Accountability And Control
The accountability and control definition is different for different disciplines of study. To define the concept of accountability and control in public administration, one needs to understand the concept of the role of media in accountability and control, social audit as well as public accountability and control. Let us now look into each topic in detail.
I) Role Of Media
Mass media, such as newspapers, magazines, films, radio and television, facilitate “one-way communication from one to many”. They transmit a message “from a source to reach a large and often widely dispersed audience”. The twentieth century has been blessed with the “trenchant” growth of the mass media. Films and television are most effective as they combine audio and visuals. To Bertram Gross, “Television has changed the role of mass media by making non-face-to-face communication as practical and efficient and in many cases a face-to-face relation”.
The use of satellites brought about a revolution in the field of communication systems. Thanks to this communication revolution, it is now possible “to bring the people from remote corners face-to-face with a new reality”.
Role of Mass Media In Influencing Administration And The Policies
There are three types of roles which the mass media can play in influencing policies and administration. These are the Information role, Orientation role and Suggestive role.
Mass media reflect the real-life problems, needs and aspirations of various classes and groups of society. Such information provides valuable inputs to policy formulation. Mass media enlighten the policy-makers with information relating to the latest scientific and technological achievements, and also with their coverage of significant events and processes in other countries of the world. Mass media also present public reactions to government policies. Such information is very useful for the evaluation of policy outcomes. This evaluation may lead to major or minor changes in an existing policy.
In a country like India, where a sizable proportion of the population lives below the poverty line, any policy is not directed towards attacking the problems of poverty. is unlikely to have spectacular results, A mass-oriented education policy, for instance, has no meaning if it is not supported by a mass-oriented economic policy. The choice, therefore, lies, between van oriented policies and mass-oriented policies. Mass media can either assist the former or the latter In any system of government, the ruling elites, by their position in the power hierarchy, play a dominant role in policy-making. It is quite natural that as policy-makers these elites would lean towards elite-oriented policies rather than mass-oriented policies. By lending support to mass-oriented policies, the mass media can play a significant role in bringing about spectacular change in the attitudes and approaches of the elite.
Democratic values are essentially pluralistic. Consequently, the policy-makers in a democratic system are always left with a multiplicity of choices, and policy decision involves a rigorous exercise of making a particular choice from multiple options. Mass media not only stimulate discussion of the various choices available but also make specific suggestions in favour of one particular choice or the other. For example, editorial articles of newspapers, discussion programmes on the television etc. not only make critical comments on government policies but also suggest alternative policies or measures. Such comments and suggestions make the policy-makers tasks easier. It enables them to arrive at a particular policy decision and to amend or reverse wrong policy diagnoses and decisions.
Mass Media and Public Opinion
Public Opinion, as Charles Steinberg has defined it very aptly, “is the collective expression of the opinions of many individuals bound into a group by common aims, aspirations, needs and ideals”. According to him, the power of public opinion, in terms of its social efficacy, acts in two directions. First, the opinions of a group or public are formed and influenced to a large degree by those in authority, They use their authority to maintain and solidify these opinions. The press and other mass media are voices of authority to which the public pay heed. On the other hand, these so-called authorities are influenced in a democratic society by the power of public opinion. It reveals, therefore, that the use of mass media to influence public opinion is not unilateral but operates on a system of “healthy checks and balances”.
In India, the media grew as a powerful institution during the national struggle. In postIndependence India, it has played a creative role in articulating the interests of the developmental state as well as the grievances of the people. Indian democracy, over the decades, has strengthened its roots with support from the media.
In the era of globalization, the media has enlarged its scope in a big way, Liberalisation has reduced the role of the state over the media and the media can play an independent and enriched role in the present day. Needless to say, the media has a major role to play in providing good governance to its citizenry in the days to come.
II) Social Audit
Social audit as a term was used as far back as the 1950s. It is based on the principle that democratic local governance should be carried out, as far as possible, with the consent’ and understanding’ of all concerned. It is thus a process and not an event.
A social audit is a way of measuring, understanding, reporting and ultimately improving an organization’s social and ethical performance? A social audit helps to narrow gaps between vision/goal and reality, between efficiency and effectiveness. It is a technique to understand, measure, verify, report on and improve the social performance of the organization.
Social auditing creates an impact upon governance. It values the voice of stakeholders, including marginalized /poor groups whose voices are rarely heard. Social auditing is taken up to enhance local governance, particularly for strengthening accountability and transparency in local bodies.
Objectives of Social Audit
The following are the main objectives of Social Audit :
- Assessing the physical and financial gaps between needs and resources available for local development.
- Creating awareness among beneficiaries and providers of local social and productive services.
- Increasing efficacy and effectiveness of local development programmes.
- Scrutiny of various policy decisions, keeping in view stakeholder interests and priorities, particularly of rural poor.
- Estimation of the opportunity cost for stakeholders of not getting timely access to public services.
