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Accountable and Transparent Government

Accountable and Transparent Government


Plank Leader: Joe Foster

Note: This plank consists of a number of short but interrelated issues, positions and arguments.

Principles and Policy Statement
Summary

Issues:


Consultation and Dialogue

There is too little consultation (and too much confrontation) within government and too often insufficient consultation between government and citizens in the design of policies and the consequent implementation of programs.

Accountability and Responsibility

Accountabilities amongst government (parliament and the public service) are too often insufficiently defined . In addition, responsibilities between government and the public are often equally unclear and lead to program failure.

Monitoring

Monitoring of new programs and operational activities is not broad or consistent enough to ensure Canadians get value for money.

Timeliness

Programs delivered at the wrong time – often too late – result in reduced value or can have the opposite impacts to those intended.

Responsiveness

There is apparently no transparency and consequently no accountability on email handling? in government. Mails sent through web site are worse, as sender have no idea who could be held responsible for non reply. Thus in all cases, the mail sender is at the courtesy of the receiver. "All mails should be sent thro' a dedicated tool that can send the mail to the concerned lowest dealing official in any organization / department and all superiors can see transparently all communications received and anyone responsible should respond within a specified time, say one working day or two working days." source: Krishnan Dev? of the public service of India?.

Openness, Transparency, Feedback

The source of funds and how funds are used to deliver programs is not consistently identified. There have been calls for public accounts reform but little action even from the PSAB. Municipal Governance is a particular weak point as Federal-Municipal Relations are in flux.

Quality Management

Although standards are readily available for sound management, these best practices are not regularly and consistently applied throughout government. These can be divided roughly into civic best practice, management best practice? and governance best practice. There are also lower level technology best practice?s including wiki best practices. See quality management and total quality management? for more on this mindset.

Public Participation

Public participation is muted due to a perceived lack of influence by an individuals.

Honesty and Integrity

Canadian have lost much of the respect and trust they once held for government. They retain however a strong respect for the office of Auditor General.

Positions

The GPC will:

Consultation and Dialogue

A variety of tools will be used to ensure communication, consultation dialogue and collaboration is promoted as a basic principle of good government. This will be done in a manner that avoids duplication but promotes a collaborative spirit within parliament, across the public service, with other levels of government and with the public. Current tools will be assessed, improved or deleted with new ones created where needed. This will be done keeping in mind the importance of cost and time factors.

Accountability and Responsibility:

As part of quality management in government, the accountabilities and responsibilities of all government officials will be clarified, simplified and published. Within the public service, this will be done using standard industry methods for ensuring that all processes are relevant, and programs are carried out efficiently and effectively. This will entail restructuring within departments where appropriate with the goal of reducing the numbers of executives by 25% over a period of 10 years.

Monitoring

One accountabilities and responsibilities are formalized, common industry standards will be put into effect throughout government to monitor the progress of programs and projects and the efficiency and effectiveness of ongoing government operations. The Auditor General and Commissioners (e.g. Information Commissioner ) will be selected by Parliament. The Auditor General and Commissioners will function as a team; Commission Reports will be forwarded to the Auditor General for recommended action. The Auditor General will separately audit and report to the Senate on both parliament and the public service. Mechanisms will be put into force such that incidents such as the Sponsorship Scandal are unlikely to occur, and in those cases where elected officials abuse the trust of citizens, investigations will take place promptly with corrective action approved by the Senate and acted upon immediately.
Incentives and mechanisms will be established to encourage any government official to suggest improvements to government operations and bring to the attention of a special sub-committee of the Auditor General’s office, any potential misconduct. (The pejorative term whistleblower will no longer exist once this proposal is implemented - people will not be so stigmatized, nor even visible.)

Timeliness

One of the criteria of performance used by the Auditor General will be timeliness; the time taken for consultation, design, implementation and evaluation will all be subject to scrutiny.

Feedback

Where possible, taxes and revenues will be directly linked to related programs. For example, a gas tax will be used to fund public transport and research for alternative forms of fuel supplies and cleaner engines.

Quality Management

The application of industry standard?s and common best practices will be implemented across government departments. Where useful to government, industrial consortia will be encouraged or even required, e.g. to make possible an expanded municipal role in emergency response.

Openness and Transparency

Concurrently, mechanisms for evaluating existing rules and regulations will be put in place to avoid undue and counter-productive bureaucracy. A new PSAB capital asset standard will make Municipal Governance more transparent. Each federal political party will be required to publish its candidate protocol, member protocol and officer protocol in a standard way so that any complaints about decisions within such parties can be adjudicated.

Public Participation:

Public civics education, especially at the school level, will be actively pursued to make citizens aware of the importance of democratic participation. Canadian citizens who are 16 and 17 years of age, will be encouraged to vote in all federal voting activities. These introductory votes will be counted as half votes.

Honesty and Integrity

The Ethics Commissioner? will be appointed by Parliament and report to the Senate. the Commissioner will monitor, in conjunction with the Auditor General, the honesty and integrity of government officials. The authority of this position will cover all individuals and groups within government. The principles and values as set out within the Green Party Platform will be used as a baseline reference, but the development of an ethic balancing scientific and moral knowledge will be encouraged.

Global Ethics

The teaching of Basic global moral values (such as respect and honesty), as recommended by UNESCO?, will be encouraged in the school curricula. Debate on a global ethic? and global tradeoffs in decision making will be encouraged using such starting points as The Green Ethic.

