lokpal remains ineffective even after the bill was passed by the Parliament.