Accountability means being able to provide an explanation or justification and
accept responsibility, for events or transactions and for one's own actions in
relation to these events or transactions. Accountability plays a particularly
important role in the public sector: It is about giving an answer for the way in
which one has spent money, exercised power and control, mediated rights and used
discretions vested by law in the public interest. It is fundamental to our
system of government that those to whom such powers and responsibilities are
given are required to exercise them in the public interest fairly, and according
The purpose of the accountability examination is to subject improper and
unlawful conduct or activities to some form of sanctions or corrective measures.
These sanctions are measures or devices calculated to neutralise the further
undesirable effect of their offending activities or to charge violators with
reversing their actions and making reparation for the loss or damage, which
their conduct has caused. This kind of accountability may manifest itself in a
wide range of accountability requirements, including requirements:
- To meet statutory obligations;
- To meet audit requirements;
- To be able to produce evidence in court proceedings;
- To be able to withstand the scrutiny of the media;
- To meet industry-based standards for accreditation or Quality Assurance
- To justify actions to investigative bodies such as Royal Commissions and
Accountability is not only a hallmark of democratic governance; it is an
essential element for improving the performance of public officials.
Accountability is linked to ‘almost every conceivable aspect of good governance.
It is an important ‘instrument for fighting three vices such as corruption,
clientelism and capture
Public accountability mainly regards matters in the public domain, such as the
spending of public funds, the exercise of public authorities, or the conduct of
public institutions. It is not necessarily limited to public organisations but
can extend to private bodies that exercise public privileges or receive public
This also impacts on the accounting perspective. Public accountability
implies the rendering of account for matters of public interest, i.e. an
accounting that is performed with a view to the judgement to be passed by the
citizens. In general, one could say that public accountability is accountability
in and about the public domain Public accountability is important to provide a
democratic means to monitor and control government conduct, for preventing the
development of concentrations of power, and to enhance the learning capacity and
effectiveness of public administration.
Measures Through Which Accountability can be Enforced
Elections are the main mechanism through which citizens are given the power to
ensure accountable governance. Citizens make their voting decisions and either
vote the government back into power or out of it depending on their evaluation
of whether it delivered on its promises during its term. Accountability claimed
through this channel has been called vertical accountability. There are also
provisions for horizontal accountability institutional checks and balances to
ensure that the government is performing its duties in the interest of its
The 170th Report of the Law Commission on Reform of Electoral LawsDisqualification:
The Law Commission had proposed that in respect of offenses
provided in S.8 (1) [except the offense mentioned in S.8 (1) (b)], of the
Representation of Peoples Act, a mere framing of charge should serve as a
disqualification. This provision was sought to be made in addition to the
existing provision which provides for disqualification arising on account of
The reason for this proposal was that most of the offenses mentioned
in Sub-section (1) are either election offenses or serious offenses affecting
the society and that the persons committing these offenses are mostly persons
having political clout and influence. As explained by the Vohra Committee, very
often these elements are supported by gangsters and local thugs, with the result
that no independent witness is prepared to come forward to depose against such
persons. In such a situation, it proves extremely difficult to obtain the
conviction of these persons.
To complement the above recommendation, it is also necessary for a
candidate seeking to contest election to furnish details regarding criminal
cases, if any, pending against him, including a copy of the FIR/complaint and
any order made by the concerned court. So it is suggested that S. 4 of the
Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 be amended so that in order to qualify, a
candidate must submit a declaration about not only his assets but also a
declaration as to whether any charge in respect of any offence referred to in
proposed S. 8B has been framed against him by any Criminal Court, and is
The report has been used by the Supreme Court in Union of India v. Association
for Democratic Reforms and Anr
, AIR 2002 SC 2112 to substantiate its judgment
about requirement of disclosure by a candidate regarding any pending cases
against him/her. The report has also been a torchbearer for subsequent
committees giving recommendations about this specific issue.
Reforms Suggested by the Election Commission
The EC in its various proposals for electoral reforms and pending proposals
addressed to the Prime Minister and the Law Minister has given many practical
proposals focusing on the functioning of the elections. To some extent, it
stands on a privileged platform in so far as its recommendations are backed by
enriched experiences from conducting elections for five decades.
