Public Sector Accountability
In the recent years the top management of public sector organizations has come to realize that they are required to be eventually accountability to the community in which they exist. Moreover, presently, it is pertinent for this accountability to be exercised in a manner that supports rather than stalls the efficient management of the agency. The urgency for greater public sector accountability perceptibly arise from the actuality that most agencies have a defined mission and objectives which are actualized in programs; to put it differently they exist and are given resources so as to provide value to the community in particular ways. The community in its part have a right to be assured that the schemes and programs on which their monies are allocated are properly for the purpose it is intended, and those programs function in an efficient and fruitful manner, provide value for money, and that supreme standards of ethics are upheld by the personnel who have been assigned with managing them. (Contemporary Issues in Public Sector Accountability)
The attention towards accountability within public sector reforms has been defined as a need to make pubic sector personnel increasingly accountable for their decisions and activities. In greater details it implies (i) that certain group of recipients attains information about the results of decisions made by identified individuals who constitute the source decision makers. (ii) that those sources can be made to clarify regarding their decisions (iii) and finally that certain embargo can be imposed in case the explanations are found to be unacceptable. Within Public Sector Organizations or PSOs, accountability is often that of the individual for decisions made. In case where accountability runs external to the organization to other recipients, accountability is frequently combined to the level of the entire organization. In this case the entire organization is by some means looked upon as accountable for the actions of its workforce. Also in this instance, individual senior staff might be held accountable by the external recipients. (Information Systems for Public Sector Management: Defining Accountability)
II. Increased Demand for PSA:
In the current economic scenario, investors are requiring good corporate governance which is corruption free among organizations and with public units. An OECD-World Bank combine investor task force with investors with more than $3 trillion of assets suggests to enterprises who make emerging markets indexes must regard corporate governance as a significant part of their index. They are even subjected to investigations from the civil society and also non-governmental organizations. Citizens are also demanding more and more from their government thereby leading to an increase in political competition to serve the public better. The administrators who are able to win faith and sustain integrity have an increased likelihood to survive the electoral process, the enhanced reason for government to extend the public with broader and easy access information in an opportune manner for increased accountability. With the rise in public scrutiny, the costs to public officials to take decisions which benefit their private interests will even increase, building a more competent and trustworthy government. (Strengthening Public Scrutiny and Government Accountability Reformation)
Through legislation, standards of accountability are established and accountability is determined. This is achieved by (i) clearly designing accountabilities for chief executives subject to Public Service Act, 1999 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act, 1997 for mainstream establishments. (ii) dividing responsibility to independent agency head or board of directors (iii) stressing standards of ethical behavior and probity mainly through to the Public Service Act and (iii) lining up as far as practicable, financial and accountability arrangements for Government Business Enterprises with those within the private sector. (Transparency and Ethical Governance: Promoting Accountability in Australia)
The Auditor General is a suitably experienced independent statutory officer appointed by the Governor under the Financial Administration Audit Act or FAAA 1985 holding office till retirement, other than in the event of suspension by the Governor and dismissed from service by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament. Auditor General is the Accountable Officer and Chief Executive Officer of the Office of the Auditor General which is a department of the public service of the state which comes under the Public Sector Management Act, 1994. As regards Accountable Officer, the Auditor is enshrined to perform responsibilities under the FAAA. Being the Chief Executive Officer, the Auditor General is also liable for several staffing functions under the Public Sector Management Act, 1994. (the Audit Office Today)
The first office of the Auditor General of Western Australia dates back to the initial months of the Swan River colony in 1829. Captain Stirling who was posted as the Lieutenant Governor of the colony, was traveling in the ship Parmelia with the first collection of colonists who voyaged from England in February in that year to make the west coast of New Holland their home. The office of the Auditor General is established akin to all other officers under special legislation. The legislation implies that independent officers may or may not report to the Parliament in relation to their legislated function and/or conduct quasi-judicial responsibilities which are independently held of Ministerial control. (Vouched for and Carried to Account: A History of the Western Australian Audit Office 1829-2004)
