Work shop discussions on Public Administration are being organized. They will be held on Monday night (timing will be decided in consultation with the groups). We shall start with Centralization, Public accountability, Role of IT, NGOs, and Citizen participation. As a preparatory to this this blog is published. Even those who have not taken Public Administration as an optional will do well to remember hat a general acquaintance is useful for both the Essay Paper and GS.
32 thoughts on “41. Basic concepts in Public Administration Unit 1”
1. Accountability and Transparency
Transparency and accountability have become vital components of a well functioning democracy. When we say that an institution or government is transparent, it means that the decision making processes are clearly visible to the public and they can engage in the process as well. Accountability means that the government or organization is responsible to its citizens for delivering services in a cost effective and beneficent manner. (More material available in Test 4 Public Administration disk for Pub Ad discussions in class)
Promoting a culture of transparency in government essentially aims at reducing corruption. Civil society has an important role to play in this regard. They are an important medium through which the government can engage a larger section of the public and improve access to information. Following are few mechanisms to promote transparency:
Making information openly available and accessible to the public through the media and the internet
Documentation of all public transactions
Clear demarcation of responsibilities
Access to information laws
Encouraging accountability in an institution ensures that resources are utilized efficiently and effectively.
Various types of accountability:
In any kind of accountability, the service providers are answerable to those who receive the service and to their higher authorities. Citizen Report Cards, Community Score Cards, Social Audits, Participatory Expenditure Tracking, Citizen ‘s Charters, Procurement Monitoring, Public feedback Mechanisms and Performance Measurement are some of the instruments being used for citizen engagement and incorporating accountability into decision making.
II. Citizen Centric Administration and Public Service Delivery
Citizen-centricity is the sine qua non of administration and requires citizens to be the focus of administration such that ‘Citizen is the purpose of the administration’s very existence and is a part of it’ (Mahatma Gandhi). A citizen centric administration should continuously gear itself toward progressive effectiveness in the delivery of basic and essential services.
Moving toward administrative citizen-centricity would have to start with rationalising the administrative set up by rethinking and determining, according to the changing times: what the government / public administration should do and at what level of government; what it should facilitate being done by others; and what it should do in partnership with the business organisations and the civil society organisations
In such a scenario, the citizen would have a wider choice to access services, voice to demand value and quality in service delivery and the right to hold the service provider accountable for maintenance of standards.
Public Service Delivery
Public services are those services provided by governments (local, municipal, or larger-scale) to the public. These services are such that have to be provided whether a citizen has to capacity to pay for them or not. Examples of such services are sewage, trash disposal, street cleaning. Respect for and obedience to the law and responsible citizenship, can be secured best through inclusive, responsive and effective delivery of public services, simplified and citizen-friendly requirements and process of compliance.
Thus, effective and continually improving public service delivery becomes a crucial yardstick to gauge a government’s or an administration’s citizen-centricity. Moreover, pro-poor-service-delivery is an important benchmark for achieving inclusive development to which all governments at all levels are committed. (More material available in Disk: Tests 10 and 12 Public Administration for Pub Ad discussions in class) .
ICT for Development
Throughout the globe, the sweep of information and communication technologies offers unprecedented opportunities for the advancement of governance and society. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are emerging as important tools to improve efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability in public administrative systems. The term ICT refers to the full range of information and communication technologies and applications used in digital and electronic government.
Relevance of ICT for good governance
Good governance is the judicious and effective exercise of power for the sole purpose of improving the quality of life of the people. Successful governance is influenced by several factors, some of which include socioeconomic and political environment, quality of leadership, character and form of government, an enlightened and engaged civil society, and government’s administrative capacity. ICTs provide enormous opportunities for improving these factors, thus creating good governance.
In the developmental context of India, Brazil and South Africa, usage of ICTs in governance process has assumed an important place. (More material in Disk:Test 9 for Pub Ad discussions in class)
Decentralization is a method of empowering people at local level. The socio-politico-economic forces at local level are different from the forces that operate at the national level. Decentralized governance is a response for rationalizing these local forces and also an attempt to integrate the same with the national forces. The success of decentralization perhaps lies in maintaining the local identities and in providing them an independent space in Indian polity.
There are mainly four types of decentralization. These are as follows.
Political decentralization aims to give citizens or their elected representatives more power in public decision-making. The concept implies that the selection of representatives from local electoral jurisdictions allows citizens to know better their political representatives and allows elected officials to know better the needs and desires of their constituents.
Administrative decentralization seeks to redistribute authority, responsibility and financial resources for providing public services among different levels of government. It is the transfer of responsibility for the planning, financing and management of certain public functions from the central government and its agencies to field units of government agencies, subordinate units or levels of government, semi-autonomous public authorities or corporations, or area-wide, regional or functional authorities.
Financial responsibility is a core component of decentralization. If local governments and private organizations are to carry out decentralized functions effectively, they must have an adequate level of revenues. Financial decentralization advocates sharing of distribution of finances at national, state and local level.
