Voluntary disclosure by public servants for citizen services would soon be the way the government runs its schemes and evaluates bureaucrats.
Consensus emerged between Central government officials and civil society members at a recent task force meeting for making transparency a part of bureaucrats’ annual performance. Government funds will be released only if public disclosure conditions are met and transparency is adopted as criteria for appraisals.
The government is required to make suo motto disclosure under Secton 4 of the Right to Information Act, but even six years after its enforcement, it is yet to come out with guidelines to enforce the provision.
“I agree that implementation of the suo motto disclosure was weak,” said Rajiv Kapoor, joint secretary in the Department of Personnel and Training—responsible for monitoring the transparency law—at a meeting held to discuss ways to implement Section 4 of the Act. A task force to implement the Section was constituted in May.
After its first meeting, it appears the government wants to become more transparent. Kapoor emphasised on the need to have comprehensive guidelines and said it should cover areas where information needs to be provided and in which form.
Apart from making transparency an integral part of governance delivery mechanism, there was also an agreement in the task force that seeking public consultation on any policy or legislation should be a must before finalising it.
To make this happen, the task force will come out with templates on what kind of information can be provided for seven services such as public distribution system, primary schools, heath and pensions.
Civil society members, however, wanted that the information should be provided on a weekly basis to make babus more accountable which many officials believed may not be possible.
Venkatesh Nayak of NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said the new initiative can make a difference only if the change takes places at the ground level, where the information is generated. And, the example he gave was of a dedicated website for below poverty line families. “If the website has details of the marks citizens get during a BPL survey, the number of RTI applications will come down rapidly,” he said.
As of now, except for National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, voluntary disclosure of information is not part of any other government scheme. This can change in the 12th plan with the government wanting to incorporate the provision of social audit, that makes voluntary disclosure a must for each scheme.
“The second installment should only be released if the state government had proactively provided information,” said Nayak, member of the task force.