Accountability of a civil servant
- In any democracy, Ministers are responsible to the people through Parliament and therefore the civil servants have to be accountable to the Minister.
- However, an impartial civil service is responsible not only to the government of the day but to the Constitution of the land to which they have taken an oath of loyalty.
- At the same time, implementing the policies of the duly elected government is a core function of civil servants.
- Civil Servants (Eg: Secretaries) have the constitutional mandate to advice the political executives (ministers).
To enhance accountability in civil services, experts have recommended following measures:
- Strengthening and streamlining reporting mechanisms
- Streamlining and fast-tracking departmental enquiries
- Linking performance with incentives
- Overhaul of employee grievance procedures
- Action on audit findings
- Implementation of Citizens Charters’ for monitoring service delivery
- Right to Information Act and its enforcement
- Code of conduct for civil servant
- Major criticisms of Indian civil services are as follows:
- Lack of expertise and poor capacity building
- Alienation from the public and they do not have good understanding of what people want.
- Inefficient incentive systems that do not appreciate upright and outstanding civil servants but reward the corrupt and the incompetent.
- Outdated rules and procedures that restrict the civil servant from performing successfully.
- Lack of performance culture and focus on outputs and outcomes and inappropriate performance appraisal.
- Systemic irregularities in promotion and empanelment.
- Lack of adequate transparency and accountability procedures. There is also no safety for whistle blowers.
- Arbitrary and whimsical transfers. Insecurity in tenures impedes institutionalization.
- Political interference and administrative compliance.
- A gradual erosion in public service values, ethics and self-esteem.
Many experts argued that role of the civil service as a tool in a state’s socio-economic and political development is undisputable. In some regions of world, however, the civil service seems incapable to cope with the fundamental ideological, political and economic changes as well as the management innovations.
In other parts of the world, particularly in Africa, the institutional and capacity weakness of the civil service is considered one of the fundamental causes of socio-political disturbances and economic crunch. With awareness of such facts, since last decade, many countries are introducing major changes in the structure and operations of their civil services.
Major challenges of civil services
- Political support and will
- Management capacity to implement reforms
- Nurturing support from civil servants themselves
- Safety nets must be in place for those people who are adversely affected
- Reforms must reflect the political and institutional environment of a country and developing communication between all the stakeholders
Conflicts between civil services and democracy
- Rigid organization structures and cumbersome procedures
- Elitist, authoritarian, conservative outlook
- Men in bureaucracy fulfill segmental roles over which they have no control. Consequently, they have little or no opportunity to exercise individual judgment.
- The requirement that a bureaucrat should follow the principles of consistency and regularity automatically limits his capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.
- The general rules which may take for overall efficiency produce inefficiency and injustice in individual cases.
- Civil services’ difficulty to cope with uncertainty and change is a key limit on its efficiency.
Major benefits of an independent, permanent and impartial civil service
- Having a trustworthy recruitment process through a neutral agency provides a defence against such abuse.
- Public policy today has become a difficult exercise requiring in-depth knowledge and expertise in public affairs. A permanent civil service offers continuity and develops expertise as well as institutional memory for effective policy making.
- A permanent and unbiased civil service is more likely to assess the long-term social payoffs of any policy while the political executive may have a tendency to look for short term political gain.
- A permanent civil service assists to ensure consistency in public administration and also acts as a uniting force particularly in immense and culturally diverse nations.
- A permanent civil service is likely to develop over time on principled basis for its functioning.
It is well recognized in theoretical studies that smooth functioning civil service helps to nurture good policymaking, effective service delivery, accountability and responsibility in utilizing public resources which are main attributes of good governance.
“Good Governance” is being used as an all-inclusive framework not only for administrative and civil service reform, but as a link between Civil Service Improvement and an all-embracing framework for making policy decisions effective within practical systems of responsibility and citizen participation.
Main intent of civil services is to strength the administrative capacity to perform important government functions. These reforms raise the quality of services to the citizens that are essential to the advancement of supportable economic and social development. There is continuous need of civil services reforms for betterment of society.
Difference between Indian Civil Services and American Civil Services
Though civil servants are there in almost all countries, the selection and nature of job differs. The main difference between Indian and US system are as below:
- Indian Civil Services are permanent. US Civil Servants in higher echelons change with government (spoils system).
- Indian system is based on merit, judged through competitive exams. US system, at-least in higher civil services, is given as a reward for favors done to the political executives.