Information Sharing and Transparency in Government

Information Sharing and Transparency in Government

This article deals with topic titled ‘Information Sharing and Transparency in Government .’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here

 

What is Transparency in Governance

  • Transparency = Openness
  • Transparency in Governance means that the criteria, processes and systems of decision making are openly known to all (in simple words, Transparency in Governance means how Governance is being carried out should be known to all)

 

  • Although transparency is often used interchangeably with access to information, however transparency is a wider term with information sharing is one of the  tool .

 

  • Transparency or openness has three aspects
        1. Participative governance 
        2. Access to information or information sharing
        3. Accountability

 

 

Benefits of Transparency

  • Helpful in curbing Corruption and Nepotism
  • Increases the legitimacy of state
  • Enable a citizen to make well-informed decisions especially while voting – Helps the citizens to cast vote based on performance, rather than narrow considerations of caste or groupism.

 

1 . Participative Governance

  • Participative Governance means when citizens themselves participate in the governance and decision making .
  • Participative governance is one of the means to achieve transparency in governance through the bottom up approach.

 

  • There are different ways by which participative governance can be achieved

1.1 Panchayati Raj Institutions & Urban Bodies

  • It is well known fact that as the distance from Power of Center increases, proportionately transparency decreases.
  • PRIs were given constitutional status via 73rd and 74th Amendments
  • Powers have been devolved to Village Panchayats and Gram Sabhas in which people take decisions themselves

 

1.2 Social Audit

  • Social audit  is audit through client or beneficiary groups or civil society groups (ie Stakeholders)in order to ensure social accountability of an Organisation
  • Helpful in Accountability and Transparency

Conventional Audit

Social Audit

Top down concept of Audit Bottom up concept of Audit
Audit done by Government Functionaries Audit done by  beneficiary group and civil society (stakeholders)
Audit with Economic Orientation Audit with  Economic as well as social impact consideration
  • It was suggested by Ashok Mehta Committee in 1977. After 73rd Amendment, when Gram Panchayats got Constitutional Status, rural citizens / Gram Sabha  got legitimacy to conduct Social Audit .
  • SC has favoured it .
  • CAG in 2016 has laid down “auditing standards” for social audit.

 

Advantages of Social Audit over Conventional Auditing

  • Increases people’s participation in Governance(Participatory Governance)
  • More transparency and strong accountability
  • Audit from Economic and Social Impact perspective . Hence more effective
  • Infuse effectivity and efficiency in public service delivery (Ghost Beneficiary can be weeded out)
  • Generation and consolidation of Social capital and social enterprise.
  • Social Audit become crucial after greater devolution of central fund to Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies on the recommendation of 14th Finance Commission as CAG’s audit jurisdiction over such entities is nebulous.
  • Social Audits of MGNREGA has played important role in rooting out corruption from the scheme .

Note : it isn’t just limited to Government companies and schemes . It is equally valid for Private Companies as well where Audit can be conducted by its stakeholders. Eg : TISCO has adopted this technique of Auditing even before independence.

 

Challenges in Social Auditing

  • It is voluntary & doesn’t enjoy legal backing (although some schemes like MGNREGA has legal backing)
  • Lack of expertise
  • Standardization problem
  • Time consuming

 

Recommendation of 2nd ARC  regarding Social Auditing :

  • Mandatory social audit of all citizen centric schemes and programs
  • Social audit should compliment the CAG ’s audits

 

 

2018 : Meghalaya became the first state in India to operationalise a social audit law – Social Audit Act, 2017’.

  • Social Audit Facilitator  will be appointed to conduct the audit directly with the people
  • Act provides a list of programs, schemes and projects to be audited

 

1.3 Resident Welfare Associations

    • Bhagidari scheme of the Delhi Government

2. Information Sharing

Right to Information  Act

Discussed in separate article. Click here to navigate to that article.

3. Accountability 

Discussed in separate article. Click here to navigate to that article.

 

 

 

 

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