Instrument Of Public Accountability

Citizens Charter – Instrument Of Public Accountability

In a Parliamentary Democracy, the concept of administrative accountability primarily rests on a single principle of ministerial responsibility ie the responsibility of the ministers to Parliament. However, in recent times, this concept has been found wanting in its ability to ensure democratic control of a large, active and increasingly complex executive branch government. Check out Three reform steps preceding the citizens charter

Today, it is not only believed that the system of ministerial responsibility is incapable, by itselt, of sustaining a system of administrative accountability but it also has adverse effects on efficiency and openness and responsiveness in government. The relevance of the doctrine of ministerial responsibility and its concomitant principle of civil service anonymity are being questioned in the present-day context of the management of pubic programmes and services. While one may not go so far as to say that the concept of ministerial responsibility is now defunct, there is no doubt that it has become an ineffective convention, although both ministers and senior civil servants still wish to retain it.

Thus, the most challenging issue that faces most parliamentary democracies, across the world, especially countries like India, is not only the responsibility of public bureaucracy to the citizen’s per se, but also the ways it could be made more prompt, responsive and cost effective.

Changing Notions Of Administrative Accountability

Government’s accountability syndrome has been changing over the last half a century in almost all the democratic systems. It has gone beyond the bureaucratic or hierarchical notions of control and formal explanations through Annual Reports or periodical submissions of the public agencies. The issue of accountability now looks more pinpointing to the responsibility of individual agencies and functionaries rather than to political or bureaucratic authoritative as a whole. In a recent article, Prof. Bruce Stone of the University of Western Australia has identified five different notions of administrative accountability – parliamentary control, managerialism, judicial and quasi-judicial review, constituency relations and the market.

Parliamentary Controls:

Parliamentary control is obviously the traditional Westminster under standing of accountability as interpreted by Mill and Bagehot, that administrators should be continuously responsive to the concerns of members of parliament. It is related to three fundamental sanctions or powers available to parliament: its power to legislate, its power to withhold-support from ministers, and its power to appropriate moneys. Such responsiveness does not necessarily require active parliamentary supervision. the sort of continuous monitoring! and detailed intervention that is associated in other contexts-but only envisages that prompt answers can be given and remedial action taken by ministers on issues under scrutiny by the parliament.

Managerial Control:

The second aspect of control managerialism is the corporate management approach to public administration, which has been a major component of administrative reforms in the 1980s and 1990s in many governments. Here, the emphasis is on ‘strategic; rather than detailed, control; an emphasis on agency self-evaluation, and reporting plus periodic, formal external evaluation, and a rationalisation of agency responsiveness”. In distinction to parliamentary accountability, the managerialist view of accountability requires the agency to meet certain objective tests or to satisfy certain objective “specialised performance values”

Judicial /Quasi-Judicial Review:

The third notion of accountability as judicial or quasi-judicial review is most evident in the imposition of legal values on decision-making through expansion review has been progressively widening in recent years, rules governing citizen access to review has been eased, and the courts have shown an increased desire to exercise review. In addition, advent of Public Interest Litigation (PIL), as in India, has even prompted the judiciary to direct administrative agencies to take prompt action on certain issues of public interest, where these have been neglected statutory bill of rights in 1990 has introduced a new set of “implied limitations on general discretionary powers”, while in Australia and Canada, a change towards “constitutionalised administrative law has been quite evident through establishment of an Administrative Appeals Tribunal and adoption of entrenched Charter of Rights and Freedom, respectively. In distinction to ‘parliamentary control and managerialism’, which are “top-down” conceptions of accountability, bruce contends the judicial version of control (along with constituency relations and market conceptions ) is a “bottom-up” conception.

Accountability to clientele:

The “constituency relations” approach to accountability is not only the traditional legislators accountability to their constituents, but in broader terms it also acknowledges a downward’ accountability to clienteles and horizontal’ accountability to peers and other reference groups. Besides the mechanisms of giving a particular groups or associations a right to nominate or elect members of statutory authorities governing board, or giving opportunity to industry representative to question the members of a regulating board, and to pass a vote of no confidence in the annual general meeting, regular use of public hearing of interested groups by the advisory bodies of some regulatory agencies, the most important attempt has been made to strengthen’ the voice of customer by strengthening the linkages between the agency and the clientele through the initiative of “citizen’s charter” introduced for the first time by the British government in 1991. The key aspects of the charter are the requirement that public agencies publish commitments to standards of service, that there be independent monitoring and publication of standards achieved, and that mechanism be established through which the customer’ can achieve satisfaction when standards are not met. The charter includes various forms of compensation and alternative arrangements for service provision where agencies do not live up to their promises.

Accountability to market or customers:

The fifth notion of accountability is related to the tendency of a more customer driven’ attitude adopted in providing efficient’ and ‘prompt’ public services to the citizens by creating opportunities for customers to exit’ by means of denationalisation’ and ‘deregulation’. Thus, the British citizen’s charter mechanism referred to above is predicated on a continuation of efforts to promote competition and otherwise build market initiative into the delivery of services. Although, considerable debate is on in almost all developed and developing countries about the extent to which the market model can be applied to public services, and it is rare that all the conditions of consumer sovereignty are mer in run in any uansaction, but growing application of market principles in organization of public services indicates contemporary relevance of the market conception of accountability constraints on marketisation’ of a great deal of governmental activity, quite apart from normative considerations, suggest that its role will remain a relatively mind public sector as a whole, especially in the context of developing countries.

Strategy Of Introducing Citizen’s Charter In U.K

Until the decades of 1980s, growing state activity. increasing complexity of administration, consequential explosion of points of contact between the State and the citizen has made of maladministration and administrative injustice an impossible task for both an over burdened court system and elected representatives. Even introduction of the idea of a system 01 Ombudsman has failed to secure a modicum of public accountability, which would ensure promp qualitative, and cost-effective to the citizens.

Check out public administration notes in detail.

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