Saihou Sanyang on the tenets of good governance
Monday, March 10, 2008
Editor's introduction: Saihou asked me "If it is published in Swaziland, why not in my homeland The Gambia"? Indeed Saihou, so here it is. But, I do have misgivings.
"Good Governance", like the pre-amble to the American Constitution, sounds good but is not widely practiced, even in "democratic" America. For example, a point on the "Separation of powers". When George Bush Jnr "stole" the election in 2000, it was the Supreme Court, mainly appointed by his father George Bush Snr. that declared Jnr. the winner! But the work is intellectual sound, so here it is for my readers to enjoy.
"Democratic and Decentralised Good Governance
and The Capable and Accountable African State:
A Stakeholder's Perspectives
Right from the outset, let me say that this piece is only an attempt at contributing to the on-going discourse on democratic and decentralised good governance and its relationships with and implications for the capable and accountable African State.
It cannot and is by no means intended to be a treatise for presentation to and grading by the citadels of academic excellence but rather a practitioners and stakeholder's perspectives on the issues at hand and how we can or may be able to improve current continent wide democratic and decentralised good governance initiatives, albeit fraught with problems.
In doing so, it also advances basic principles that underpin democratic and decentralised good governance as well as generic monitors.
However, due cognisance must be taken of the fact that democratic and decentralised good governance is indeed a long-term development process that is largely country-specific, both spatially and temporally and therefore the monitors can neither be trans-located nor applicable across the board hook, line and sinker To this end, the monitors must not be seen as sacrosanct and/or conclusive but rather as harbingers. Notwithstanding, certain fundamental and basic tenets and monitors are indeed applicable in each and every country all the time.
By way of presentation, the piece is divided in the following areas:
1. A definition of governance.
2. Why do we need democratic good governance?
3. Roles and functions of governments in democratic good governance.
4. Realms of democratic good governance.
5. Generic Indicators of democratic good governance.
6. Challenges of democratic good governance.
7. Formula (my own) for good governance.
As a starter and to enhance contextualization of this joint, I would like to advance the UNDP definition of governance to serve as the broader framework from which the piece draws both inspiration and inference. There are or can be many rightful definitions of good governance but I have chosen the UNDP version precisely because it is simple, realistic, operational and development oriented. UNDP defines governance as follows:
".. the set of values, policies and institutions by which a society manages its economic, political and social affairs through interactions among the government, civil society and private sector. It is the way a society makes and implements decisions - achieving mutual understanding, agreement and action. It comprises the mechanisms and processes for citizens and groups to articulate their interests, mediate their differences and exercise their legal rights and obligations. Its rules, institutions and practices set time limits and provide incentives for individuals, organizations and firms ... ".
Roles and functions of governments.
But why do we need democratic good governance? A simple and potentially irritating question which may not need to be asked but for the sake of this piece, let me share my views.
Democratic good governance is at the heart of sustainable human, socio-economic and institutional development and is a sine qua non for enhancing poverty reduction and equity, fosters economic growth, augments production inputs (labour and capital) and enhances their productivity, influences the redistribution of the benefits of economic growth (Pareto Optimal) and income which are crucial and determining factors in transforming growth into poverty reduction (thus having dual impacts - i.e. on growth and its distribution) in Africa.
Quite importantly, democratic good governance enhances institutional responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness as well as fostering needs responsive and timely delivery of public goods and services and thus spurring advances towards realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Consequently, governments have major responsibilities in and must play important and transparent roles and be publicly held accountable for ensuring democratic good governance praxis which promotes economic efficiency and sustainable development in ensuring that markets work by:
. Putting in place robust and responsive policies and solid strategies for sustainable development e.g. decentralization.
. Providing for reliable, factual, timely, wholesome, easily understood and readily accessible information to enhance and ensure critical, enlightened and broad band and spectrum involvement and participation of the people at all levels in their own governance particularly the poor and marginalized (women and children).
. Devising incentive structures that work for most people (not just a few).
