Public Oversight

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Public Oversight

Introduction

This section covers a range of mechanisms and tools that involve citizens and/or independent agencies in performing an oversight or watchdog role vis-à-vis government in order to help curb corruption, build public trust in government and foster greater public transparency and accountability.

Many of the tools covered in this section are public complaint mechanisms, implemented by external, independent institutions that handle complaints by the public and help citizens to protect and defend their rights. Whilst some, such as Ombudsman and Public Litigation are formal institutions that function under the auspices of government, others such as Citizen Advisors and Citizen Oversight Committees are civil society driven and voluntary.

Some of the tools in this section are designed to improve transparency and accoutability in a specific sector or activity like for example, Integrity Pacts that are designed to tackle corruption in public procurement and contracting. Others are not sector-specific and can be used to enhance citizen information and oversight across various sectors and in relation to public services, budgets, expenditures, decision-making processes and/or the general performance or behaviour of public actors or institutions.

Benefits

Benefits

Curbing corruption and thereby checking spillage and abuse of public money is perhaps the most direct benefit of public oversight. A unique advantage of public oversight is that it enhances transparency and accountability of not only the public sector but also the private sector. By improving the credibility and performance of public institutions, oversight mechanisms contribute to increased public faith in democratic governance. Public oversight also provides space for civil society participation in governance processes thus increasing cooperation and synergy between the state and civil society. In specific geo-political contexts, independent public oversight helps maintain a high level of observance of and adherence to human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Lessons

Lessons

Effective public oversight is dependent on some degree of freedom of information in order to access relevant government data and documents and freedom of expression in order to publicly disseminate findings and concerns. It is important that public oversight mechanisms are accessible, independent and enjoy the confidence of the general public. Therefore, the integrity and public credibity of non state actors involved in oversight mechanisms is a crucial prerequisite. Oversight mechanisms are most effective when findings are made public and there are provisions for these to feed into processes of official public service evaluation and reform. I t is also essential that ordinary citizens and “whistleblowers” are protected from retribution .

Key Resources

Key Resources

Corruption Fighters' Tool Kit, by Transparency International
http://www.transparency.org/tools/e_toolkit

A compendium of practical civil society anti-corruption experiences implemented by Transparency International and other civil society organisations from around the world.

FAQs: Corruption and possible cures: Government oversight and control bodies, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Norway.
http://www.u4.no/helpdesk/faq/faqs2b.cfm

This document outlines the role of various government oversight and control bodies.

”Models of Public Oversight of Government and Industry”:Richard Steiner
http://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/citizens_advisory_councils_rick_steiner.pdf

In this chapter, Richard Steiner provides an overview of different models of public oversight of government

Public Oversight of the Security Sector: A Handbook for Civil Society Organizations. UNDP, Bratisalava. Edited by Cole E., Eppert K., Kinzelbach K. (2008)
http://www.ssrnetwork.net/document_library/detail/4414/public-oversight-of-the-security-sector-a-handbook-for-civil-society-organizations

This UNDP handbook provides guidance on how CSOs can plan, structure and implement activities to support public oversight of the security sector. Areas of focus include monitoring, budget analysis, legal assistance, legal reform and work with the media and others to improve access to information on security issues.

Organisations

Organisations

Project on Government Oversight (Pogo), USA
www.pogo.org

Pogo is an independent non-profit organization based in the United States of America that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct to achieve a more honest, open, and accountable federal government.

Oil Revenue – Under Public Oversight, Kazhakstan
http://www.publicoversight.kz/?swl=3

Kazakhstan Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition, “Oil Revenue – Under Public Oversight!” is part of a World Bank initiative called, ”The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative” ( EITI) which supports improved governance in resource-rich countries through the verification and full publication of company payments and government revenues from oil, gas, and mining.The essence of this initiative is to provide technical and financial assistance to the countries that are committed to ensure transparency of all the processes related to generating and managing extractive industry revenues (from granting subsoil use permissions to investing extractive sectors revenue).


Tools

1 Citizen Advisors
2 Social Contracts for Political Accountability
3 Integrity Pacts
4 Democracy Assessments
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