Checks And Balances

In order for the people of Mumbai to keep track of the income and expenses of the Municipality it is necessary to make sure that proper checks and balances are made part of the system. Today, people have no real influence between elections. What is needed is a transparent structure of governance, providing efficient tools through which people can obtain vital or essential information about the way they are governed. With the right combination of checks and balances, for which transparency and accountability are the key words, the power will be in the hands of the every-day citizen. Therefore, Vote Mumbai proposes that the reforms in the structure of the Mumbai government be accompanied by the following mechanisms:
Ombudsmen
If a citizen is unhappy with the services and duties of any officer or employee of the Corporation, he/she will be able to turn to ombudsmen. An ombudsman is a person having the prescribed qualifications, either as an administrator or in legal field who is appointed by the Group, consisting of the Mayor, for a period of five years to investigate the formal complaints of the people. To guarantee an efficient process, the ombudsman has to close every case within a period of three months which cannot be extended to more than a maximum of three additional months. If the complaint is found to be valid, the ombudsman will have the power to order the opposite party to remove the defect or deficiency. Furthermore, the ombudsman can order the opposite party to repay the fees or charges paid by the complainant and to give financial compensation for any suffered loss or injury. The ombudsman may order costs and or claims for the procedure to be paid by the Corporation or the Complainant, as the case may be. An ombudsman will also have the authority to start an investigation on his/her own initiative.
Mandatory audited quarterly disclosure of performance.
There needs to be an efficient framework of disclosure norms where government is responsible for providing information to the voters. With the Right to Information Act, passed in India in 2005, the public has the right to access documentation from all public authorities. However, the fact that a voter who wishes to see a certain document has to make a request to do so, and thereafter wait up to thirty days for the document calls for additional guarantees. In the world of business, companies frequently provide shareholders with information on budgeting, results etc. Similarly, the municipal government should be responsible to ensure that information on decision-making and implementation reaches all the voters, regardless of socio-economic status, literacy or level of education. Whereas a legal framework regulating areas that should be public is crucial, the Right to Information Act should only serve as a necessary compliment for the public to scrutinize the given information. Vote Mumbai suggests a legal framework where the authorities are obliged to present quarterly audited reports, disclosing to the voters information on performance including accounting and quality of services. Furthermore, this information must be presented and distributed in such a way that every voter, including inhabitants of the poorest areas, can easily access and understand it.
Independent outside auditors.
The municipal accounting process will be examined and audited by a professional accountant appointed by the state government. On a yearly basis, the auditor will present a Report to the State Government and Chief Municipal Officer. The report will include every payment which appears to the Auditor to be contrary to law, the account of any deficiency or loss which appears to have been caused by gross negligence or misconduct of any person, the account of any sum received which ought to have been, but has not been, brought into account by any person, and any other material impropriety or irregularity in the accounts. The auditor will have full access to any relevant documents. Furthermore, in the case that mismanagement of funds is discovered, the auditor can report this to the Municipal Accounts Committee who will consider the case and if reason is found, order the repayment of any illegal payment. Refusal to pay the charges will result in the case being referred to court. The members of the accounts committee will be appointed by the Councilors and will be made up of both Councilors and qualified individuals that are not employees or representatives of the Corporation. To further guarantee a proper functioning, the State Government or the Municipal Government will have the power to appoint auditors for specific cases and/or internal auditors concerned with the day-to-day accounts of the municipality.
Mandatory provisions to frame citizen charters with penalties for each department as far as practicable.
Citizen-charters should be framed by the Mayor in consultation with Ward Committees and Area Sabhas. Such charters should cover areas such as issuances of certificates, licenses and permits, bench-marking of quality and delivery of services, for example water supply. To guarantee implementation of what is stated in the charters, the articles will include a system of penalties for any department who acts in breech of this. Failure to perform stated services provides the right of every citizen to lodge a formal complaint.
Appropriate accounting package and MIS-package to support benchmarking of various services.
Accounting packages as well as management information system packages are necessary instruments to process and analyze information. They also serve as tools for checks and balances of the service delivery, including planning. The current system is severely flawed in this area as there are not sufficient information and data available on these systems for the government employees to deliver. More than up-scaling the efficiency in managing service-delivery, in combination with clear disclosure-norms these serve as a tool for the public to know whether planned services are actually delivered.
E-governance initiative and establishing qualitative and quantitative benchmarks.
By logging on the internet, citizens will have access to a number of public services as well as information on the work of the elected municipal leaders and the municipal administration. The idea is to implement delivery mechanism that will bring convenience for the citizens to access information and for government employees to deliver services. Apart from increasing the level of efficiency, the boom of electronic media can be utilized as yet another means to increase transparency so as to curb corruption. N.B. The detailing of this is under construction.
Right to Recall
In case a majority of the voters within an Area Sabha find that their elected representative is failing to manage his/her tasks they will have the right to, through voting, remove him/her from office. N.B. The detailing of this is under construction.

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