The Commission had proposed that the law should be amended to
provide that any person who is accused of an offence punishable by imprisonment
for five years or more should be disqualified from contesting election even when
trial is pending, provided charges have been framed against him by the competent
A conviction for offenses under S 125 A i.e. for inappropriate filing of
information, should further be made part of Section 8(1)(i) of the
Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, dealing with disqualification on conviction
for certain offenses. It is also suggested that persons found guilty by a
Commission of Enquiry should also stand disqualified from contesting elections.
It has been the experience in the past few elections that in some cases, the
candidates leave some of the columns blank, and there have been cases where the
candidates are alleged to have given grossly undervalued information, mainly
about their assets. S.125A provides for punishment of imprisonment for a term
upto six months or with fine or with both, for furnishing wrong information or
concealing any information in Form 26. The Commission is of the view that to
protect the right to information of the electors as per the spirit of the
judgment in the PUCL case of the Supreme Court referred to above, the punishment
here should be made more stringent by providing for imprisonment of a minimum
term of two years and doing away with the alternative clause for fine.
The National Committee on The Working of the Constitution
The Committee recommends that the Representation of the
People Act be amended to provide that any person charged with any offence
punishable with imprisonment for a maximum term of five years or more, should be
disqualified for being chosen as a member of Parliament or Legislature of a
State. Such disqualification shall happen on the expiry of a period of one year
from the date the charges were framed against him by the court in that offence.
Unless cleared during that one year period, he shall continue to remain so
disqualified till the conclusion of the trial for that offence. This should
equally be applicable to sitting members of Parliament and State Legislatures as
to any other such person.
In case a person is convicted of any offence by a court of law and sentenced to
imprisonment for six months or more the bar should apply during the period under
which the convicted person is undergoing the sentence and for a further period
of six years after the completion of the period of the sentence. If any
candidate violates this provision, he should be disqualified.
- Any person convicted for any heinous crime like murder, rape, smuggling, dacoity,
- should be permanently barred from contesting for any political office.
The Committee has made other very innovative suggestions. Firstly it feels that
if a party puts up such a candidate with knowledge of his antecedents, it should
be derecognized and deregistered.
Secondly, a very novel method has been suggested with respect to Special Courts.
It recommends that criminal cases against politicians pending before Courts
either for trial or in appeal must be disposed speedily, if necessary, by
appointing Special Courts. A potential candidate against whom the police have
framed charges may take the matter to the Special Court. This court should be
obliged to enquire into and take a decision in a strictly time bound manner.
Basically, this court may decide whether there is indeed a prima facie case
justifying the framing of charges.
The Special Courts should be constituted at
the level of High Courts and their decisions should be appealable to the Supreme
Court only (in similar way as the decisions of the National Environment
Tribunal). The Special Courts should decide the cases within a period of six
The Committee pointed out grave incongruities in the existing provisions of
(2) and (3) of S. 8 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951, illustrating
the case of a rapist, convicted and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, being
disqualified only for six years under sub-section (1) and while not able to
vote, being free to contest elections even while serving the last four years of
his sentence in prison.
The Committee also pointed out the lacuna in S. 8(4). The section provides that
Members of Parliament or Legislatures, if convicted, would be disqualified for
subsequent elections only after three months have elapsed from the date of
conviction, or if the case is appealed, till the time such appeal is not
dismissed. The Committee recommends that the aforesaid provision should suitably
be amended providing that this benefit shall not be available for the purpose of
his contesting fresh elections and should be available only for the continuance
A FREE electoral process is one where fundamental human rights and freedoms
are respected, including:
A FAIR electoral process is one where the playing field is reasonably level
and accessible to all electors, parties and candidates, and includes:
- freedom of speech and expression by electors, parties, candidates and
- freedom of association; that is, freedom to form organizations such as
political parties and NGOs;
- freedom of assembly, to hold political rallies and to campaign;
- freedom of access to and by electors to transmit and receive political
and electoral information messages;
- freedom to register as an elector, a party or a candidate;
- freedom from violence, intimidation or coercion;
- freedom of access to the polls by electors, party agents and accredited
- freedom to exercise the franchise in secret, and
- freedom to question, challenge and register complaints or objections
without negative repercussions.
