Affiliated Network for Social Accountability
Building Communities of Practice
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability
Building Communities of Practice
NEW DELHI: The number of Bills passed by Parliament declined from 47 in 2008 to 41 in 2009; more than 40 lakh cases were pending in State High Courts by December 31 last year. Many such findings were released here on Tuesday in the “Citizens' Report on Governance and Development 2010” by the National Social Watch.
Source: Read More
By PRANAV BHATTARAI
Public procurement is a lucrative area for business and corruption as well. It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of the central government expenditure in every country is spent through procurement or contracts annually.
Source: Read More
By Pranav Bhattarai
Developing countries are making efforts to modernize their procurement system with the use of web-based technologies. Many governments worldwide have adopted e-procurement as a great leap toward promoting e-government.
By Md Shafiul Alam
Public procurement, that accounts for over three billion US dollars a year, is an important area of governance in the country. Transparency, accountability, fair competition and equal treatment to all are the essence of public procurement. The use of public money in the process calls for strict adherence to the Public Procurement Act (PPA) 2006 and the Public Procurement Rules (2008).
Source: The Financial Express
by Pranav Bhattarai
As citizens, we all pay taxes. Even a beggar pays sales tax when he buys anything from the market. The money paid in taxes actually belongs to us. We have every right to ask the government where and how our tax money is being spent.
Why are there no medicines in health posts? Why can´t the government supply sufficient food grains to far western region? Why are people dying of starvation in Karnali? Why are government services ineffective? Why do roads start peeling off the day after they are repaired? Why don´t our development infrastructures last long? Why are our water taps often dry?
We have every right to ask these questions to the government, demand them to perform better and hold them to account for the resources they spend. We can seek answers to many such questions under a Right to Information (RTI) Act and hold the government accountable and transparent in its delivery of public goods, services and mobilization of public resources.
In July 2007, the government enacted the RTI law which empowers every citizen to question its activities, inspect its files, documents, records of any past or current development projects or programs. The law has given us a lot of power that we must use proactively. Our supervision, inspection, access and oversight on government activities can enhance transparency and accountability preventing corruption or fraud from taking place. Our past experience evidences that corrupt officials either get rarely penalized or in most cases they go scot-free because corruption cases are either generally dropped on some “technicalities” or progress in these cases is very slow due to political influence. To improve the situation, the RTI law serves as a legal tool that helps check corruption and hold various government departments, agencies and officials accountable for their unlawful act.
As most corruption cases get concealed in government documents, records and reports with skewed bills and vouchers, having access to these documents by using the RTI law would reveal corruption, fraud and embezzlement. Only a few months ago, Himal Khabarpatrika exercised the RTI law to unearthed shocking misuse of funds by the Investigation Commission formed to study the killing of J P Joshi, a Kailali-based journalist. The magazine paid Rs 2,425 as reproduction cost for soliciting a 485-page report which laid bare many tampered bills and vouchers substantiating misuse of hundreds of thousands tax money in the name of investigation. This is just a small example of misuse of public funds. There are ample of such untold stories of corruption and misuse of tax payer´s money concealed in many government documents and reports. With the help of RTI law, we can expose them as well.
The use of RTI legislation can equally help improve government´s service delivery. Many can vouch that the situation at any of the government office often appears pathetic. Often than not government officials will either not listen to us or they will give us a vague response or they will raise some objections. This is their modus operandi because government employees are always “fishing” for a bribe or a "facilitation payment" to process things faster. In situations like these, instead of bribing them, we should resort to RTI and get our work done.
For example, let us assume that you applied for a new telephone connection at the Telecom office but even after a month you don’t have a telephone connection. If you write an application to the respective information officer under the RTI law seeking details of progress or reasons for the delay, it will pressurize them to either take actions against the official who delayed the connection process or they will have to simply get it done to avoid further penalty as provisioned by the law. Either way, our works will get done.
