ACCOUNTABILITY AND ETHICAL GOVERNANCE

ETHICAL GOVERNANCE

  • It is relatively new term that is used to describe performance issues in management and policy making in business , government , politics , healthcare etc.
  • It denote administrative measures , procedures and policies that fulfil criteria required for good handling of public affairs
  • In context of public services good or acceptable behaviour is often defined in terms of justice , fairness , equality and integrity . Thus ethical governance is a normative expression and not purely descriptive phenomena .
  • Concept of ethical governace implies a value assessment and is thus value laden . It is precesilely because of this value ;aden property that different organizations in both public and private sector often use the terms ethical governance and ethical management as labels or advertisement slogans for their marketing purpose .
  • At the same time it denotes the criteria based on which ethical quality of governance is assessed . These criteria includes Integrity , equality . empathy , tolerance , compassion etc

 

MINIMALIST AND MAXIMALIST CONCEPT OF ETHICAL GOVERNANCE

  • Minimalist concept involves minimum requirements of ethical government whereas maximalist approach aims at enriching our understanding of what ethical good and high quality governance involves or could involve .
  • Minimalist concept of ethical governance states absolute prohibition that public authorities and Civil Servants are forbidden to violate in all circumstances .
  • Minimalist approach includes prohibitions of all forms of corruption , extortion , coercion , theft , deception , discrimination .
  • Maximalist concept of ethical governance additionally involves positive commands such as
    • Be fair and impartial
    • Safeguard well being of citizens
    • Take good care of administrative tasks entrusted to you
  • Further more it specifies positive characteristics of good authority of civil servants such as
    • Diligence
    • Kindness
    • Patience
    • Care etc

 

PRE-REQUISITES OF ETHICAL GOVERNANCE

  • Transparency
  • Leadership
  • Strong Value system
  • Training which should focus on knowledge, skill and attitude . It should not be merely lecture based
  • Code of ethics
  • System of Reward and Punishment

 

ACCOUNTABILITY AND ETHICAL GOVERNANCE

Accountability refers to the obligation of administration to give satisfactory account of use of official power or discretionary authority to people. It is state of beingliable or answerable. To be accountable implies to be obliged to report, explain or justify something. It ensures something is carried out as expected.

Control Responsibility Accountability
·       It is contemporaneous with action

·       It implies public officials will adhere to explicit and implicit values of administration.

·       Responsible public servants know the law and have conviction about proper administration.

·       It refers to public servants’ responsiveness to public will while accountable denotes specific methods to enforce responsibility

·       Post factum in nature i.e it is only after an act has been complete that one is called upon to render an accountability of it.

 

WHAT IS DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACCOUNTABILITY AND RESPONSIBILITY ?

  • The main difference between responsibility and accountability is that responsibility can be shared while accountability cannot. Being accountable not only means being responsible for something but also ultimately being answerable for your actions.
  • Also, accountability is something you hold a person to only after a task is done or not done. Responsibility can be before and/or after a task.
  • In ethics and governance, accountability is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, and the expectation of account-giving. Responsibility may refer to: being in charge, being the owner of a task or event.
  • Example: It is DM’s responsibility to make sure everyone in his district is given Aadhar Card. So DM will be aware of this task and keep working. At this point, you cannot say DM has been held accountable for performing this task. DM is only held accountable — owes an explanation for his actions — if he could not finish the task in stipulated time or there were many errors.

 

TYPES OF ACCOUNTABILITY

  • Political accountability is the accountability of the government, civil servants and politicians to the public and to legislative bodies such as a parliament.
  • Ethical Accountability: Within an organization, the principles and practices of ethical accountability aim to improve both the internal standard of individual and group conduct as well as external factors, such as sustainable economic and ecologic strategies.
  • Administrative Accountability: Internal rules and norms as well as some independent commission are mechanisms to hold civil servants within the administration of government accountable. Within department or ministry, firstly, behavior is bound by rules and regulations; secondly, civil servants are subordinates in a hierarchy and accountable to superiors. Nonetheless, there are independent “watchdog” (Like CAG) units to scrutinize and hold departments accountable; legitimacy of these commissions is built upon their independence, as it avoids any conflicts of interests.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY DILEMMA

  • Because many different individuals in large organizations contribute in many ways to the decisions and policies, it is difficult even in principle to identify who should be accountable for the results. This is what is known as the problem of many hands. It creates a dilemma for accountability.
  • If individuals are held accountable or responsible, individuals who could not have prevented the results are either unfairly punished, or they “take responsibility” in a symbolic ritual without suffering any consequences. If only organizations are held accountable, then all individuals in the organization are equally blameworthy or all are excused. Various solutions have been proposed. One is to broaden the criteria for individual responsibility so that individuals are held accountable for not anticipating failures in the organization.