The enactment of the Whistleblower Protection Act was done in the year 1889 in part as the Office of the Special Counsel or OSC was considered to be incompetent. During that period OSC had not brought to the notice of the Merit Systems Protection Board since 1979 on behalf of a whistleblower. Whistleblowers complained the Governmental Affairs Committee that they considered the OSC as an antagonist, instead of being an ally, and recommended the Committee for closure of the office for good. However, the Committee preferred to strengthen the office, thereby giving a further chance to act insistently on behalf of the whistleblowers. The Whistleblower Protection Act provided the OSC a new charter to “protect employees, especially whistleblowers, from prohibited personnel practices” and to “act in the interest of employees” who look forward for its assistance. (S.Rpt.103-358 Governmental Affairs Committee Aug. 23, 1994)
The Whistleblower Protection Act offered whistleblowers substantial new job safeguards which were not available in the past. To start with the act established an easier and justified norm for whistleblowers in proving retaliation by their agencies. Secondly, it empowered the privilege, for the first time, to appeal their own cases to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Thirdly the Act increased the independence of the OSC and necessitated OSC to operate in the interest of the whistleblowers. Lastly, the Act gave whistleblowers more procedural safeguards and vital guarantees of confidentiality. (S.Rpt.103-358 Governmental Affairs Committee Aug. 23, 1994)
III. Accountability Excesses
In order to adapt to the changing world economy, Australia is required to perform a number of things in a proper manner. The continent is required to have a robust and transparent regulatory regime. The physical and intellectual infrastructure is required to be of the highest quality. The public sector has an important role to play in all these spheres. However, the public sector can only contribute to them in case it is capable to respond rapidly, flexible and resolutely to the continuous demands of the international competition. (Setting the Course: Integrating Conformance with Performance)
Australia has had immense success in privatization at the Federal Level also. Partial as well as complete privatization has taken place in Australia. Instances of successful privatization can be found in Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Telstra. As a matter of fact, when Telstra was up for privatization in 1997, this was regarded as the largest IPO in the world. The latest company in Australia for privatization is the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. The privatization exercise at the state level has immense success. Privatization at the local level has also taken place in Australia the companies up for sale at the local level have included the sale of municipal works like garbage collection services, golf courses, power plants, waste water treatment plants, airports, utility companies like electricity, gas, parking facilities, sewer systems and also sporting arenas. (Privatization in the United States and Australia: A Comparative Analysis of the Modern Movement in Corrections)
In the recent years the top management of public sector organizations has come to realize that they are required to be eventually accountability to the community in which they exist. Moreover, presently, it is pertinent for this accountability to be exercised in a manner that supports rather than stalls the efficient management of the agency. In the current economic scenario, investors are requiring good corporate governance which is corruption free among organizations and with public units. Through legislation, standards of accountability are established and accountability is determined. In order to adapt to the changing world economy, Australia is required to perform a number of things in a proper manner.
Heeks, Richard. 1998. “Information Systems for Public Sector Management: Defining Accountability.” Institute for Development Policy and Management. July. Retrieved at http://idpm.man.ac.uk/publications/wp/igov/igov_wp01.pdf. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
Lamond, Jeff. “Transparency and Ethical Governance: Promoting Accountability in Australia” Australian Public Service Commission. Retrieved at http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/EROPA/UNPAN014284.pdf. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
Pearson Des. 2000. “Contemporary Issues in Public Sector Accountability: New Challenges for Accountability.” 22 January. Retrieved at http://www.audit.wa.gov.au/pubs/ipaa23022000.html. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
Setting the Course: Integrating Conformance with Performance.” 2000. September, 7. Retrieved at http://www.ag.gov.au/agd/WWW/attorneygeneralHome.nsf/Page/Speeches_2000_Speeches_Setting_the_Course:_Integrating_Conformance_with_PerformanceAccessed on 30 May, 2005
Sozzani, Joseph “Privatization in the United States and Australia: A Comparative Analysis of the Modern Movement in Corrections.” Retrieved at http://www.bond.edu.au/law/blr/vol13-1/Sozzani.pdf. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
S.Rpt.103-358 Governmental Affairs Committee” 1994. August, 23. Retrieved at http://members.tripod.com/whistle20/sr103-358excerpts.htm. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
The Audit Office Today.” Retrieved at http://www.audit.wa.gov.au/insideoag/. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
Vouched for and Carried to Account: A History of the Western Australian Audit Office 1829-2004.” Retrieved at http://www.audit.wa.gov.au/history/index.html. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
Wongchanglaw, Somphon. 2002. “Strengthening Public Scrutiny and Government Accountability Reformation.” Retrieved at http://www.thinkcentreasia.org/documents/Strengthening%20public%20scrutiny.html. Accessed on 30 May, 2005
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