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Head-to-toe code on table
- 11 commandments for governance

New Delhi, Sept. 26: People in positions of power could soon have their own version of the Ten Commandments ' plus one.

A draft thrown up for public debate by the Manmohan Singh government has listed 11 codes for good governance. The over-arching code covers not merely politicians ' who are already bound by a model code of conduct that comes into force during elections ' but anyone remotely involved with drafting and implementing policy decisions or enforcing the rule of law.

The draft is now on the website of the department of administrative reforms so that those it is aimed at can come up with suggestions. It will then have to be cleared by the cabinet.

The code ' to promote good governance at the Centre and in states, right down to local bodies ' covers ministers, legislatures, parties, government employees, the judiciary, auditors, anti-corruption agencies and even corporate firms and organisations that act as pressure groups influencing decision-making.

The code does not require them to do anything out of the ordinary but just lays down simple rules. Like this clause that seeks this promise from ministers: 'We shall not misuse our office for politically partisan purposes.'

The draft says the Prime Minister or chief minister of a state concerned should appoint a distinguished person to be the custodian of the code for ministers.

But the Hyderabad-based Centre for Good Governance (CGG), which prepared the draft, knew better than to stop at just drafting a model code and leave it to governments to ensure compliance. It has asked the Centre to link release of funds to states to implementation of the code, which requires governments and their departments to improve delivery of services to citizens. States, in turn, would be free to arm-twist local bodies into following the code.

Originally expected to come up with a model code for governments rather than their specific arms, the CGG decided to cover them too as good governance required the state, market and civil society to work in unison.

This would be possible, says the 125-page report submitted to the government recently, only if various institutions and groups follow a 'self-imposed' code of good governance based on the Constitution, principles of human rights and democracy.

The report emphasises that good governance rests on three key aspects: measuring performance of the government and its functionaries by their output rather than input, adherence to the rule of law and the concept of transparency, which includes getting feedback from the public, and delivery of service.

The first aspect could worry some in the bureaucracy. For example, the education ministry at the Centre could speak of the allocations made for literacy without worrying too much if the money spent changed the lives of people.

The report recommends turning this performance-evaluation system on its head and says government institutions should rather speak of the output and its impact on the ground.

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