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Accountability: The core of public service and governance

Accountability is a word that should be written in the stones that support the foundation of public service. Many times, those who get elected and those who serve forget that the oil that makes the gears of government run comes from the toils and labors of the people.

Everyone pays taxes in one form or the other—directly through income earnings and indirectly by paying sales taxes and VAT (value added tax) when buying. To the marginalized, these taxes are added cost to their already meager purchases that literally and figuratively snatch food from their mouths. Hence, these taxes should be treated as sacred trust.

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The dispensing and the use of government funds must be done prudently, with a sense of moral responsibility in reciprocity of this trust.

Disbursements and utilization of the public funds should address the needs of the citizens—in programs and infrastructure that enable development, in providing social services and protection, in access to quality health care and education, in nurturing micro and small enterprises that comprise the backbone of the economy, in sustainable development of natural resources, in disaster preparedness and mitigation, and in ensuring the safety and security of the people.

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Accountability means people entrusted with these resources accept the need for transparency and agree to be responsible for the delivery of the expected outputs. The desired outcomes must be properly defined, and the results concretely measured.

Programs and activities that will be undertaken must be viewed from the lens of how well it will support the achievement of these objectives. This is a basic management tenet that should govern not only how the private sector works but also how the public sector will serve. Targets must be concrete, open to public scrutiny with performance evaluation conducted at the end of every budget period, and subject to oversight.

We need to ask . . .

Were the infrastructures built? The harder question is whether they were even needed in the first place. More importantly, were these equitably distributed so that those areas that need development most also got the biggest share?

Were the morbidity and mortality rates lowered? Were the sick able to access the health services they needed, and with adequate funding? Were structural interventions—like good sanitation and safe drinking water, for instance, which were contributing causes of illnesses like recurrent diarrhea—implemented? Was equal, if not more importance, given to preventive measures along with the curative and rehabilitative services?

Were the educational institutions and educators able to upgrade the quality of instructions and curricula as evidenced by the improvements in standards and rankings? Or should the question delve more on whether there was enough focus given for the development of the right skills, attitude and values that will prepare the youth for the future before them—because doing so will augur well for the future of our nation.

Were capital and financing resources deployed to encourage micro and small businesses to engage, survive, grow and sustain their operation and profitability? Or were they practically denied those chances from the get-go because the requirements for access were too high that they became barriers rather than gateways to the markets? Were resources allocated to capacitate them and build their capabilities, so that they are adequately prepared to handle entrepreneurship responsibilities? Did the survival rate of these enterprises improve as a result of these interventions?

Were ample attention and funding given to ensuring that we will manage disasters and crisis better? The pandemic burdened the health system and the effects of climate change continue to challenge, but there should be programs in place that will prevent, or at least mitigate via quick response the effects of these disasters. If the same problems persist, with the same coping mechanisms instituted every time, then we are bound in a vicious cycle that will take its toll on human lives and properties over and over again.

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In these questions, we can define concrete measurements that will tell the ‘real bosses’ whether those who begged for their votes in the election delivered on their promises. Unfortunately, no one is ever called among those who obtained their mandates to account for their actions and to report on their accomplishments.

The imperative

As long as we do not put accountability at the top of our list of expectations from those who serve, and for as long as we do not make them responsible for their use and misuse of the funds, then history will keep repeating itself. How else can we explain the recurring issues that were promised resolution every election? Shouldn’t we take them to task for those failures?

Our country begins another six years of journey under new ‘management.’ There is again the stirring of hope that this time, it might be different. Though the new ‘CEO’ will come with the biggest majority vote ever, he will also be accompanied by a divisive environment where the battle lines are clearly drawn. It is a rough start.

The global future postpandemic appears to be a turbulent transition, with COVID-19 infections still on a roller-coaster rise and fall. The problems that were caused by the more than two years of a world stopped on its tracks are already starting to manifest the cracks. The war between Russia and Ukraine has ripples and waves that threaten global peace and security and expected to exacerbate an already severely tested economic system. Rising again will require gargantuan efforts, and people need to work together to provide the push and pull to an economy threatening to stagnate.

It is time to set aside differences because the problems of the collective are bigger than our personal concerns; but they are not mutually exclusive. When the country posts improvements and recovers, we as citizens also benefit. Why should we want it to fail? INQ

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TAGS: Business, Governance, MAPping the Future
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