. Legislating and enforcing Anti-Bribery & Corruption Laws and Regulatory Frameworks and putting in place policies to curb bribery and corruption.
. Limiting rent-seeking.
. Ensuring competitiveness (as opposed to creating monopolies).
. Promoting diverse media (print, electronic and folklore).
. Promoting and enforcing accountability, transparency and probity to build the capable state.
. Honouring human rights and fundamental freedoms (Bill of Rights) and Directive Principles of State Policy.
. Deepening the mechanisms for democratic practices.
. Providing for free basic education for all.
. Promoting and ensuring preventive, promotive, therapeutic and rehabilitative health care delivery including malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS.
. Developing agriculture for ensuring sustained and all year-round food self-sufficiency and export.
. Protecting the environment and
. Formulating appropriate population policies.
To ensure and enforce compliance, these need to be monitored through an internal monitoring mechanism undertaken through genuine partnership and collaboration between civil society, NGOs, the private sector and government and if need be, augmented by the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to ensure that, in fact, the policies and practices of participating countries conform to agreed political, economic, corporate and systemic governance norms and standards.
Democratic and decentralised good governance has various, albeit interrelated, realms as follow:
Realms of Democratic Good Governance - Political Good Governance: Main elements.
Political good governance is mainly characterized by the availability of a popularly approved, endorsed, assented to and impartially implemented National Constitution which clearly articulates, inter-alia, Bill of Rights as well as Directive Principles of State Policy. The following are considered pivotal:
. Security of person and property.
. Freedom of movement.
. Freedom of association.
.Freedom of speech.
. Freedom of conscience.
. Political pluralism i.e. multi-party and multi-candidate political system.
. Bonafide and registered political parties.
. Political manifestos that address the needs and priorities of constituents.
. Periodic renewal of the political leadership through free, fair, credible, transparent and reliable electioneering and elections with just outcomes.
. An effective executive
. An effective legislature.
. An impartial and autonomous judiciary.
. Presence of an independent and impartial Electoral Authority.
. Separation of powers - checks and balances.
Administrative Good Governance - Main elements.
. Efficient and effective management of state structures.
. Institutional effectiveness and accountability.
. Efficiency of government services.
. Decentralisation of power, authority, resources and responsibility.
. Respect for the rule of law and due process.
. Respect for promotion and protection of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms.
. Impartial and incorruptible law enforcement organs and agencies.
Economic Good Governance (Allocative, Redistributive & Stabilising): Main elements:
Macro-economic policy can impact significantly on the lives of women, men and children by narrowing or widening gaps in, inter-alia:
Provision of an enabling environment for private sector-led growth and the need for effective partnership between the private and public sectors buttressed by the availability of coordination mechanisms between the private and public sectors.
Systemic Good Governance - Improving the ambition, depth and scope of administrative reform and public sector management: main elements.
. The executive must always be accountable and seen to so.
. The executive must always consider the best interest of the public in public policy and development issues.
. The legislature must be free from interference.
. The legislature must always legislate in the best interest of the electorate.
. The judiciary must always be and seen to be independent and impartial.
. The administration and dispensation of justice must be both impartial and speedy.
l The judiciary must be and seen to be above corruption.
. Government services must be efficient and effective.
. Government services must always be based on the needs and priorities of the people and zones and must be both accessible and affordable.
. Government institutions must always be transparent and held accountable.
. Civil servants must always be approachable and diligent.
. Law enforcement institutions and organs must always be accountable and impartial.
. The private sector must be a development partner, competitive, vibrant and be equally held accountable..
. The public, private and CSOs must always work as partners in development.
Equally important in the domain of systemic good governance is separation of powers and checks and balances between the branches of government.
Critical Indicators and Generic Monitors of Democratic Good Governance.
Political representation and distribution of power.
This is the epitome of democratic good governance encapsulated in and legitimized by the availability of a National Constitution that reflects the supreme and endorsed will of the people as to how they want to be governed and govern themselves within a (decentralized) governance polity and framework.
