ECI- A ROLE MODEL FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE

21.03.2013, Bengaluru, Karnataka ,India

Article contributed by Dr.Shalini Rajneesh, IAS,Secretary, DPAR-AR,Govt.of Karnataka.

I happened to work as an election observer during last Maharashtra Assembly elections and felt proud to be part of such a massive operation being carried out so meticulously, year after year by Election Commission of India (ECI).

It is often said that we have excellent schemes but worst implementation, major blame for which goes to the bureaucracy. However, if ECI can make the same bureaucracy work scrupulously and flawlessly, why not the Central & State Governments?

ECI has the mandate of the Constitution, to perform specific functions, from time to time. On the other hand development administration is an ongoing democratic process. Despite many differences between the constitution of ECI and government departments, my analysis is based on the most critical similarity, ie ROLE OF GOVT. INSTITUTIONS in achieving PUBLIC INTEREST.

Both ECI and other administrative systems are our own creation and hence can be subjected to changes. For example, earlier the elections were not always free and fair in our country. However, over the years, better systems have been evolved and suitable amendments carried out by our very own Parliament. If the whole world is impressed by our evolved election process, then it is time to “look within.”

While holding of elections is purely an official level function, governments are run jointly by officials and non officials for the benefit of the citizens.

It is seen that if certain characteristics of ECI functioning could be adopted by all government departments, the OUTCOMES could be improved.

1)  STANDARDISE DATA BASE FOR UPDATING INDIVIDUAL DEVLOPMENT INPUTS ACROSS ALL DEPARTMENTS. The target based, Time bound approach to development should be adopted by all agencies in unison with outcomes such as reducing POVERTY AMONG IDENTIFIED POOR FAMILIES by increasing their PRODUCTIVITY of resources, both natural & manpower based. ECI employs vulnerability mapping for facilitating vulnerable sections to cast vote freely without any hindrances. This kind of mapping is necessary in extending benefits of Government schemes. Since most of times these are siphoned off by undeserving people, vulnerability mapping helps in targeting the target beneficiaries effectively in delivering services. This is particularly necessary in identifying BPL families. This kind of concept can be used in schemes like NREGA and other housing schemes to ensure that no one remains houseless and poor.

2) MANDATORY USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY to link outcomes of all departments. w.r.t. each CITIZEN through National ID code with software to constantly monitor, evaluate & rectify, both in Qualitative & Quantitative terms. Unless the benefits of all schemes are integrated to make a significant difference to the life of vulnerable sections, the outcomes will not be significant. Since the target population base is so huge it is manually impossible to track individual progress.

3)              MAKE DEVELOPMENT INFORMATION TRANSPARENT THROUGH WEB AND HELPLINES. The right based campaign needs to be invigorated to empower the CITIZEN to avail govt. benefits for self development. Public kiosks for receiving and displaying the status of each application vis a vis Citizen Charter’s time limits at each office, would bring in transparency and public accountability.

4)              ENFORCE UNIFORM LAWS FOR POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE EXECUTIVE. Model code of conduct for officials or non officials should be enforced by statutory organizations like Lokayukta or Ombudsman. Prior approval of government before prosecution should be dispensed with.

5)              EXECUTE PERFORMANCE CONTRACTS WITH POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE EXECUTIVES. Fixed tenure with mandatory task-specific outcomes should be enforceable in court of law. Too long a stay at one place should be prohibited at all levels. Performance Appraisal has to be thus based these well defined objective criteria.

6)  CONTINUOUS CAPACITY BUILDING FOR ERROR FREE PERFORMANCE. Once a task has been assigned, every minute aspect critical for success should be appreciated through interactive training with successful performers. Commonly committed errors should be listed as donts and mandatory prerequisites listed as dos, upon which periodical on line reporting should be ensured.

7)  DOCUMENTATION AND DISSEMINATION OF BEST PRACTICES. Every success story should be reported to the top through the web. A specialised team should visit, analyse and document the best practices and disseminate through web as well as training courses.

8) INTRODUCE CHECKS AND BALANCE. A multi disciplinary team of specialists should be used as Independent third party concurrent evaluators of performance, reporting directly to Prime Minister/ Chief Minister or an autonomous development board.

9) PROMPT DETERRENT ACTION FROM THE TOP. Stringent action against deviations and mid term rectifications needs to be ensured.

10)   DEFLATE GOVT PRESENCE TO MOST CRITICAL SECTORS Reduce number of schemes to a couple of flagship programs while eliminating old and redundant schemes.

