Monday, 24 October 2011

Governance Maladies- one solution

Reconciliation between structural and working mechanism of democratic governance and bureaucratic governance has always been an enigma in history of Pakistan’s public administration. On the one hand, civil bureaucracy is necessary tool to actualize collective national goals, on the other hand, hierarchical structure ( in which power flows from top to bottom) and working pattern (in which decision-making virtually rests with the top) of civil bureaucracy are inimical to those of a democratic governance which is characterized by participative decision-making and distribution of powers. This inimical relationship between civil bureaucracy and democratic governance in Pakistan has many negative implications for public interests and stability of democratic governance. These negative implications are further aggravated due to poor accountability process emanating from that very hierarchical structure and working mechanism of civil bureaucracy (head of public organization, being virtual decision maker and hub of all powers, would not like to be accountable to any outer agency). The combined effect of all these negative implications of relationship between civil bureaucracy and democratic government is to give rise to such governmental agency/department which can be defamed by one person alone (i.e. head of agency/department) if he chooses so, by overriding and marginalizing all fair efforts done in the right direction by subordinate staff; but this single person (head of agency/department) cannot give alone a good name to his organization due to that very hierarchical structure and working mechanism which are not owned by the subordinates.
The ideal solution may be to replace this bureaucratic set up with an organization based on participative decision-making and distribution of powers.

Like every organization, this civil bureaucratic organization does have a values system, but unfortunately this values set up is also marred with the negative implications of relationship between civil bureaucracy and democratic governance. Because of centralization of power and decision-making, employees’ morality has been corrupted to make it best suited to continuity of existing bureaucratic system; hence to keep silent over illegalities and corrupt practices committed by the public organization has been made the biggest virtue for the employees to follow, and to expose such illegalities/practices has been made the biggest moral weakness. The present bureaucratic set up is not running with the force of its utility; rather it is this corrupt values system crept into it which is making this set up continue. This corrupted values system makes it possible for a public organization to suppress and marginalize any employees’ efforts done in the right direction to put the organization on the right tract.  The solution of this problem lies in the curtailment of organization’s ability to paper over the illegalities committed by it. In other words, all illegalities committed by an organization should be ensured to be exposed.
Allah says: “And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it]” (al-bakra-42).
From this verse, it is evident that truth is not to be concealed; it has to be exposed. It may be noted that personal weaknesses (which affect only the persons concerned) are not to be enquired and exposed (Quran forbids from such enquiry and disclosure); but those illegalities which affect public at large or affect persons other than committing them are bound to be exposed under this verse.
The subject of public administration has a concept called ‘whistle blowing’; this concept states about exposing irregularities and illegalities committed within an organization to an outer agency. In order to put an check on illegalities committed by an organization, this concept of ‘whistle blowing’ may be institutionalized in Pakistan. This proposed institution may be a high level and high powered institution staffed with men of high integrity and designed to receive and investigate concerned employees’ complaints about an organization. The process of investigation may be secret. The Chief Minister should be in charge of such institution and its report may be presented to the concerned legislative assembly on quarterly basis. Only one such highly professional institution having high integrity may make big dents in existing corrupt bureaucratic system.

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