THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Noted economist Prof. M.A. Oommen has no doubt that the state’s participatory planning process has been better than even the globally renowned Brazil’s Porto Alegre model, but he felt it was falling prey to the wiles of bureaucracy. One of the prime movers of decentralisation in the state, Prof. Oommen has also called for the restoration of accountability processes in local governance, while delivering the K. Ramachandran Nair memorial lecture here on Friday.
Prof. Oommen said that bureaucracy had rendered local governance rigid. “The latest guidelines of government involve 14 stages and each stage is clearly guided by the rule-book,” he said. Twenty years have passed since the first Development Report was prepared and published, he said. “But no attempt has been made to produce a second Development Report with a renewed database. This should be the starting point for reform,” Prof. Oommen said.
He said accountability mechanisms such as the performance audit system and social audit system were virtually dysfunctional. “The performance audit system was instituted originally to serve as a mid-course corrective and guiding mechanism to put the fledgling systems of local governments in proper place,” Prof. Oommen said.
Social audit refers to the evaluation of the quality, fund utilisation, punctuality in observing time schedule and general performance of the project works of local governments through beneficiary committees and further by the Gram Sabha. The other big challenge that he flagged was the introduction of a stable and sound financial reporting system.
“We do not have a reliable, comparable and consistent data relating to income and expenditure,” he said. Prof. Oommen also felt that project formulation has degenerated into a make-believe exercise. Figures show huge spending on innumerable projects but there is a problem. “There is no evidence to show that the projects were properly formulated and executed," he said....