Friday, 25 May 2012

Good Governance

There is a difference between government and governance. We all need a government that governs. We need more governance but less government. But we need a small smart and strong government. We should catalyse and facilitate change rather than directly delivering services. Secondly there is a difference between forms of governance and quality of Governance. For example e-governance is a technology based method of governance. But e-governance becomes good governance only when it is reliable, up-to-date and available for all the 24 hours. If services under e- governance are frequently disrupted due to inadequate power supply or the Server being down, then e-governance is not good governance. Similarly Public Private Partnership is another method of governance which saves lot of government resources, but it need not automatically become good governance if the private service provider chooses to neglect quality of performance and there is no one to monitor his work. Services can be contracted out or turned over to the private sector but governance cannot be contracted out. A good government has to govern well and strongly.

One essential element of governance is preservation of law and order, protection of property rights, and enforcement of contracts through courts. When property rights and contracts enforcement systems are effective, the state attracts domestic and foreign investment and higher growth. There is no fear in investors’ mind of being cheated. Such an environment fosters competitive markets. When Governmental institutions become weak, the mafiosi or organized crime provides services of information as well as enforcement. Crony capitalism and kleptocracy become pervasive as a result.

Absence of corruption and least transaction costs is the most important indicator of good governance. This needs creation of independent agencies against corruption. Corruption needs to be checked and punished at cutting edge levels and at higher levels. This requires elimination of discretion and rent seeking opportunities. It also requires transparent system of procurement and purchases of goods and services for the government, based on information based, transparent, competitive bidding. Fourth Indicator of good governance is ensuring smooth flow of information to the citizens and transparency in decision making processes. This requires respect for right to information. It ensures openness and accountability.

Another indicator of good governance is efficient functioning of judicial system. How accessible the courts are? How affordable justice is? How swiftly courts handle cases? How impartial court decisions are? How effective courts are in enforcing their orders? “In the year 2000, 25 million cases were pending before the courts in India, and even if no new ones are filed, it will take 324 years to clear the backlog”. (Bearak)

Often public policies are formulated without any evidence base. The fifth indicator of good governance is a practice of building competence and capacity of departments to design, formulate and implement evidence-based public policies and discharge government functions.The evidence base need not be built only by the in-house staff of a given department. If the staff do not have the skills / expertise to do data collection, research, analysis to reliably create the evidence-base, the job can be contracted out as consultancy work to outsiders such as academics. But it is wise to create SOME in-house capacity for research (through training) – even if only so that there are people within the dept. who can understand the evidence and interpret, assess and apply it, for internal decision making. This requires large scale investment in data collection and research, and in the training of employees . The top post related to training must be made highly lucrative and respected, and the best officers should be posted there.

The sixth indicator of good governance is a motivated civil service with effective and objective system of rewards and punishments. Stability of tenure provides continuity of administrative leadership which is critical in transforming public systems. No organization will go through the risk of innovation and transformation if its senses that its leader might be gone in a year or two. The rewards and punishment system of civil servants and political leaders needs serious thought. They should not be punished for trying something and failing. Otherwise it will result in their running a mediocre and ineffective government and will make them hesitant to take bold decisions, resulting in governance deficit and policy paralysis.

Effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of public services requires the use of latest ICT, e governance and other technology on one hand, and decentralization of governance and powers on the other hand. Information and communication technology is also needed to monitor the performance of contractors. Responsibility for addressing problems of citizens should be with the lowest levels of government possible. It should be at block, Thana and Tehsil level and not even at district level because we cannot micromanage from a distance. This is the seventh indicator of good governance. This will ensure speedy redressal of public grievances.

The eighth indicator of good governance is measurement of outcomes, not inputs or even outputs. It is the results which need to be measured. The ninth indicator is citizen orientation of the government. Civil servants and political leaders should be citizen friendly, in touch with citizens, track their complaints and listen to their groups, councils and associations. Their will to serve the people needs to be strengthened by the top leadership. They should focus on quality of public services and getting close to the citizens. It also requires respect for public opinion. The tenth indicator of good governance is participatory management. This requires giving space for civil society, non profit organizations and experts in consultative processes.

The eleventh indicator of good governance is creating new partnerships. These are new models of public- private partnerships as well as public- public partnership. This can promote competition between service providers for delivering various kinds of public services. The twelfth indicator of good governance is emphasis on maintaining and operating existing structures and infrastructure. Resources need to be allocated for proper maintenance.

Budgets should be given lump sum and should be mission driven. Legislators then do not need to micromanage. They in turn can focus on larger problems. This is the thirteenth indicator of good governance. Fourteenth indicator of good governance is effective and efficient management of existing public sector units. This need is critical in the power sector. Good governance requires provision of basic infrastructure in areas like power, roads, irrigation, sewerage, drinking water, sanitation, education and health. Good governance also requires protection of natural environment for sustainable development and keeping it pollution free. Good governance also requires simple, need-based, timely changes in laws, regulations and procedures.

Good governance requires equal and inclusive access to public services by the disabled, the weak, the poor and the destitute sections of society.

. . . . . .. . . . ... .. . . ... ....... . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . .

PS:This article was written by me and was published in Daily newspaper Hindustan in Hindi from Lucknow, India on May 25, 2012. . VN Garg