11)  MERGE RELATED DEPTS FOR SYNERGY. Fixing of joint responsibility at village level with multi sector teams comprising of agriculture, horticulture, industrial, educational, vocational, health and sanitation experts to improve living standards of those below poverty line would be more effective as compared to compartmentalised approach.

12) ELIMINATE OVERLAP AND DUPLICATION OF EFFORTS. Reduce number of supervisory levels at taluka, district, division and state level and convert them into facilitation centres supplying superior technology or directly executing multi village/ taluka/ district projects as per need or demands. Online reporting by village level functionaries using mobile phones would reduce office based work and increase field level interactions leading to greater ownership of task at hand.

13) INSTILL FAITH OF COMMON MAN IN LAW AND JUSTICE. Police stations should be converted into CITIZEN friendly help desks to protect vulnerable sections of society like women, children, SC ST, and the poor. Cases of exploitation may be referred by them to mobile squads for anti corruption, anti crime or anti terrorist action who report to a statutory board for appraisal.

The ECI approach to development administration can thus be effective in ensuring delivery of services and benefits. In order to adopt ECI model for development administration, a law titled “Programme Implementation Act” needs to be enacted by the Parliament. Such law should envisage Programme Implementation Commission of India on the model of ECI. Initially a few beneficiary oriented/targeted scheme can be transferred to this Commission. Like ECI this commission using the services of state and district functionaries can implement the scheme. ECI’s spirit of total adherence to rules/ regulations can be followed and ensured. The role of non-officials has to be specified in tune with the principles and objectives of the scheme/programmes. Whoever, either official or non official, tries to deviate from the programme/ schemes parameters should be dealt with severely, including criminal prosecution. Likewise the targeted beneficiaries if they try to defeat the aims of the programme / scheme, will have to be punished for either misuse of public funds or depriving the deserving from availing the government benefits.

Proposed Administrative Model: Juxtaposing ECI and Administrative Model, I propose an Administrative Model, for implementing one of the government scheme/programme. For example, for administering the Public Distribution System (PDS) for Below Poverty Line (BPL) as the target group, the model can be extended as follows:

  • 1.PDS Rules to clearly show the specified role and duties of each functionary.

2.Non-officials role should also be specified. Deterrent action on both officials and non-officials, if there is a deviation in implementation.

3.BPL persons have to be identified with standardised parameters throughout the country and non BPL persons have to be excluded by way of vulnerability mapping and boundary control mechanism. This data should be on the website for sake of transparency.

4.For safeguarding the BPL interest, it should be mandatory for each beneficiary to sign an undertaking / affidavit stating factual details like the voter’s application form. He / she can be sued for furnishing wrong information. this will act as a deterrent for unscrupulous elements.

5.Centralised monitoring can be made like ECI channels. Important milestones like time and quality of foodgrains lifting and further disbursal to each BPL card holder as per guidelines should be electronically monitored. Web cameras at gowdowns etc can be fitted. The software should generate alerts in cases of inefficiencies.

  • 6.Third party check by Engineering/P.G. students from outside the district could be given as a project work with honorariums. This task should be supervised by GOI officials.

7.The functionaries involved in implementation should have training/brain storming sessions at taluka level regularly. The coordination problems with other departments etc needs to be thwarted there and then.

8.The functionaries involved in this should be assured of fixed tenure except in cases of gross inefficiency or violations.

9.Full focus has to be on the scheme, since it is the main duty. There should be no fear of transfers or interference. The performance contract should be mandatory.

10.Adequate resources have to be earmarked for each activity. Timely and electronic release of funds should be ensured.

11.For one year of successful implementation with quantitative and qualitative achievements exceeding 60%, be given one month salary as incentive.

12. The best practices of these achievers should be recognised, documented and shared with all through the website and training programs.

CONCLUSION

In a liberalised economy and a knowledge society, the archaic structure of Government has to necessarily undergo a change for the better. The organisations have to become lean and mean. The staff has to become responsive and accountable. The institutions have to justify their existence by being result oriented, customer – centric and transparent in approach. The top leadership has to take interest in developing its human resource capital by equipping them with technical and managerial, skills. Problem solving, creating thinking and ethical behaviour need to be encouraged systematically among public servants, i.e. both officials and non officials. No amount of tutoring can generate these miracles. The entire ‘work culture’ needs to change by way of ‘system re engineering’, that can change the destiny of governments, society and the country.

It has been rightly said that India does not suffer from resource problem in order to overcome its socio economic ills. Instead, it is the management of the available resources, which can make all the difference. Let us make use of the management practices constituting the Island of Excellence residing in ECI, spread all over the country, benefiting its citizens.

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