Advantages of Social Audit
The following advantages are visualized from the process of social audit :
- Trains the community on participatory local planning.
- Encourages local democracy.
- Encourages community participation.
- Benefits disadvantaged groups.
- Promotes collective decision making and sharing responsibilities.
- Develops human resources and social capital.
Prerequisites for the effectiveness of Social Audit
To be effective, the social audio the right to :
- Seek clarifications from the implementing agency about any decision man scheme, income and expenditure incurred by the agency.
- Consider and scrutinize existing schemes and local activities of the agency; and
- Access registers and documents relating to all development activities undertaken by implementing agency or by any other government department.
This requires transparency in the decision-making and activities of the implementing agencies. Ma way, the social audit includes measures for enhancing transparency by enforcing the right to information in the planning and implementation of local development activities.
Appropriate Institutional Level For Social Audit
The most appropriate institutional level for social audit is the Gram Sabha, which has been given watchdog’ powers and responsibilities by the Panchayati Raj Acts in most States to supervise and monitor the functioning of panchayat elected representatives and government functionaries, and examine the annual statement of accounts and audit reports. These are implied powers indirectly empowering Gram Sabhas to carry out social audits in addition to other functions. Members of the Gram Sabha and the village panchayat, intermediate panchayat and district panchayat through their representatives, can raise issues of social concern and public interest and demand an explanation.
The Gram Sabha should have the mandate to inspect all public documents related to budget allocations, list of beneficiaries, assistance under each scheme, muster rolls, bills, vouchers, accounts, etc., for scrutiny; examine annual statements of accounts and audit reports; discuss the report on the local administration of the preceding year; review local development for the year or any new activity programme; establish accountability of functionaries found guilty of violating established norms/rules; suggest measures for promoting transparency in identifying, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating relevant local development programmes; and ensure opportunity for rural poor to voice their concerns while participating in social audit meetings.
Social Audit Committees
The social audit can also be used for auditing the performance of all three PRI tiers with a social audit committee at each level. These committees should not be permanent but can be set up depending on the nature of programmes/schemes to be audited.
Social audit committee members can be drawn from among programme stakeholders. It is advisable to use the services of retired functionaries of different organizations, teachers or persons of impeccable integrity living in the Zilla Panchayat / Block“ Panchayat / Gram Panchayat ). jurisdiction. Both facilitators and social audit committee members can be trained by social audit experts.
Social Audit can be used as an effective tool to make administration more responsible and responsive. Regular evaluation of the tool of Social audit should be conducted and measures should be initiated to improve its effectiveness.
Examples Of Social Audit
Given below are some of the examples of Social audits:
Social audit in Jharnipalli Panchayat, Agaipur block, Bolangir district, Orissa
In October 2001, the Gram Sabha members of Jharnipalli Panchayat conducted a one-day social audit of development works carried out in the panchayat over the preceding three years. This audit took place with the active participation of many individuals and agencies, including block and district administration officials, MKSS (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan), NCPRI (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information) and Action Aid India. The audit found many discrepancies in the utilization of funds, appointments of contractors and non-generation of the required man-days of work as per the rules.
Micro-Development Planning As Part Of Social Audit
A voluntary development organization ‘Samarthan’ and PRIA’ (Society for Participatory Research in Asia) collaborated in a participatory micro-planning exercise with local officials, panchayat members, members of different castes, etc. The process was a way to bring resources to the local community and to increase its involvement in Gram Sabha meetings which took place four times a year.
This led to the identification of several goals. One was to construct a drain. Inspired by the participatory local planning process, the community contributed half the cost of the drain (Rs 50 000). Those who could not give money offered their labour. The rest of the money came from the district office and was mobilized by the Gram Panchayat and its pro-active. woman president, the Sarpanch.
Every member of the Gram Sabha developed a sense of ownership of the project. The Gram Sabha monitors the work. Gram Panchayat representatives also hold regular ward-level meetings. The relationship between people and their local representatives developed quickly into one of mutual support.
SDM Of Schools For ‘Rehabilitated’ Child Workers, Jamtara District, Jharkhand State, India
In 1995, the non-governmental Child Labour Elimination Society (CLES) initiated a project to set up 40 Vidyalayas (schools) in three blocks with a high incidence of child labour in the Jamtara district. The funds for the project were provided by the Ministry of Labour, Government of India.
To supervise the schools, three-tier committees were formed at the district, block and panchayat/village levels, with the district-level committee having the Deputy Commissioner as its ex-officio chairperson. At the block level, the Circle Officer (CO) is the nodal officer entrusted with the responsibility for the smooth functioning of the schools. The committee at the panchayat and village level includes members who were active during the mass literacy campaigns in the district. However, most committees at the lowest level are either defunct and not functional or not properly constituted. Visibly, this particular weakness has resulted in the diminution of an important forum of citizen interaction, reflection and action.