Equally, the constitution must provide for Bill of Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy which are accompanied and ensured by strict observance, promotion and protection of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms as well as duties and responsibilities of the State and individuals.
The constitution must equally entrench separation of Powers (checks and balances between the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), provide for periodic renewal of the political leadership through a fully competitive and credible multi-party and multi-candidate system of electioneering and elections.
To this end, it must ensure that the political system derives its ethos and legitimacy from a framework that ensures a stable multi-party democracy with two or more political parties and clear and just rules of conduct and engagement and that political parties each have a national Political Manifesto and nation-wide political programme that is in the best interest of the electorate and constituents. The executive should be constituted through a fully competitive, credible, multi-party, multi-candidate system of electioneering and elections or assume power as the winning party in a credible, free, fair, transparent and reliable election through an electoral system that is legally and practically effective and that legal recourse or action is instituted against violations. To ensure credible elections, the system must provide for the establishment and operation of an independent, impartial and capable Electoral Authority as manager of the electoral processes accepted by all or the majority of bonafide and legal
ly registered political parties and safe guarded by Revising Courts - to enhance impartial arbitration if and when the results are contested.
It is important that electoral laws provide for full security of persons and properties of all legally registered political parties to ensure independence, nation-wide freedom of movement and campaigns.
Like the executive, the legislature should be constituted through credible, free, fair, transparent and reliable multi-party and multi-candidate system of electioneering and elections and that divisional and or local governments are constituted through the same processes and meeting the same criteria.
Last but by no means the least, the constitution and electoral laws must provide for democratic frameworks for conducting politics accepted by all or most political parties, ensure that the system encourages, upholds and safe guards extensive popular participation in public decision making processes and matters in all political as well as policy and development programmes and issues while making strict provisions as to how political parties are funded.
The Electoral System - Electoral processes and political parties' independence and credibility.
In ensuring that electoral processes are just and credible, the system must or should be based on Electoral Law and the establishment and operations of an Electoral Authority (Commission) established by The National Constitution insulating and safe guarding its autonomy.
The institution should be impartial in management of the electoral system and processes which must be guarded from all organs of state and political parties and the electoral system must make provisions to ensure that the Electoral Authority (Commission) is always impartial and transparent in all its activities. A key provision is that the system ensures credible, free, fair, credible, reliable and transparent registration of bonafide and all eligible citizens and also ensures a credible, legal and transparent voting process as well as a fair and transparent reporting and declaration process.
It is also important that the system provides for equal access to the public media and other public resources and that constituency boundaries and/or district demarcations are acceptable to all political parties and other interest groups.
Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability: Legislative Effectiveness and Judicial
This is a key requirement and provision to ensure full checks and balances between the different arms (branches) of government i.e. the executive, legislature and judicature.
It is so important that the legislature must not be subject to interferences and subordination in major areas of legislation or be a 'rubber stamp' institution just like it must always be effective in legislating and debating on issues of national importance.
Parliamentary debates should be informative and responsive to the needs of the citizenry and where possible broadcast live over the electronic media, national or private. The legislature should and must always hold the executive accountable in exercise of its oversight function.
Very importantly, the Opposition in parliament needs to be or should have strong and positive influence on government policy and programmes as well as bearing and influence in legislation. Above all, the legislature MUST be above corruption.
Equally important is the fact that the judiciary must be independent of government and all other parties in its operations and that judges and magistrates should always be appointed and promoted on their individual merits and qualifications just like cases must be brought to court on time - justice delayed is justice denied. The judiciary MUST be above corruption.
The Executive Branch: Management of state structures
Like the legislature, the executive needs to be free from external interference and subordination in all major areas of policy and MUST always act in a publicly accountable manner.
Current information on government performance must or should be made freely available and accessible to the public and should be reliable, factual, clear, wholesome, timely and easily available and understood.
Quite significantly, the composition of senior public servants needs to be reflective of the cross section of society and appointments, promotions and career development of civil servants should be governed strictly by merit-based principles. There is an absolute need for the citizenry to have high respect for the integrity of the civil service (with the proviso that the civil service is efficient and effective). The Executive MUST be above corruption.
