Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making government accountable

A common struggle in all countries, whether they are rich or poor is making governments accountable. When I mention what I do to some people, I get a funny reaction - almost as if I am overstepping some unmarked boundary when I ask an MP or a councillor or a government agency or corporation to do something. Some people seem to be terrified of approaching any arm of government and asking that they do their job properly.

I feel no qualms about reporting graffiti to any level of government, or to any government agency. After all, the state government has recently strengthened laws designed to deter graffiti, and it has published numerous policies and statements supporting the rapid removal of graffiti.

In other words, our elected representatives have informed the bureaucracy that they want graffiti removed quickly. The bureaucrats have been given their marching orders, and they are pretty clear and explicit orders if you ask me. All I am doing is applying some encouragement to the bureaucrats to actually follow those orders.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to do this. Bureaucrats would think for themselves, and act without being encouraged with a cattle prod. But we don't live in a perfect world, and we are dealing with imperfect human beings, so there is an ongoing need to monitor what these people are doing and give them the odd smack on the back of the head when they fail to do what they are supposed to do.

No one audits the performance of most government agencies when it comes to tackling graffiti - the Auditor General doesn't seem to have issued any reports on this topic, and it is something that internal auditors aren't interested in. We, the public, are the only people who can currently audit their performance and provide feedback, and this is a vital requirement in making government accountable. It's part of the democratic process, so I am completely unperturbed about getting funny looks from time to time.

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