The scale of corruption in Nepal calls for an ambitious and strategic review of government’s policies and laws. Sadly, Right to Information law is only a tiny step in the right direction. Proper implementation of RTI law ensures open and timely access to information that ultimately help curb corruption.
Since the law has potentiality to expose corruption and galvanize government departments and offices for transparency, government doesn´t seem to be much proactive in implementing the law. As all political parties in power are lavishly enjoying tax payer’s money, their commitment has also faltered as its effective implementation will deprive them of plundering and misusing tax money and other public resources. If reviewed, the term "ineffective" would perhaps be the most accurate way to describe RTI implementation in the last two years. But, if we want to reap maximum benefits by using the RTI law in discouraging corruption or bad governance, there are four most important "requisite initiatives" for its successful implementation.
A major roadblock to RTI implementation has been the non-cooperation of bureaucracy which considers information as its own prerogative. Changing bureaucratic mindset for open society has is not an easy task. Thus, creating awareness and building capacity of various information officers (IOs) and public authorities through a series of trainings is a must to change their mentality and prepare them to fulfill their obligations under the law.
A review in 1995 of the Australian federal RTI law found that even after thirteen years in operation, the bureaucracy was still reluctant to accept the law as an integral part of democracy and inherent right of the people. Experiences have shown that it is difficult to break the culture of bureaucratic secrecy. India promulgated the Act in 2005, but has been finding it difficult to fully operate it despite a nationwide awareness campaign, capacity building and media advocacy for the law. Governments in many countries proactively allocate certain funds to finance a series of trainings, advocacy and awareness programs targeting public authorities. This is a first requisite initiative to RTI implementation.
A news published in a national daily showed that information officers of the Prime Minister´s Office, the Supreme Court, the National Human Rights Commission, Office of the President, the Civil Service Commission and the National Security Council did not receive any application from the people asking for information. Even the National Information Commission (NIC) received around three dozen applications mostly from the students who fail their tests seeking disclosure or reexamination of their answer sheets. This shows a pathetic situation of RTI implementation and underscores inevitability of people´s proactive approach and involvement during its implementation in our country.
General public has to know about the due process to approach the public authorities for information, records, details and any state affairs that are of wider public interest to the society. A grim reality of Nepal is that people living in rural and urban areas don’t know much about the RTI law and its benefits. Therefore, as an exigency, we must inform people and teach them about the advantages of the law through awareness and sensitization campaigns. Only when people are adequately informed and sensitized, the law goes into full implementation. Thus, the civic empowerment is a second prerequisite initiative.
The third requisite initiative for RTI’s implementation is to properly systematize records and information management systems. The RTI law demands information officers to provide information within 15 days. If dissatisfied with the information provided by the IOs, people can file complaints to the chief of the respective government office within seven days. And people can also appeal to the NIC within 35 days and the NIC needs to furnish appeals within 60 days. Given our paper-based records management system, it may be difficult to meet the deadlines.
Thus, properly indexing and cataloguing public records is a third requisite initiative for the RTI implementation. Without modernizing and digitizing management of information and records, providing information would take several days often exceeding the legal deadlines. Keeping this reality in mind, public authorities and institutions will have to improve and modernize their records management system to make information delivery quicker and efficient as demanded by the law. Similarly, the fourth prerequisite initiative to the RTI implementation is a strong and robust monitoring and evaluation system. It would help periodically review implementation of the law and provide feedback to government agencies to address the shortcomings.
The scale of corruption in Nepal calls for an ambitious and strategic review of government’s policies and laws. Sadly, RTI law is only a tiny step in the right direction. There is still a long way to go. Proper implementation of RTI law ensures open and timely access to information that ultimately help reduce corruption, improve governance and increase accountability and transparency on which all our efforts to strengthen the transparent democratic system largely depend. As we have fallen prey to bad governance, mal-administration and corruption in one way or the other, fully implementing the RTI law can effectively serve as “information therapy” to these ills.