- an independent, non-partisan electoral organization to administer the
- guaranteed rights and protection through the constitution and electoral
legislation and regulations;
- equitable representation of electors provided through the legislation;
clearly defined universal suffrage and secrecy of the vote;
- equitable and balanced reporting by the media;
- equitable access to financial and material resources for party and
- equitable opportunities for the electorate to receive political and
- accessible polling places;
- equitable treatment of electors, candidates and parties by elections
officials, the government, the police, the military and the judiciary;
- an open and transparent ballot counting process, and
- election process not disrupted by violence, intimidations or coercion.
Free and fair and credible elections depend on:
- An enabling legislative framework,
- The impartial and neutral practices of election administrators, the
media and the forces that maintain law and order and
- Acceptance of the competitive electoral process by all the political
forces in the country.
Thus to determine that a given election is free and fair, calls for scrutinizing
not just the laws that provide for elections and the election event - but the
run-up to the elections as well. The scrutiny of a process inevitably calls for
more than a documentation of the chronology of events leading up to the
elections – it calls for a scrutiny of the actions – the behavior of all actors
involved in the electoral process and a review of the outcomes.
The scrutiny of the legal framework governing elections should address whether
the provisions they make for registration, pre and post election activities,
complaint procedures, voter information and education, election preparation are
fair, open and transparent. The scrutiny of the legal framework governing
elections must also look at the provisions it makes for the election itself -
i.e. the ability to campaign freely, the polling procedures and arrangements,
the vote count and the settlement of disputes as these are all a part of the
Lack of electoral transparency and accountability, the use of money or violence
to influence or intimidate voters and the criminalization of politics are
critical problems in may parts of the world. While participatory governance
promotes many forms of citizen participation beyond voting, free and fair
elections are nevertheless a fundamental element of democracy and good
governance. The tools in this category are aimed at fostering electoral and
political accountability while also seeking to empower voters to effectively
participate in the electoral process and enable them make informed choices.
Tools under the Electoral Transparency and Accountability category
- Pre-Election Voter Awareness Campaigns are aimed at making people aware
of: the importance of their participation in electoral processes either as
voters or candidates; different modes of participation; the procedure to
become eligible for voting and to actually cast their vote; and ways to
assess the poll-worthiness of a candidate.
- Platform Mounting means creating a platform for dialogue during the
run-up to the elections by bringing together representatives of all the
electoral stakeholders such as the Election Commission, registered political
parties and civil society organizations to share information, foster good
working relations, consult each another on legislative change and resolve
administrative matters that may affect parties and other stakeholders while
ensuring a democratically credible electoral process.
- Election Monitoring is intended to strengthen the electoral process by
providing an independent assessment of election preparations, capabilities,
and fairness, thereby helping to strengthen democratic processes and
institutions and to ensure that the conduct of elections meets international
standards, are peaceful, and have credible results.
Accountability for Electoral Promises involves various means that CSOs can
deploy for effectively demanding the fulfillment of electoral promises - thus
enhancing the political credibility - of individual politicians and the
democratic system more generally.
- Crisis is a tool to measure the transparency of political financing
activity. The purpose of Crinis is two-fold. Firstly, it assesses the legal
framework and practices with regards to transparency of political finances in a
given country. Secondly, based on these results, it helps civil society to
develop actions to advocate for reforms to improve the law and the practice.
- Reduces the scope for unfair or corrupt electoral practices.
- Enhances voters’ awareness about the electoral process, helps voters
make informed choices and lays the foundation for increased citizen
participation in governance over the long-term.
- Helps convey the felt needs of constituencies and communities to
political parties and candidates, thereby contributing to better-informed
platforms and plans.
- Contributes to enhanced political transparency, accountability,
credibility and public trust in governance.
- Helps to empower marginalized and disenfranchised population groups.
- Can serve to increase voter turn-out (especially among women and other
politically marginalized groups).
