Published Date: Aug 23, 2011
SDPI FOR RADICAL ACCOUNTABILITY REFORMS
Stressing the need for structural and radical reforms for accountability and good governance in the country, speakers at a Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) seminar on Monday said the importance of a citizen report card was vital for ensuring social accountability in the provision of pro-poor public service delivery.
These views were expressed by Governance Institutes Network International (GINI) Adviser Daniyal Aziz, SDPI Senior Research Associate Gulbaz Ali Khan and Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) Chairman Imtiaz Gul, at a seminar titled “Implementing citizen report cards in slums” organised by the SDPI.
The GINI adviser underlined the need for radical reforms in civil services. He added that only a structured system of accountability, coupled with negotiated incentives to executives, could overcome systematic corruption.
He said social accountability involved an ethical dimension that could be used as a check for public office-bearers in countries where there was a system in place and an ethical code was diligently followed. “But this system is difficult to implement in countries like Pakistan where corruption itself has become a system and a norm,” he said, adding that the “basic reason for corruption is insufficient incentives and rewards, besides the lack of an appropriate mechanism for checks and balances”. He said unless hierarchal incentives against the 1972 Pay and Pension Commission were reviewed and proper accountability mechanisms were put in place, there were few chances of improvement in the current culture of unchecked corruption.
He referred to various accountability systems introduced in Pakistan over the years by various regimes such as ombudsman by Ziaul Haq, FIA by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Ehtesab Cell by Nawaz Sharif and NAB by Pervaiz Musharraf. However, none of them was able to curtail the problem. “We have added new layers of accountability, however, each initiative only resulted in institutional dichotomies, inefficiencies and setting the stage for further corruption,” he said.
He termed the Local Government System 2001 as one of the best systems for monitoring public office-bearers, and identified five institutions of state, namely finance, revenue, administration, judiciary and police as the most critical for reforming and managing public affairs.
While giving a detailed presentation on Citizen Report Card (CRC), Gulbaz Ali Khan said that CRCs were participatory surveys that sought user feedback on the performance of public services. He said it was an approach towards building accountability that relied on civic engagement, in which ordinary citizens and civil society organisations became part of the accountability process directly or indirectly. He said the CRC was a mirror for the government that aggregated user perceptions on the performance of public services.
“By systematically gathering and disseminating public feedback, CRCs serve as a surrogate for competition for state-owned monopolies that lack the incentive to be as responsive as private enterprises to their client’s needs,” he said.
He added that the SDPI, in collaboration with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability South Asia Region (ANSA-SAR), had initiated a project that used the CRC to assess users’ satisfaction with the quality of education in public schools in targeted areas. The overall objective of the project was to improve secondary education for male and female students in two slum settlements of Islamabad, Alipur Farash and Hansa Colony.
Summing up the debate, Imtiaz Gul said everyone should look into the strong nexus of corruption in the bureaucracy and politics. He stressed on the need for community oversight and structural barriers to ensure checks and to improve public service delivery to the people, especially the disadvantaged.