Efficiency of Government Services.
It is imperative that the citizenry must always obtain full justice in court irrespective of their economic and social statuses and must have ready access to government services which should be provided for in time be of good and high quality and delivered according to the priorities of the citizenry and zones. The services should always be delivered effectively and efficiently and need to be affordable to the vast majority of the populace. A very important caveat in this is that government services need to adequately address the needs of women and children.
Decentralisation of structures and services
Centralised systems of both government and governance have failed us and therefore the need for democratic and decentralized good governance which must be a national constitutional provision and should be entrenched.
There is need for a decentralisation policy and programme and that the policy and programme must be underpinned by a Local Government Act and Regulatory Framework, a Local Government Planning and Budgeting Act and Regulatory Framework and Local Government Finance and Audit Act and Regulatory Framework.
These Acts must be operative and enforced. Local Government Authorities should be elected through universal adult suffrage and according to relevant provisions of the Local Government Act.
Very key is the requirement that decentralized structures and service delivery mechanisms and systems should be based on devolution of power, authority, responsibilities, resources, competencies and services based on the principle of subsidiarity. Decentralised services must reflect the priorities of zones and the citizenry and those procedures for resources allocation in terms of quality and timely service delivery should provide for equitable distribution.
To enhance and ensure efficiency, effectiveness and accountable management, local government administration should or needs to have capacity (human and institutional) to ensure political steering of participatory development programmes, projects, processes and activities and that service delivery institutions of local government authorities should be robust enough to allow for and invoke, facilitate, enhance and ensure sustained community participation in all development endeavours including participatory research and/or community needs identification and prioritisation. Like all other institutions, local government authorities MUST be above corruption.
Respect for the rule of law and due process.
The government must be seen to be always fully respecting, honouring and upholding the rule of law and due process and that the citizenry have high confidence in the ability of state law enforcement institutions and agencies to effectively protect them and their properties from violence and theft.
Violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the police and prison (Correctional) services must always be closely monitored and promptly acted on and that conflict prevention, arbitration, resolution and management institutions and processes must always include all affected parties and their representatives. State law enforcement institutions and agencies MUST be above corruption.
Respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms
The importance of civil and political rights and freedoms (Bill of Rights) like Directive Principles of State Policy cannot be over-emphasised and that they MUST be entrenched provisions in the national constitution and always respected and upheld. Government's reporting mechanisms on violations of civil and human rights must always be factual, effective and operational and that draft reports on civil and human right violations need to be discussed by all stakeholders at national level before they are finalized and reported on to ensure reliability and consensus. Reports on human rights violations against women and children must always be promptly and adequately dealt with.
Law Enforcement Organs
Law enforcement officials should always be recruited on the basis of transparent and merit-based principles and personnel, particularly the police, need to be adequately trained to effectively, efficiently and impartially deal with suspects and allegations. Law enforcement organs need to be adequately staffed and equipped to effectively perform their functions on a timely basis.
Efficient and effective economic management is a very important indicator of good governance especially in terms of the national budget. The national budget is an important tool in ensuring good governance, sustainable development and poverty reduction in that it articulates the government's vision and policy towards the attainment of its short, medium and long term development goals, priorities and objectives.
The budget is a national resource plan that outlines government's income and expenditure targets and patterns as well as detailing government interventions, policies and programmes. In a polity and economy, the essential roles of government are inter-alia, to provide for the requisite enabling environments i.e. legal, regulatory and macro-policy frameworks, setting of standards, quality assurance, control, monitoring and evaluation.
These are attendant to the fact that markets are volatile and market failures are common place and are manifested through unequal distribution of income, worsening macroeconomic fundamentals like price level instability, a downward spiralling economy characterized by poor performance, interest rate volatility, unemployment and non-delivery of public goods and services. Economic good governance dictates and envisages that government will address these through its allocative, redistributive and stabilizing roles through sound, efficient and effective macro economic policy.
Continues on Friday.