- Encourages persons with integrity, and who are concerned with public
causes, to participate as candidates
- Promotes a culture of internal democracy amongst political parties.
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (KMSS) About MKSS
Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan is a grassroots organization that was formed in
1990, working in rural Rajasthan. Its objective was to use modes of struggle and
constructive action for changing the lives of its primary constituents — the
rural poor. In the period leading up to its formation it had taken up issues of
re-distribution of land and minimum wages. These were seen as the two basic
issues of the rural landless and the poor of the area The need to access records
was established and people began to think of ways and means through which they
could get the government to give them the right to know”. The modes that were
adopted were diverse and the one important aspect was that the people identified
totally with the cause.
For them it was their battle, a battle for their
survival. The struggle illustrated that the right to information was not just a
component of people’s right to freedom of speech and expression but was also a
part of their fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution —
the right to life and liberty. The villagers understood and made a large section
of enlightened opinion in the country understand that the access to records of
development work in villages would help in obtaining the basic living wage, the
entitlement under the ration quota, the medicines the poor should receive in
public health centers, preventing abuse by the police, and even in preventing
delay and subterfuge in implementation of other livelihood entitlements.
The government of Rajasthan very reluctantly passed an order (after much
pressure) whereby the people were given the right to inspect records and later
to get certified photocopies. At the time of inspecting the records of a village
council, the MKSS found that there were a great deal of irregularities and
malpractices. From this emerged the technique of the public hearing which has
been used as a tool in uncovering and bringing to light many scams
in development works.
Usually, in a public hearing the MKSS first obtains the records pertaining to
the public works carried out by the Village Council in the last five years. Once
the documents are accessed, the Sangathan then takes the records to each village
where the work is said to have been executed and then testimonies are sought
from the villagers and the laborers who were employed on the site. The MKSS also
does site verifications with the laborers and villagers, and then on the day of
the public hearing in front of the general assembly of the villagers the details
are read out and testimonies sought.
There is also the concept of having a panel
of people who are invited to the public hearings, including lawyers,
journalists, academicians and attempts are made to try and bring about
corrective measures for the irregularities identified. The malpractices usually
uncovered are purchase overbilling, sale overbilling, fake labor rolls, under
payment government officials. The panel is also allowed to cross- examine and
ask for clarifications, and with the administration present of wages and in some
cases ghost works (works that are there on record but do not exist).
Government Accounting Standards Advisory Board (GASAB)About GASAB
Government Accounting Standards Advisory Board (GASAB) was constituted by the
Comptroller & Auditor General of India on August 12, 2002 for the Union and
The GASAB will formulate Government Accounting Standards for our country. These
accounting standards will be formulated in conformity with the provisions of the
Constitution and our laws and in keeping with international norms in this
regard. The basic objective of this initiative, taken at the behest and with the
approval of the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, is to promote best
practices on the basis of generally accepted principles of Government
Board is charged with the responsibility of not only formulating and
proposing standards to improve the usefulness of the Government’s financial
reports based on the needs of the users but also to keep these standards current
so as to reflect changes in the economic environment. The Board also has the
onerous responsibility to provide guidance on the implementation of standards
and to consider significant areas of accounting and financial reporting that can
be improved through the standard setting processes.
Accounting and financial reporting standards are essential for improved public
accountability and, in fact, for the efficient and effective functioning of our
democratic system. They play a major role in fulfilling the Government’s duty to
be publicly accountable and they contribute to a fuller understanding of
economic, political and social consequences of allocation decisions and various
uses of Government resources both at the Centre and at the State levels.
Bad accounting frameworks can lead to bad information and bad information
invariably leads to bad decisions with serious long-term consequences. We also
realize that accounting rules can be manipulated and abused to provide a
misleading picture of what is really happening in the national economy.
The objective of the GASAB is to formulate standards relating to accounting and
financial reporting by the Union, the States and Union Territories with
Legislature. The Indian Government Accounting Standards (IGAS) so formulated by
GASAB are recommended to the Government of India for notification in accordance
with the provisions of the Constitution.
