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15 June 2024 : Daily Answer Writing

Q1) Administrative accountability is necessary to regulate administrative discretion. What do you mean by administrative accountability? What kind of mechanisms are available for ensuring the accountability of the administrator


Administrative accountability means an institutionalised mechanism (legal and procedural) through which public servants are bound to the following three elements of governance:

1. Answerability: The need for justification of administrative actions.

2. Enforcement: The sanctions to be imposed if the justification is found to be inadequate.

3. Responsiveness: Responsive to the needs of the public.

In its traditional sense, accountability is restricted to a procedural framework based on directives, laws, rules or regulations. As such, it is highly objective and has a locus of control external to the individual administrator.

Various mechanisms for ensuring administrative accountability can be considered as either internal or external to administration as follows:

1. The internal mechanisms include hierarchical organisations, budgetary systems, efficiency surveys, annual confidential reports etc.

2. The external mechanisms can be considered through four agencies:

a) Legislative: That includes measures such as law making, financial controls, parliamentary discussions and tools, parliamentary committees etc.

b) Executive: These include measures such as delegated legislation, budgetary control, political direction etc.

c) Judicial: These include measures that are available through judiciary like judicial review, writ jurisdiction, suits against the government, and suits against the officials.

d) Citizen-based: These are the measures taken by citizens to ensure administrative accountability like elections, ombudsmen, pressure groups and public opinion. Apart from these measures, new tools of transparency like e-governance, citizen’s charter, RTI, social audit etc. has further enhanced accountability of the administrators.

However, these mechanisms while essential are not adequate. They suffer from following limitations:

1. Lack of time, expertise and resources to monitor countless government decisions.

2. They are often reactive in nature rather than being anticipatory or proactive.

3. Social and political constraints which dilute the potency of these mechanisms.

4. Bureaucratic anonymity which restricts most instruments to the extent of political representatives.

These limitations give administration enormous discretionary powers. This implies that apart from legal and procedural mechanisms for administrative accountability, there is also a need for self-regulation.

Thus, administrative accountability can be better understood as the obligation of those holding power to take responsibility of their behaviour and actions. The aspect of responsibility lends a moral dimension to accountability, which should also be reflected in the laws and rules governing administration with a view to facilitate greater people’s participation

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