Accountability crucial to good governance

Written by JAMAL MECKLAI | Jamal Mecklai | Updated: Oct 2 2013, 03:41am hrs
The Japanese have always had the highest standards of accountability. Honour was/is an integral part of life and, over the years, several leaders (both corporate and political) have actually committed suicide as atonement for failure of strategy, execution or morals. Indeed, in the most extreme cases, even failure by subordinates led to senior public figures committing hara kiri.

This highperhaps, excessively highstandard of morality still prevails in some Japanese. As recently as February 2012, in (of all places) Gurgaon, a 45-year-old Japanese national and senior executive of a multi-national company[hanged] himself in the lawns of upscale DLF Icon condominium.In a suicide note...[he] wrote I am sorry for what I have done.

To my mind, this is a pretty extreme approach, and, indeed, in terms of governance, is unlikely to be a good thing unless the person in question had created an effective back-up. It would be more sensible to publicly acknowledge the failing and resign voluntarily, assuming the failure was not criminal. Here, too, the Japanese were/are leaders, although honour is certainly not the sole preserve of the Japanese. There are honourable people everywhere, most of whom you never hear about.

In India, while we do have our share of honourable people, we are, tragically, pretty far down on the accountability scale in the public realm. The list of corporate and political figures who have found ways to excuse themselves from crimes, let alone more modest failures of governance, would extend way beyond the word limit of this article.

The good news, however, is that the people and the courts are demanding accountability more and more loudly andAllah be praisedthe system is responding. RTI was the first, or certainly the most potent, tool in our hands. And, as it has wrought considerable havoc in the corridors of corruption, there have been legislative efforts to thwart the Chief Information Commissioners ruling that six major political parties should be brought under the ambit of the RTI.

Both the UPA and NDA tried to legislate this ruling away, but the peoples voice was raised loudly and quickly enough to get it pushed from Parliament to the standing committee. Note, the battle is still onplease be continuously engaged. We all know that political funding is one of the primary sources of all of Indias ills.

Kudos too to the Supreme Court, which has consistently been stepping out of its proper position since it is clear that our democracy has been disgraced by declining honour and zero accountability. The government tried to legislate away the Supreme Courts stricture that legislators who are convicted of crimes with a sentence in excess of two years should be disqualifiedI mean, is this real Can anyone believe that anyone would object to something so obviously necessary It needs to be said that it is shocking in the very least. The UPA governments move failed and for this credit has to go to the BJP, which, while originally going along with the plan, made a complete reversal of its position at the last minute. Clearly, it is trying to burnish its election plank of governance.

But, it is equally clear that the BJP doesnt really believe in governance either. Or, perhaps, like a lot of entitiesboth political and corporatein this country, it doesnt really know what governance and accountability are.

Witness its promotion of Narendra Modi as its candidate for Prime Minister in the next general elections, trumpeting his governance achievements. Surprisingly, a wide spectrum of corporate leaders, some of whom are renowned for championing governance, have echoed this view, perhaps looking one-dimensionally at business returns.

As is obviously apparent, good governance requires accountability. What this means is that if someone in my company (or my government) fails to do his job with integrity or worse, commits a criminal act, ultimately I am responsible. If I didnt know, particularly if the person was high up the chain of command, my governance had failed; if I did know, I was complicit and should be held accountable.

There is a woman named Maya Kodnani, who is currently in jail (possibly facing a death sentence) for her role in the 2002 riots. Kodnani, at the time, was the minister for women and child affairs in the Modi government. Clearly, either Modis governance had failed (if he didnt know what she was doing) or he was complicit and should be held accountable. In either case, he is unworthy to lead even a state government, let alone the centre.

The best news is that the TINA factor that has so driven Indian voting is also changingthe Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is, apparently, making a strong run in the Delhi assembly elections, and will certainly provide a meaningful alternative to all of us in next years Lok Sabha polls.

The author is CEO of Mecklai Financial