Accountability and transparency in administration
Dr. ForqanUddin Ahmed, Former Deputy General and Commandant, Ansar VDP Academy : Accountability means one’s liability to give account or to give explanation of one’s actions. In administration, it means the executives and administrators, so to say the civil servants should remain answerable and responsible for all their actions, plans, program, disposals, processes and consequences thereof.
Transparency literary means visibility. The concept of transparency in administration requires the government’s decision-making process to be visible to the citizens.
It has therefore, two-fold implications: firstly, the electorate is right to know what the government is doing and secondly, the policymaker’s obligations to inform the electorates about what is being done.
With the emergence of democratic government in the country, there has been constant public pressure to make civil service accountable to the citizens, which is their right too. Accountability is a critical element for ensuring civil service efficiency. But accountability of the civil servants and of the elected public representatives at all levels is in a diluted, diffused and fuzzy state. It is not fully clear who is accountable to whom and how it is to be measured. The biggest challenge the government faces is how to make all the services of the state accountable to the public through the parliament and elected local bodies.
Accountability does not exist in a vacuum; accountability implies a relationship between two individuals or institutions or agencies as the case may be. In our context, accountability signifies relationship between the civil servants and the elected public representatives, between the politicians and the people who are the common actors of development.
When an official is answerable to an organization for deviation from his charter of duties, or working against the rules and regulations of the service or against the interest of the public or the country is called accountability. Factors impeding practice of administrative accountability are both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic factors relate to the inadequacy, inconsistency and obsolescence of the existing laws, rules and procedures. Extrinsic factors imply interferences and illegal pressures of the external forces. The administrations are accountable through financial, legislative, judicial and administrative mechanisms and at times through true democratic culture and free press. By installing the office of ombudsman and by setting a code of political ethics, the administration can be made accountable.
Administrative accountability is necessary for the improvement of administration, its quality and efficiency and fulfillment of public policies. It is meant for dispensation of justice, maximization of the people’s welfare, and is committed to the solution of socio-economic development.
Accountability does not grow in vacuum. Several conditions and factors are needed to develop accountability in administration. There should be a political commitment that will help secure accountability. Accountability and responsibility cannot be established without authority. Public awareness is essential to ensure accountability. The moral values and social standards of the people and public servants at large should be upheld. Examples of accountability should be set first by those who are at the helm of affairs. Rules of law should be established at all levels. Establishment of democratic culture and democratic institution is necessary for accountability. The salary structure should commensurate with the status, responsibility and market situation.
Now let us see if the practice of transparency helps accountability in our country. Theoretically, we have an elected parliament in a multi-party framework. We have a bold judiciary and a large press. Therefore, the institutional means to achieve transparency in administration are present here, with ways to gain accountability existing there. But the question is how far transparency is actually practiced here to achieve accountability.
Are our national policies and local development programs adequately know to our common people? How far the democratic forms are practiced? Is judiciary truly independent? Is our press free? Can the common people reach the politicians and the bureaucrats? If all the answers are a big YES, then we can safely hold that our govt. is transparent as well as accountable to the people.
The traditional or colonial civil service was based on a culture of secretary. In that culture, it is easy to manipulate and exploit. The civil servants may abuse authority and discretion. When the citizens know their rights and privileges, the civil servants have little scope to manipulate them or deprive them of their rights and privileges. Open civil service inhabits corrupt practices and secretive one breed corruption. When the government is transparent, the press has access to information.