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Public Sector Audit And The State’s Resposibility To ‘Leave To ‘Leave-No-One Behind’: The Role Of Integrated Democratic Accountability

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Academic year: 2023

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At the beginning of the new (21st) century, the United Nations (UN) launched the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aiming to address key development. To ascertain the role of SAIs in helping to develop integrated democratic accountability in both its dialogic and procedural forms within a developing economy, we adopted a case study method, using India as a single case for due to the Indian CAG performance audit of the government's SDG. India's commitment and claims to a unique democratic structure (Varshney, 1998).

Table 1: Interviewee identifier and time
Table 1: Interviewee identifier and time

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PUBLIC AND NATIONAL AUDITORS IN AIDING THE MOVE TOWARDS INTEGRATED DEMOCRATIC

Evidence of integrated democratic accountability

The VNRs are designed to generate and prove procedural aspects of government accountability.20 The second type of actor criticizes and holds the government to account; these agents consist of the CAG (2019) and PAC (2021), which, among other things, are concerned about the lack of progress in the collection of metrics, the type of metrics used (both procedural matters) and also the weak dialogic democratic accountability in NITI Aayog's processes.21 The third type of actor is non-governmental, including NGOs/civil society, and the UN agency in India. We analyzed these actors at the national level, including through interviews and the research by Development Alternatives (2016), which engaged deeply with the civil society sector to develop recommendations for the government to monitor progress towards SDGs, WDTA (2017), which similar to the CAG (2019) and PAC (2021), also criticized weak dialogical democratic accountability by the government, and PRS.

Procedural democracy and accountability to progress the SDG plan .1 Processes instituted by government and its agency – NITI Aayog

  • Processes audited by the CAG and PAC

However, when the PAC (2021) highlighted CAG's (2019) criticism of the lack of attention to funding and budgeting requirements, the NITI Aayog argued that these matters were the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance. Additionally, while some changes have taken place after the CAG's intervention, the NITI Aayog argued to the PAC (2021) that it was 'too early' to invite CAG monitoring beyond NIF and SDGII 2.0.

Dialogic democratic accountability

  • The role of the CAG and PAC and government’s response
  • The role of NGOs/civil society

Nevertheless, while the CAG has pushed for greater procedural accountability in these early stages of the SDGs, it does not anticipate that it will be called upon to address the government's international accountability processes. Unfazed by the weakness of this response, the PAC (2021) further noted its disappointment that the NITI Aayog had convened the facilitating 'multidisciplinary task force' only twice, despite demands since August 2017 that these meetings (designed to enhance inclusivity) should be convened quarterly. Accordingly, the PAC recommended (among others) that the government encourage citizen participation and provide detailed guidelines for corporate participation as government and business work towards achieving the SDGs.

The PAC (2021) also challenged NITI Aayog's activity at the state level and highlighted awareness and consultation issues raised by CAG (2019). Agency1 works to improve state and government budget transparency, as “it is absolutely essential for democratically elected bodies to really function [for the people] and budgets become one of the entryways. For example, [a subnational government] designed an electric bike program for the girl students where they give the money to the girl students for the electric bike.

So the audit has been done, but I am not very sure that the government takes it seriously or any of the state governments take it seriously.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION

In this study, we highlight how SAIs, through dialogue (including reports), independent structures (democratic institutions) and concern for democratic cooperation with multiple actors (agency), can make significant changes in the context of the intersection of the SDGs, democratic institutions and civil society. companies. Together with civil society, India's CAG and PAC seek evidence of the intelligibility and inclusiveness of NITI Aayog dialogues in a social context characterized by social inequalities, pluralism and diversity (Habermas Varshney, 1998). India demonstrates innovation (e.g. “competitive federalism” and its data analytics), but it remains unclear whether the public discourse on sustainable development in multiple locations of this society (including civil society and business) can be successfully harnessed.

The PAC reiterated these demands for accountability to the NITI Aayog, which is important given the mantra of the SDGs, for 'LNOB'. Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on the Audit of Readiness for the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The role of external audits in increasing transparency and accountability for the Sustainable Development Goals (157 (ST/ESA/2019/DWP/157)).

Sixth Meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Institution for Transforming India (February issue).

INTRODUCTION

Public sector auditing and a state's responsibility to 'leave no one behind': The role of integrated democratic accountability. Guillán Montero & Le Blanc (2019) noted the valuable SDG monitoring role of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) in developing frameworks and independently and proactively reviewing “the preparedness for implementing SDGs in their national context” and through these pushing “national governments into action by making constructive recommendations at an early stage" (International Organization of SAIs (INTOSAI) & IDI, 2019, p. 8). Our research examines one such SAI – India's Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) – to establish 'how SAIs help the development of integrated democratic accountability in both its dialogical and.

