In its first big step towards governance reforms, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed all ministries and departments to ensure that new programmes and policies should reflect three overarching objectives — social equity, innovation and public accountability.
This is a departure from the past where Cabinet proposals mostly contained implementation schedules only.
All new proposals forwarded for Cabinet approval, henceforth, will have to explain how they would achieve objectives of social and geographical equity, particularly for backward and disadvantaged communities. “The socio-economic equity in the context of disadvantaged communities, gender and poverty will also have to be looked,” the PMO directive said.
There will have to be a clear explanation on how the proposals would be executed transparently and how they would enhance participation of people directly affected by them.
The move is aimed at making ministries and departments directly accountable to those affected by the programmes through a vast array of measures, including independent evaluation and social audit.
“The dimension of public accountability could include increase stakeholder participation, social audit, independent evaluation, cost benefit analysis, and provision for greater transparency or information disclosure,” said the directive.
As regards innovation, new programmes would have to clearly say how they are different from existing schemes. “There could be innovations in policy, institutional arrangements, management and technological innovations,” the directive said. Experts said the move was another step in achieving the government’s inclusive growth agenda.
“It means the government does not want hostile discrimination against people if the programme directly affects them,” said former power secretary Anil Razdan. “This would mean that if a programme is executed in a particular area, the local population should be co-opted in it as far as possible.
President Pratibha Patil had underlined the need for public governance reforms in her address to both Houses of Parliament last month.