The GASAB shall have, inter alia, the following responsibilities:
- To establish and improve standard of Government accounting and financial
reporting in order to enhance accountability mechanisms;
- To formulate and propose standards that improve the usefulness of
financial reports based on the needs of the users;
- To keep the standards current and reflect change in the Governmental
- To provide guidance on implementation of standards;
- To consider significant areas of accounting and financial reporting that
can be improved through the standard setting process; and
- To improve the common understanding of the nature and purpose of
information contained in the financial reports.
Authority, Scope and Applicability of IGASs
- The IGASs are notified by the Government as per the powers vested under
Article 150 of the Constitution. The IGASs, as notified by the Government, are
applicable to the Union and the States.
- The provisions of the IGASs do not override the provisions of any
existing or future Acts or Rules made thereunder by the Union or State
- The IGASs would be prospective in their application. The IGASs are not
applicable retrospectively and the Governments are not required to reframe their
Financial Statements of previous periods to comply with the IGASs.
- IGASs by their very nature are meant to apply to material items. Any
other limitation on their applicability or otherwise is made clear by GASAB in
the respective standards.
- The IGASs have standard portions set in bold italic type which should be
read in the context of explanatory paragraphs in the respective Standards set in
plain type. Both have equal authority; portion in bold, italic type indicating
main principles whereas those in plain type explain those principles.
It is high time the state government enacts a law on good governance which will
spell out the state government’s commitment to the principles and precepts of
good governance. This is a new concept which will have to be refined over the
years though a beginning can be made without loss of any time.
Enactment of Legislation on Protection of Whistle-Blowers:
It is often the
persons working in the system who can expose wrong-doings in the system.
However, such persons need to be protected as they perform a very valuable
function in society. There are a number of countries in the West in which
special enactments have been passed or Rules have been made to give legal and
other protection to persons who expose wrong-doings in government.
Compilation of Index of Good Governance:
The concept of good governance needs to
be translated into a quantifiable annual index on the basis of certain agreed
indicators such as pendency of civil and criminal court cases, number of
communal riots, number of people killed in police firings, increase in crime,
custodial deaths, birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate, extent of
immunisation, literacy rate for men and women, sex ratio, availability of safe
drinking water supply, electrification of rural households, rural and urban
unemployment, percentage of girls married below 18 years.
accepted criteria for good budgetary practices may also be included in the
index. These would include, among others, revenue deficit/surplus, quantum of
fiscal deficit, outstanding loan repayment liability, interest burden, capital
expenditure and the extent of government guarantees. These values will have to
be worked out as a percentage gross state domestic product. The other criteria
could include number of occasions and the period for which the state was in
overdraft or in Ways and Means accommodation with the Reserve Bank of India, and
the tax performance of the state and disbursement of subsidies as a percentage
of GSDP. This is only an illustrative list of items which could figure in the
index of good governance.
Suo-Motu Publication of Information:
Each office should set apart a room as
public concourse for easy access of the people. It should have all rudimentary
facilities such as proper sitting arrangement, drinking water, fans, a notice
board, an intercom telephone connection to the officers, etc. There should be a
facilitation officer available in the public concourse for guiding the public.
In the case of smaller offices, this responsibility can be entrusted to one of
the officers/senior staff members on a part-time basis.
Books & Articles:
- A. Goetz and R. Jenkins, ‘Hybrid forms of accountability: citizen engagement in
institutions of public sector oversight in India’, Public Management
Review 3(3), 2001.
- A. Joshi, ‘Producing Social Accountability? The Impact of Service Delivery
Reforms’, IDS Bulletin 38(6), 2008.
- CVC Act, 2003.
- E. Peruzzotti, and C. Smulovitz, ‘Societal accountability in Latin
America’, Journal of Democracy 11(4),2000.
- George Kopits, Jon D. Craig, ‘Transparency in government operations’,
International Monetary Fund, Publication Services, 1998.
- Government Accounting Standards Advisory Board (GASAB), Inaugural address by
Shri Vijayendra N. Kaul, Comptroller and Auditor General of India,7th November,
- Guidelines for the public authorities under the Right to Information Act, 2005,
25 Apr, 2008, Government of India, Ministry of Personnel, P.G. and Pensions,
Department of Personnel & Training.