We acknowledge past global failures to meet MDGs and (see, for example, Jain et al., 2021) critiques of the effectiveness of India's legislative efforts to incentivize corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, but we also note the Indian government's bold claims and credentials5 to be the world's largest democracy (Guha, 2017), making it an ideal place to explore the conceptualisation, meaning and operationalization of integrated democratic accountability. While India's government has pledged to achieve the SDGs at an international forum, we argue that successful achievement of the SDGs depends to a greater extent on monitoring by both domestic and international democratic accountability mechanisms. Our evidence shows examples of formal accountability processes, before comparing and contrasting procedural and dialogic democratic accountability and how the Indian CAG is helping to realize the promise of “no one left behind”.

The final section contains a discussion and conclusion, limitations and opportunities for future research on how SAIs can contribute to the development of integrated democratic accountability in both procedural and dialogical forms within an emerging economy proclaiming its democracy and global aspirations.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND DEMOCRACY

Accountability relations as dialogue rather than procedure

Our research shows that many of the procedural deficiencies identified by SAI have been improved. However, the other branch of democratic accountability, dialogical accountability, is poor due to the (in)visible silence and largely performative VNRs (and several other documents related to the SDGs) that distract attention. In our study, the social space of accountability intersects with sustainable development goals, public audit and democracy – where multiple actors influence forms and possibilities.

To ameliorate exclusion, the social act of accountability should be collaborative rather than purely an apparatus and appeal to practice. Within dialogue, common meaning is created in collaboration with all actors - with a focus on complexity and plurality - and for new situations and contexts. Therefore, mutual expectations and dialogic accountability function in two different ways in social exchange: as a basis for coordinating actions and as a means of challenging and sanctioning other actors when coordination falters.

From this framework of expectations, accountability can be generalized from specific contexts to new situations to establish common expectations and shared meaning.

The embeddedness of accountability: social complexity, cultural pluralism and social inequalities

The role of public audit in political/democratic deliberations: the potential to make a difference

In this study, we analyze the intersection of accounting practice, specifically auditing in the public sector and its role in helping the development of integrated democratic accountability in both its dialogic and procedural forms. We argue that the role of independent public accountants in the architecture, maintenance and upholding of accountability at the intersection of sustainable development and democratic institutions at the country level is crucial. In India too, it is argued that CAG reports influenced the outcome of national elections (Rai, 2014).

PACs are common in Westminster-type arrangements (Jacobs et al., 2010) (such as in India) where, despite deviance, they always consist of members of Parliament from both the ruling and opposition parties. Hoque (2016) argues that both Bangladesh (India's neighbour) PAC members and CAG were responsible for successful reforms to improve parliamentary scrutiny. We also argue that public audit, specifically the SAI, can play a role in holding a government to account for its international commitments on the SDGs and thereby support the move towards institutionalizing integrated democratic accountability.

6 In the case of India, the PAC consists of seven members of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States or upper house in India's bicameral parliament) and fifteen members of the Lok Sabha (House of the People/Lower House) including the Speaker.

METHODOLOGICAL UNDERPINNINGS AND RESEARCH CONTEXT

In addition, we successfully arranged access and conducted interviews with a wide range of respondents, including representatives from the UN agencies and civil society organizations who work closely with and provide support to the senior executives of the think tank responsible for developing policy and programs related to the SDGs. India. Although the World Bank considers India a lower-middle-income country, the country has grown significantly over the past thirty years.8 Nevertheless, the percentage of the population living on the national poverty line has halved since 1990 (from 45.3% to 21. 9%). %) during the same period, the percentage of the income share held by the lowest 20% of the population fell from 8.9% to 8.1%. Income disparities remain high, and a local Indian umbrella NGO, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) (2017), points to the social marginalization of the poor and other groups that are discriminated against.

Thus, MoSPI and the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in India developed the "India SDG Panel" (a pictorial representation of the NIF - see Figure 3) to coordinate data collection by various branches of government, to develop capacity in (State/UT) users and make gaps and successes visible.11 The SDGII 2.0 Panel (NITI Aayog & UN, 2020) encourages 'competition' between States/UTs to achieve. In India we actually have a very strong mechanism where when we look at a performance audit for any major government scheme, we ensure that the team doing this audit is trained. However, the NITI Aayog is now undertaking a study jointly with the Ministry, the Department of Economic Affairs and the IMF to 'fund' the achievement of the SDG targets.

Through the use of indices (NIF dashboard and SDGII 2.0) and expert input, India's SDG efforts address some of the measurement issues identified by Anhayawansa et al. 2021), and these are raised to another level by the specializations that CAG has developed (eg iCED). Our research has limitations, with the small number of interviews challenging the generalizability of findings to Indian state and local government operations. We recognize that India's complexity, plurality and social inequalities mean that further developing dialogic accountability is challenging, particularly given the multifaceted nature of the SDGs, funding issues and layers of bureaucracy in this, 'most democratic' biggest in the world' (Guha, 2017; Varshney, 1998).

Figure

Table 1: Interviewee identifier and time
Figure 1. SDG Implementation: Institutional Structure in India (Janardhanan,
Figure 3: SDG India Index and Dashboard 2020-21 12
Figure 4: Seven Pillars of NITI Aayog 13
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