Arguments:

Consultation and Dialogue

A common practice of government sis to undertake studies and Royal Commissions (preferably near an election) on politically hot issues such that action will not have to be taken. On the other hand, major decisions are made with little or no consultation since it is clear that government and citizen views differ sharply. The Strategic Missile Defence program is a good example of this latter situation – morally and scientifically this initiative is highly questionable although politically it may be advantageous.
Consultation costs – in both time and money. Moreover, hot issues tend to polarize groups as has been proven in the USA elections. Canadian governments tend to wait until the problem has cooled down and the media/public eye if off the issue.
It is possible, however, to develop ongoing mechanisms that will become part of the political fabric. Over time, individual Canadians will realize that their input is important; while views may vary widely, the debate can be informative and compromises often provide the fairest solutions - especially for a country as diverse as Canada. In other words, educating citizens to actively participate can be made a habit and become part of our national value system.
If consultation mechanisms are made subject to the same monitoring processes as other government activities, a range of acceptable tools and effective and efficient ways to use them will be found.

Accountability and Responsibility

It is easy for government to become so bound with rules, regulations and reporting that no work gets done. Moreover, if one is continuously afraid of negative assessment, no creative actions will be taken. Risk taking and occasional mistakes are essential for learning and progress.
However, a more significant factor in a positive work environment is a clear understanding of the task - as well as the results expected – and the authority and resources to get the job done. Professional staff enjoy a challenge and the acceptance of responsibility. If standards and best practices are in place, the potential of risks will be reduced and the likelihood of mistakes considerably lessened.
Presently, Accountabilities amongst government (parliament and the public service) are too often diffused and/or insufficiently defined . In addition, responsibilities between government and the public are often equally unclear and lead to program failure. Best practices require that accountabilities and responsibilities are clear and distinct.

Monitoring

With the lack of applied standards, tracking both the activities and performance of government is presently very difficult. Problems are often identified too late to be able to take meaningful corrective action.
Normal program management includes periodic monitoring and reporting. There is a cost but this expense is marginal compared to the cost of program failure. Not only is there the dollar cost but the credibility factor and the impacts of not having the outputs as expected. As for all situations, there is a balance between too much and too little intervention. Politicians should not interfere with program execution without parliamentary approval. That being said, all programs and projects must be regularly reported on and open to further scrutiny. If standard best practices are used and regular reporting done, this should not create an extra burden on government.

Timeliness

While solutions can be rushed, governments are not often accused of being too quick in implementing programs. However, fiscal and other constraints will limit how much can be done in what time frame. Rushing consultations and program delivery can be as detrimental as procrastination.

Openness and Transparency

Being able to trace funding to programs and results will help to better formulate policies and set priorities for the future. Considerable effort will be required to restructure the collection of taxes and revenues such that they are directly linked to program spending. General, open-ended taxes are popular with governments. However, being able to trace funding directly to programs will permit faster reassignment of resources if required to respond to changing conditions and needs. From an economic perspective, the opportunity costs will be made more clear. For example, if a commitment to continue to pay down the national debt from general revenues was clearly stated as an agreed policy, government would not be accused of simply over-taxing.

Once the system is designed for openness and transparency, there is still the issue if some restrictions to access are in the interest of the public. of As was proven during the First Ministers talks on health care, there are times when some restrictions on automatic access (other than for privacy reasons) is appropriate. Another example is that access to all government meetings would be extremely costly and counter-productive. The net result would be less dialogue and consultation.

Finally, each federal political party receiving over 2% of the popular vote? is now funded by taxpayer dollars. Since their ideologies differ it is not possible to define how they should be run, but, they must at least define their own rules and convey those rules in some standardized way to Elections Canada? so that the federal funding is paying for additional transparency and accountability. There have been too many visible issues in the operations of federal political parties, and even lawsuits regarding whether they followed their own constitutions. See Political Party Governance for more on this, and GPC Governance for how the Green Party of Canada is making itself the most accountable party there is.

Quality Management

Most successful corporations have integrated quality management techniques into their processes. Government instead, tends to apply the Big Box approach and add more rules and regulations whenever a problem or scandal arises. Very often this is done across government departments and without eliminating any of the existing rules. Applying quality management techniques to validate the efficiency and effectiveness of current processes would help to avoid knee-jerk reactions as a substitute for proper decision making.

Public Participation

The fundamental assumption of democracy is that public participation is a given. Currently this is often in the form of representation from lobby groups. If all lobby groups are recognized and their interventions documented, this can be a healthy component of democratic debate. The majority of lobby groups arise from individuals who are concerned about a particular issue, form a group, research the problems and lobby for action. But, more diverse representation is required if all perspectives are to be considered.
Size, power, and money must not be the criteria for gaining a forum. What is needed is for more community groups to identify issues take the responsibility to inform government of problems and collaborate in the implementation of solutions. the concept of partnership in both the resourcing and execution helps to provide automatic checks and balances.
There is a cost to participation – both in terms of time and money. However, buy-in of those being impacted considerably reduces the likelihood of failure.
As noted earlier, active participation should be promoted by government as an essential part of our democratic value system.

Honesty and Integrity

Making the right decisions is directly linked to the honesty of individuals and the general integrity of government. Where decisions are based on political expediency or personal gain, the ‘public good’ can not be achieved. The use of power to benefit political or personal alliances is not in the interest of the broader community. For example, the act of political interference in contract placements is generally not in the best interest of Canadians. For this reason, the Ethics Commissioner’s role will be expanded to more actively monitor the conduct of politicians as well as the public service.


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