The attributes of good governance

The attributes of good governance

In the previous section you studied about the meaning and challenges to good governance. In this section you will come know about the various attributes of good governance.

A) Rightsizing governmental functions

It is essential that the role of the state is primarily to the care functions that cannot be performed by the markets. There is a need to identify those care areas. Security, law and order, social services, creation of infrastructure, and macroeconomic management are some areas. We must strengthen the existing ones, and set up new, autonomous regulatory agencies with quasi-judicial powers, in order to ensure that the functioning of private units are regulated in the interests of society. All functions that do not involve formulation of policy should be given to executive agencies, cooperative and nongovernmental organizations, with a caution that these autonomous bodies should play a supplementary and complementary role to other public organizations. The departmental forms of undertakings should be converted into joint stock companies; services that cannot be performed economically by public organizations should be contracted out. Such steps, hopefully, would reduce the size of public bureaucracy and bring in value for money.

B) Greater use of information technology and management techniques

With the introduction of computer and information technology in governmental functioning, steps are needed towards revamping officer oriented systems with the aim of evolving better systems of record keeping, movement of files, space utilization, and the adoption of other available means of automation. We can make public offices more effective and efficient through computerized information system. We must reduce, or, even abolish all unwarranted reports and returns.

Greater delegation of powers and level jumping can also lead to greater efficiency. Simplification of office procedures, standardization of job output, and introduction of appraisal by result, would help in boosting efficiency. Performance budgeting and zero base budgeting, along with efficiency cum performance audit would ensure greater accountability.

C) Delegation, ethics and participation

One of the basic requirements of good governance is responsive administration, which, in turn, depends on:

(i) delegation and devolution of authority, and responsibility,

(ii) adherence to clearly defined ethical standards, and

(iii) the process of consultation and participation in decision making.

Throughout the world, it is well recognized that the civil service ethics is an important check and balance against the arbitrary and politically motivated use of public power. The need for a civil service court and a charter of ethics is being felt to maintain the confidence of the people, and to build up credibility of public institutions for good governance. Prevention, surveillance, and deterrent prosecution operating through the strength of existing machinery and the creation of new, autonomous quasi-judicial bodies warrants urgent attention. Similarly, a code of conduct is needed to define, specifically, the relationship between civil servants and politicians. The constitution of a high powered civil service board or Commission, or the extension of the jurisdiction of the existing Public Service Commission may guard against politicization of postings, transfers, and promotions. The proposed machinery can also act as a Civil Services’ Ombudsman. This is being advocated in many countries.

D) Ensuring accountability

Another the most important item contributing to good governance is public accountability. Accountability should not only be confined to the functioning of public organizations, it should also become an integral part of the broader aspect of governance in a civil society. This would require proactive participation of different stakeholders in society.

It necessitates the citizens’ orientation to public organizations involving adherence to declared standards of performance, sharing of information, openness, and a system of providing choice and consultation to the citizens. Greater transparency in different aspects of the functioning of public authorities is needed.

Though some steps have already been taken in this direction, it should be expedited. Easy accessibility, by citizens, to the information relating to  government operations and its decisions and performance is an essential aspect of good governance. The citizens’ charter should be extended to all public organizations dealing with service sector. Such charters should be updated periodically based on the feedback of citizens. Not only does the existing grievance redressal machinery need to be strengthened at all levels, it must be coupled with a mechanism to closely monitor delays, and enforce individual responsibility.

More importantly, we must remove the root causes of grievances and delays. Apart from steps taken to empower citizens, especially those in the weaker sections, local social groups and media are needed to identify problems, and, to ensure prompt action from public authorities. Internationally, a number of countries have restructured their administrative systems to fulfil the aspirations of citizens. Technology up gradation (introducing information technology), incorporating modern techniques of management to ensure effectiveness and efficiency capacity building of public institutions (training of civil servants) and transparency and openness in public organizations are the essential aspects of good governance. Further towards good governance, empowerment of citizens in general and vulnerable section in particular (decentralization), empowerment of grass root functionaries (delegation), dispersal of politico-administrative power (democratization), privatization, contracting out and removing delays and rigidity in public organizations (debureaucratisation) are essential alternatives for application of good governance and countering challenges faced in application of good governance.

E) Institutional reforms

Administration, being constantly involved in practical action situations, it cannot afford to remain static. It has to change, structurally, for the sake of sheer survival. Four principal goals of the rearrangement of administrative structure have been identified by Mosher. They are: changing policy and programmes; improving administrative effectiveness; solving personal problems; and, countering pressures and threats from outside organizations. Of these, improving organizational effectiveness seems a more generic objective. Paul Appleby, in an insightful article on the first Hoover Commission report in the US suggested two basic changes in administration: constant, and, episodic.

The first one stands for incremental change that takes place during the course of spontaneous adjustments to changing situations. New filing systems, alterations in procedures of work, and the reshuffling of postings, are examples of this type of changes, referred to as constant change. On the other hand, the episodic change is much wider ranging in scope and content, involving a major shake up in government.