Economic decentralization advocates government’s perspective of privatization and deregulation, because they shift responsibility for functions from the public to the private sector.
In India, two key amendments to the Indian constitution in 1993 (the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts) provided the legislative framework for the introduction of a three-tier system of elected councils in rural and urban areas in all states in a population greater than two million.
There is much to learn from the concept decentralized governance followed in different countries and also from specific case studies of successful decentralization. The contents of this thematic area include knowledge resources of the following types.
Conceptual understanding of decentralized governance
Impact of decentralization service delivery
Decentralization and Community Empowerment
Fiscal Decentralization and Service Delivery (More material available in Disk: Test 11 for Pub Ad discussions in class)
The Concept of non-State Actors and Governance
The concept of ‘non-state actors’ refers to a wide range of development actors – other than governments. The Cotonou Agreement between the European Union (EU) and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific ACP countries refers to non-state actors as
“A wide range of non-governmental development actors like civil society in all its diversity, economic and social partners, including trade union organisations and the private sector”.
This is obviously a very open-ended definition. In practice, it means that participation is open to all kinds of actors, such as the private sector, community-based organisations, women’s groups, human rights associations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), religious organisations, farmers’ cooperatives, trade unions, universities and research institutes, the media, etc. Also included in the above definition are informal groups such as grassroots organisations, informal private sector associations, etc.
Today, non-state actors are actively engaged in community mobilisation, economic development and societal transformation. They work at international, national and local levels and play different roles like capacity building, asset creation, representation, lobbying, advocacy, service delivery etc. These organisations and institutions have taken many forms based on their goals and purpose of involvement in the developmental process as described in the definition above. Essentially, they are instruments of people’s action and the means of protecting and promoting vital rights of citizens. The Non-state Actors can be divided into four levels:
At the base level are grassroots or community based organizations which are generally informal groupings that develop coping strategies to address immediate problems affecting the community.
Formal or structured civil society organisations operating at local, state or national level compose the next level. Such organizations usually support community-based organizations in service delivery, research and advocacy.
Umbrella organizations and thematic networks such as national associations and federations exist at the next level. Such networks are often mandated to defend common interests, share information, enable strategic planning etc. Finally, the fourth level is constituted by platforms or common dialogue for various umbrella networks and formal organizations.
Non-state actors aid the process of good governance in several ways such as:
Citizenship Development: For citizens to be active in public affairs and participate in efforts that promote good governance they need to be motivated, skilled and informed.
Policy Formulation and Advocacy: Influencing the decisions of legislators, other elected representatives, and public administrators is a function that many non-state actors undertake.
Non-state actors have come to play an important role in the process of governance in the developing countries. They are very much active in the governance realm of the three countries of focus in this context: India, Brazil and South Africa. In all the three countries they play roles ranging from that of international aid agencies, watchdogs, national rights organisations that demand transparency and accountability to community based organisations that are facilitating the citizens participation in the process of governance. This knowledge resources compiled under this thematic area aims to help the readers gain an overarching understanding of the role and relevance of non-state actors especially with respect to the IBSA countries. The thematic area broadly covers following key aspects:
Overview of the role and relevance of non-state actors
Analysis of the impacts of their involvement in policymaking and implementation
Case studies specific to developing countries on the role played by the non-state actors ( More material sent by e mail to Vinay for Pub Ad discussions in class )
Urban governance refers to the application of the concept of governance to the jurisdiction of urban areas within the multi-tiered system of their administration. It has economic, political and social dimensions within the context of urban areas. Urban governance has been increasingly becoming important in the wake of rising levels of urbanization and emerging trends of urban population growth in India since 1950s. The forces of urbanization exert greater pressure on the provision of shelter and basic services, which need to be provided to citizens, but it is also important to recognize that urban areas are the major contributors to national economic growth.
In this context improving the urban governance through ensuring appropriate systems and processes in place would aid better service delivery. The following are some of the aspects of urban governance that require due attention and reforms to be undertaken so as to improve service delivery and strengthen the local bodies:
Empowerment and strengthening of the municipal governments by devolving powers and authority is an important step forward. However, equally important is the promotion of intra-city decentralisation through decentralized structures like zonal/area committees, ward committees in large cities and the provision for representation of NGOs, CBOs and Residents Associations.
Urban local governments need appropriate systems, staffing and incentives for efficient and responsive urban service delivery. Devolution of funds, discretionary charges, fund raising powers and back-up mechanisms are important support systems that lead to better service provision and maintenance.
It is important to have master plans prepared for promoting the economic growth/ development of cities which that integrate the physical, economic, and social development components. The master plans not only act as technical blue prints but also mechanisms for placing the interests of various stakeholders of city growth/ development on urban space, especially of the urban poor.
Urban governance as a separate area received attention in India with the 74th Amendment of the Constitution, whereby multi-layered administrative system was formed and urban local bodies came into existence. Thus Indian cities/urban areas gained a separate political identity with the amendment and the basic services and problems related to urbanization were important areas on which urban local bodies started concentrating.(More details sent to Mr. Vinay: for Pub Ad discussions in class)