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Government Flagship Programmes:MEIRA KUMAR: ACCOUNTABILITY VITAL, by Suraj Saraf, 21 July 2010 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 21 July 2010

Government Flagship Programmes



By Suraj Saraf


Transparency and accountability are the driving forces of good governance. The latest to emphasize this is Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. Inaugurating a national seminar on “Legislature-Audit Interface” in New Delhi recently, she drew attention to the serious gaps in the accountability framework for Government flagship programmes implemented through private agencies.


Highlighting that the Comptroller Auditor General’s (CAG) present mandate for audit of these agencies was also limited, she asserted, “One of the major concern of the Audit Bill is about the instrumentalities through which expenditure is being increasingly channeled by the Government. “Presently most of these flagship programmes are being implemented through panchayats and municipal bodies or under the society mode by direct transfer of funds from Central ministries to registered Government societies at the State, district, block and panchayat levels”, the Lok Sabha Speaker added for good measure.


Not only that. Referring to the public private partnership (PPP) model used more intensively by the Central and State Governments to help meet gaps in the provision of basic services in the infrastructure sector, it was essential for the Government that services being delivered through such arrangement to the users met the agreed time, cost and quality standards, said Meira Kumar.


Further, apart from ensuring transparency and competitiveness in the process of award of contracts, it was equally important to protect the public exchequer from unintended misuse of claims from concessionaires. Towards that end, she recommended that such programmes should receive adequate attention of oversight bodies like the CAG and various Parliamentary Standing Committees, like the Committee on Public Undertakings (CPU) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC).


This, the Speaker averred would protect the users’ interest and the need to secure the value of public money. Noting that audit was frequently faced with situations where the auditees did not comply with the CAG’s request for information and records, Meira Kumar asserted that this not only delayed the audit progress but also seriously impacted the quality of the audit examination. Besides, thwarting possible disclosures of serious irregularities, frauds and embezzlements.


Underscoring the functions of the PAC and the CPU, the Speaker stated that it was not just self assessment, but also public perceptions about the effectiveness that needed to be taken into account by these Committees. “Effective Parliamentary oversight is the cornerstone of good governance. The prompt response of the Executive in taking corrective measures on the objections raised by the CAG in inspection reports is crucial,” Meira Kumar stressed.

Thus, it is against the backdrop of these significant observations made by Speaker Meira Kumar that one must look into the importance of the report of the Advisory Committee on Community Action of the all-important flagship National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Wherein, the report has recently recommended community monitoring for effective implementation of the programme. Along with asking the Government to allocate “realistic” funds and assess the human resources requirement for the purpose.


In fact, the Committee report was based on issues taken up for monitoring entitlements under the Janani Suraksha Yojana, roles and responsibilities of the Accredited Social Health Activists’, Indian Public Health & Standards for different facilities and citizen’s charter.


Towards that end, the Speaker drew attention to a report presented by the Advisory Committee to the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry, on the completion of the first phase of nine States on community monitoring under the NRHM. Under which, the report clearly suggests that the Government should support community action including community monitoring to ensure that it is initiated in other States as well.


Moreover, the Advisory Group report also underlines the fact that community monitoring should be anchored as a part of the larger communitisation effort of the NRHM and within an existing arrangement in the Health Ministry. At present there is no significant convergence with other communitisation processes. Thus, there is need to in-build this when the process is taken up in the pilot nine States.


The Speaker also accentuated another aspect of the Committee report which put forward the concept that the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) should provide the crucial link between monitoring and planning at the village level and the two processes should go together. The process and tools should be simplified to enable the use by the community.


Recommending an incremental approach, the report stated the issue which needed to be monitored should be gradually increased to ensure that the capacity of the community is built-up and there is acceptance from the Health Ministry too/ as well. Furthermore, the Jan Samwads or public hearings should gradually become a community-led processes to enable the community’s involvement and accountability.  In conclusion, the Advisory Committee report states that the entire process of community monitoring should be a three-year cycle.


The Speaker also accentuated the sad reality where the first phase of community monitoring in 2007 took over 18 months. This involved capacity building of planning and monitoring committees at different levels for enquiring into the functioning of different components of the NRHM.


Citing from the report she laid emphasis: “It was an empowering process for the community because it provided knowledge to them on different entitlements, service standards and service guarantees provided within the NRHM. It also gave an opportunity to discuss the status of health services delivery with healthcare providers and programme managers.”


All in all, Speaker Meira Kumar concurred with the reports viewpoint. Namely, that the village was the main unit for community monitoring and the tools developed at the national level were adapted and modified at the State level. Wherein the score card had 11 parameters to assess and rate the health situation of the village.


Significantly, the jan samwads and sharing of village level findings monitoring made a great impact on the misdeeds of the providers which resulted in better service delivery. As a result of this at the end of several rounds of monitoring numerous villages reported an overall improvement in the services. Clearly, leading to greater accountability and more transparency. ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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