AsiaNet Pakistan 2011-08-18 15:10:05

Importance of citizen report card is vital to ensure social accountability

Islamabad: Urging the need for structural and radical reforms for accountability and good governance in the country, the speakers said the importance of citizen report card is vital to ensure social accountability for provision of pro-poor public service delivery to the masses.

The panel of experts comprising of Daniyal Aziz, Advisor, Governance Institutes Network International (GINI) and Gulbaz Ali Khan, Senior Research Associate at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) were speaking at a seminar on “Implementing citizen report cards in slums” organized by Sustainable Development policy Institute here on Thursday. Imtiaz Gul, Chairman, Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad chaired the proceedings.

Daniyal Aziz underlined the need for radical reforms in civil services emphasizing upon the structured system of accountability coupled with negotiated incentives to executives to overcome the systematic infliction of corruption. He said that social accountability which involves the ethical dimension can only be used as a check for public office bearers in countries where there is a system in place and ethical following is strong, but this system is difficult to implement in countries like Pakistan where corruption itself has become a system and norm.

“Basic reason for the corruption is insufficient incentives and reward besides lack of appropriate mechanism for checks and balances. Until and unless hierarchal incentives against the 1972 pay and pension commission are reviewed and proper accountability mechanisms are emplaced, there are very few chances of improvement in the ongoing situation of increasing unchecked culture of corruption,” he added.

He referred to various accountability systems introduced in Pakistan over the years by different regimes such as ombudsman by Zia-ul-Haq, FIA by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Ihtisab Cell by Nawaz Sharif and NAB by Pervaiz Musharraf but none of them was able to curtail the problem. He said that we have added new layers of accountability systems one after another every initiative resulted into institutional dichotomies, inefficiencies and setting the stage for further corruption.

He termed the Local Government System 2001 as one of the best systems to monitor public office bearers and identified five institutions of state as most critical for reforms such as finance, revenue, administration, judiciary and police to effectively manage the affairs of public.

While giving a detailed presentation on Citizen Report Card (CRC), Gulbaz Ali Khan said that Citizen Report Cards (CRCs) are participatory surveys that seek user feedback on the performance of public services. He said that it is an approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement, in which ordinary citizens and civil society organizations become part of monitoring of accountability process directly or indirectly. He said the CRC turns out to be a mirror for the government that aggregates user perceptions on performance of public services.

He said that CRC provide conclusion on citizen satisfaction with quality of each service, comparison of service providers on reliability, user satisfaction, responsiveness and quality of problem solving by agencies and estimate of hidden costs incurred by citizens. “By systematically gathering and disseminating public feedback, CRCs serve as a surrogate for competition for state-owned monopolies that lack the incentive to be as responsive as private enterprises to their client’s needs,” he emphasized.

He informed that SDPI in collaboration with Affiliated Network for Social Accountability South Asia Region (ANSA-SAR) has kicked off a project that uses the Citizen Report Card to assess user’s satisfaction with the provision of quality of education in public schools in the target areas. The overall objective of the project is to improve secondary level education for male and female students in two slums settlements of Islamabad, namely Alipur Farash and Hansa Colony.

Summing up the debate, Imtiaz Gul said that we should also look into the strong nexus of bureaucracy and politicians and stressed upon the need for community oversight and structural barriers to ensure checks and balances in improving the public service delivery to people especially the most disadvantaged.

For more information, contact:
Faisal Nadeem Gorchani
Coordinator, Policy Advocacy and Outreach
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
38 Embassy Road, G-6/3 Islamabad, Pakistan
Postal Code: 44000
Tel: +92-51-2278134, (Ext: 113)
Fax: +92-51-2278135
Cell: 00-92-333-559 2210
Email: main@sdpi.org

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