 

IMPERATIVE OF ACCOUNTABILITY

i) It purports to evaluate performance in terms of goals

  • Goal is split up into tasks and responsibility and it is individual administration who is called to render an account of how they are discharging their responsibility

ii) Accountabilty is achievement oriented

  • Since resources ( Financial and Human ) available to organization are limited , administration accountability seeks to ensure optimum use of available resources and at same time realize organizational objectives

iii) Guard against misuse of resources

  • It is ensured by various mechanisms
  • Executive is responsible to legislature , judicial review , audit , financial advisory system in ministries etc supplemented by mass media , interest groups , electoral process etc.
  • Hierarchy , unity of command , span of control etc enforce accountabilty

 

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR WHAT?

  • Formulating policies in national and public interest and not to sub serve such interests
  • Setting targets for completion of projects , programmes , schemes etc and fulfilling them in time bound manner
  • Setting standards of performance and sticking to them
  • Keeping discretion to minimum and exercise it in fair , just and transparent manner
  • Maintaing an open government where any citizen may have right to inspect any official paper and see how decision is achieved at

 

ACCOUNTABILITY TO WHOM?

  • To elected representatives
  • To Audit
  • To vigilance
  • To people
  • To Judiciary
  • To media
  • To God and one’s own conscience

 

ACCOUNTABILITY AND ETHICAL GOVERNANCE

  • These are closely related as effective accountability helps achievement of ethical standards in governance system. Various control mechanisms provide ample opportunity to raise issues of Ethics and morality in governance system
  • Ethics can be considered a form of self-accountability , an inner check on administration conduct. It is self accountability that imposes expectations on former
  • It is synthesis of external and internal checks that determines parameters of administrative ethics. Higher the level of ethics , less is the need for strong instruments of accountability and control . Value of self accountability is immense . The desire to be ethical in one’s profession should spring from within.

 

OBSTACLES TO ENSURING ETHICAL GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY

i) Special Expertise and information

  • Public administrators are often experts in their specific area and it is difficult for any outside agency to surpass them in area of their specialization
  • They generate and control crucial information that may be difficult to be accessed or comprehend by regulators of law
  • Although RTI is there but there is price to be paid for obtating information and verify its authencity

ii) Full time status

  • Most administrators are full time while outsiders cannot devote equal amount of time in overseeing their activities
  • CAG,legislators, Judiciary etc have less time to keep watch over actions of administration
  • They cannot seek all crucial information from administration and even if they get it. they do not have sufficient time to process and use it effectively

iii) Massive expansion of Bureaucracy

  • Number of public personnel going up day by day makes it difficult to control them
  • Getting difficult for officers to keep eye over conduct of most of their subordinates

iv) Lack of coordination

  • There are number of agencies to ensure probity in administration but absence of harmony is there among them
  • Permission to prosecute govt officials is not granted many a times
  • Judiciary is also slow in justice delivery

v) Misinterpretation of role and obligation

  • Civil Servants often indulge in actions that are unethical and against public interest. Over the period of time they get used to defining their roles and responsibilities in parochial manner that is self cantered , organizational cantered and not people centred .
  • General tendency among administration is to view public interest from narrow angle. Specific goals of organization prompt them to focus on achievements of narrow organizational goals and public interest gets submerged.eg Excise department may be interested to open more wine and beer shops in order to earn revenue but ignore impact on public health
  • Political pressure imposed from above also colours vision of administrators.eg Police because of pressure from its political bosses is caught between compulsion of hierarchy and obligations of duty.

Vi) Orthodox Loyalty

  • In Indian society it is customary to show respect to superiors and refrain from criticism of higher authorities. In public organization any voice against superiors is considered as an act of insubordination
  • In such climate even honest employees do nit speak of unethical practices
  • Undue compassion shown to subordinates on their errors of omissions and commissions strengthen the soft state.

Vii) Employees Union

  • Tendency of unions to resist managerial actions against their members even when they have violated ethical norms
  • In political systems where employee unions are aligned with powerful political parties, administrative leadership refrains from taking tough stand even against delinquent employees

 

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