ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday September 2, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 14
Financial Times  

‘Effectiveness’ and ‘Fairness’ the key challenges

A young PhD student owl (YO) approached the Wise Old Owl (WOO) and asked, “why a reference was made recently in the Irish Parliament, in bidding farewell to the outgoing British Prime Minister, that ‘He was not horrified by history but always hopeful of the future?’ and “how come that a man nearly hounded out by the media, a majority of his countrymen and even leading members of his own party, for his role in the invasion of Iraq, could deserve such an accolade?”.

The WOO replied, “He made this one big mistake, in following the US action path in Iraq without independent validation through the established system, with its checks and balances for assurance of good governance. He also failed to take this key decision in consultation and with the consensus of well informed representatives of the people, following a debate in Parliament. Yet in a career of national leadership spanning over a decade, he displayed much courage, whenever the occasion to serve his nation and its people so demanded. He took leadership action to resolve the long standing Northern Irish crisis and to raise the standards of economic and social well being of the nation and its people. He was lucky that he had the solid backing of a system (including a competent and committed civil service, a judiciary, systems and procedures and checks and balances) fully aligned with the assurance of’ effectiveness’ and ‘fairness’ of decision making and governance within a transparent operating environment.

Whenever the leader stepped outside the boundaries of assurance of ‘effectiveness’ and ‘fairness’, the system itself, actively supported by the media and the people, would drag the leadership back to a compliant assurance framework. A courageous, competent and committed leader thus had no need to be horrified by any historical past events and could face future challenges with confidence”.

The YO then enquired “why Sri Lanka, now nearly 60 years since independence, is yet a poverty stricken, divided nation, entrenched in a continuing worthless war, with ethnic strife, political bickering, violence, injustice, lack of meritocracy, high levels of corruption and deteriorating societal norms and values?”

WOO replied “Due to the lack of leaders, systems, checks and balances that assure ‘effectiveness’ and’ fairness’ of decision making and governance, within a transparent operating environment, Sri Lanka remains in the present position. Its future looks bleak and helpless, especially since the media and civil society fail to demand accountability from the leaders and systems to assure ‘effectiveness’ and’ fairness.” If the leaders of this nation, its politicians, the civil service, judiciary had applied the twin requirement of assurance of ‘Effectiveness’ and ‘Fairness’ in all key decision making, in the enactment of the laws, policy/regulatory pronouncements, and in evolving systems and processes of governance, could ‘horrifying events of history’ like the following been possible;

* Language policy
*Colonization policy
*Standardization of examination results used for university admissions
*Lack of Meritocracy as a guide
*Education policies
*National resource allocation policies and practices
*National Infrastructure development
*Centralization of power and authority
*Control of media freedom
*International Relations
*Enforcement of laws and discipline
*Preservation of the environment and ecology
*Anti Corruption action
*Fiscal, National Debt and Balance of payments management
*Judicial system and Judiciary
*Electoral process
*Eradication of extreme poverty
*Lack of competitiveness
*Level of Attractiveness as a destination for travel and investment
*Lack of a national commitment and pride
*Break down in societal values and norms

Equally responsible for the above failures are the media and civil society, who have totally failed in their governance accountability assurance responsibility.

In the context of the above and the currently predicted dismal future outlook of the nation and its people, would not the way forward challenge of this nation be in the assurance of ‘effectiveness’ and ‘fairness’ of decision making and governance, within a transparent operating environment.

Will all key leaders of the nation, including the President, Cabinet Ministers, Secretaries of Ministries, Key Civil Servants and Heads of Public Institutions, Members of the Judiciary, Head of the Central Bank/National Audit Service/Attorney Generals Department, Heads of Armed Services and the Police and such other key public decision makers, be prepared to annually make open public sworn declarations of compliance, that all executive action taken, policy pronouncements made, resources allocations, public fund spends, national infrastructure systems and projects managed and all key administrative and regulatory decisions made, are within the accepted guidelines and to the best of their knowledge and belief assure ‘effectiveness’ and ‘fairness’ of decision making and governance, within a transparent operating environment. Will Heads of Chambers, Public Companies and NGO’s also make similar declarations to their stakeholders?

(The writer is a former business leader who is now a civil society activist and devotes a lot of time to social action and social development).


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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.