Friday, July 28, 2017

RTI activists moot accountability bill

Times of India: Thiruvananthapuram: Friday, July 28, 2017.
The accountability bill mooted by a group of RTI activists, if accepted by the LDF government, will go a long way in aiding the plan to professionalise the bureaucracy and make it accountable to the public.A draft for the bill prepared by a group of RTI activists who are part of the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (RTI) was submitted to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently.
The delegation which met the CM recently mooted the idea of a new Kerala model in transparency and accountability in governance. If the bill is passed, the state could become the first in the country to implement an Accountability Act.
"The proposed `Kerala accountability law' will be a unique legislation, first of its kind to provide a framework for transparency, accountability, people's participation and structured grievance redressal. The chief minister has responded positively. We are hoping that the state cabinet will give its nod for the bill soon," said Abey George, state convener, National Campaign for People's RTI. "It has been positioned as the second RTI, because in addition to access to information, it sets the time frame for public service delivery, making officials accountable to the public or beneficiaries," he said. A few recent incidents in the state like the suicide of a farmer at a village office in Kozhikode and the suicide of a teenager in Thrissur following police torture have triggered an internal debate within the government with regard to transparency in bureaucracy.
The bill also seeks to ensure a structured grievance redressal mechanism with specified time frame to prevent violation of entitlements to the citizens.The proposal is to penalise erring officials and use that amount as compensation to affected citizens.
The accountability bill seeks to ensure government commitment in delivery of goods and services to the people and it mandates the need to create a `citizens charter' by every department.The charter will include the services notified under Kerala Right to Public Service Delivery Act, the time frame, quantity, quality and process of access of delivery. It also mandates a `job chart' for every public official at the village, block, district and state level which outlines the roles, responsibilities and norms of working.
To ensure transparency in governance, the bill mandates ensuring management information system (MIS) for public expenditure, disclosure of information and records by all public departments through `Janata information system' in online and offline modes. It also has provisions of a `social audit' by an independent authority for public departments and organizing `mass contact programmes' in all village panchayats to receive public grievances on a monthly basis.
At the national level, a similar bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Dec 20, 2011 and was referred to the parliamentary standing committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice. It studied the bill and submitted its recommendations on Aug 28, 2012.
The NCPRI decided to moot the bill first in Kerala as Left parties have extended strong support to the idea of transparency in governance. "The position taken by the Kerala government last year to deny cabinet decisions via RTI is an isolated incident. Even then, the CPI had a different take," said one of the activists. The national campaign members have already met CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury and PB member Prakash Karat. They hope that the central leadership of CPM would request the state government to consider the suggestion positively.