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Budgets Skew "significative accountability" and Undermine Public Trust PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Sunday, 30 April 2006 00:58
Budgets Skew "significative accountability" and Undermine Public Trust

PEJ News - Joan Russow (PhD) - April 29, 2006 (pre-budget comment) Global Compliance Research Project - There have been serious longstanding systemic problems of both administrative and ?significative accountability? in government policy and decision making. Citizens are concerned not only about Accountability in the administrative functioning of government but also about "significative accountability" in government policy. For meaningful significative accountability the government must introduce a Public Trust Budget which stresses the need to redirect, relocate or reassign funds from subsidizing military, industrial and financial wants to fulfilling human rights and needs within a socially equitable and environmentally sound economy.

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Budgets skew ?significative accountability? and undermine the public trust

April 29, 2006 (pre-budget comment)
Joan Russow (PhD) Global Compliance Research Project

There have been serious longstanding systemic problems of both administrative and ?significative accountability? in government policy and decision making. Citizens are concerned not only about Accountability in the administrative functioning of government but also about ?significative accountability in government policy. The Conservative government has narrowly defined the public trust in terms of the functioning of government- "the business of government". The public trust , however, is undermined by the disregard for "significative accountability" reflected in the longtime misplacement of funding priorities in the budget.

ADMINISTRATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY DISTINQUISHED FROM SIGNIFICATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY

The Conservative government of Canada is claiming in its Accountability Act to restore the "public trust" by bringing about the adherence to the tenets of administrative accountability, ensuring (i) properly tenured contracts, (ii) full access to information on the policy related to these contracts and to decision making, (iii) establishment of criteria for regulating lobbyists, and (iv) provisions for protection for whistle blowers from reprisals; (v) prevention of conflict of interest; extensive oversight over expenditures, extensive scrutiny by parliamentary committees of expenditures. etc..

Even if the Accountability Act were to bring about administrative accountability- "how the Canadian government does business", it is insufficient if not accompanied by "Significative -policy/performance/meaningful accountability.

"Significative accountability" refers to the degree and to the extent to which government policies, legal frameworks and spending priorities. correspond to the following objectives based on compliance with obligations and commitments under international law:

-to promote and fully guarantee respect for human rights including labour rights, civil and political rights, social and cultural rights- right to food, right to housing, right to potable water right to publicly funded not for profit non two-tier health care, right to education, and social justice;

- right to be free from discrimination on any grounds, including political and other opinion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and compliance to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

? to enable socially equitable and environmentally sound employment;, embodying the fair and just transition principle
- to achieve a state of peace, justice and common security, and abandon policies of revenge and pre-emptive strikes.
- to create a global structure that respects the rule of law; and
- to ensure the preservation and protection of the environment, respect the inherent worth of nature beyond human purpose reduce the ecological footprint and move away from the current model of over-consumptive development.

If the Conservative government were committed to significative accountability, the above objectives would be incorporated into the Treasury Board Estimates which each year delineate government spending priorities. The Treasury Board Estimates comprise a summary of all federal department proposed expenditures, along with separate booklets for each Department. These government priorities are then incorporated into the budget.

POTENTIAL DISREGARD OF SUBSTANTIVE ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE MAY 2ND 2006 CANADIAN BUDGET

The Auditor General's role in its oversight capacity is to determine whether the expenditures outlined have been appropriately accounted for, but not to determine whether the allotted expenditures reflect "significative accountability". Presumably, it is the role of government committees to assess the legitimacy of the expenses outlined in the Treasury Board estimates, but as outlined in the Gomery Report and other subsequent reports, the Committees lack longevity of participation of MPs, including numerous alternates, sufficient funding, and provide limited opportunities and incentives to analyze government priorities in depth.

For years the Treasury Board estimates have perpetuated misplaced spending priorities which undermine the furtherance of the public trust and denied significative accountability. .

.The treasury Board estimates is the best estimate of government misplaced funding priorities.

Through the Treasury Board estimates and the ensuing budgets, the government of Canada has not demonstrated "substantive accountability"  After reviewing the Treasury Board estimates from 1998- 2001 and preparing a Public trust budget which

The Conservative government might ensure that all government expenses are carefully documented and might achieve administrative accountability , yet if the budget is used to further destructive practices the government will undermine "significative accountability" and thus the public trust. It matters little if the government abides by the Accountability Act but makes decisions that are destructive of ?significative accountability? such as the following practices that appear to be continually support through misplaced funding priorities in the Treasury board estimates and the budget:

The minority Conservative government, in the 2006 proposed budget appears to be prepared to continue the disregard for "significative accountability". and the public trust. The Conservative government will most probably be continuing to do the following:

(i) to participate in and fund the US-led act of revenge against Afghanistan, and to thus condone the US misuse of Article 51-self defence in the Charter of the United Nations

(ii) to fund the counter insurgency offensive role in Afghanistan and thus to violate the fundamental objective - to prevent the scourge of war-of the Charter of the United Nations

(iii) to transfer prisoners captured in Afghanistan in potential violation of the Convention Against Torture

(iv) to subsidize and permit the sale of uranium to nuclear weapon states (including contributing to the use of depleted uranium in US weapon systems), to deny the link between civil nuclear energy and the development of nuclear arms, and to allow the circulating and berthing of US nuclear powered and nuclear arms capable vessels in Canadian waters and urban ports. Even though for years through international agreements the Member states of the United Nations, including Canada, incurred obligations to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons under the NPT,

(v) to increase the budget of Canadian Department of Defence substantially up to over 17 billion per annum Even though for years Canada along with other member states of the United Nations recognized "That the waste and misuse of resources in war and armaments should be prevented." made a commitment to reduce the military budget and transfer the peace dividend to peaceful purposes. In 1992, on behalf of Canada, the Conservative government under Mulroney at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, recognized in the Rio Declaration that "warfare is destructive to sustainable development" and made a commitment in Agenda 21 to "reallocate military expenses" to ensure the comprehensive implementation of a public trust regime.

(vi) to subsidize the fossil fuel industry, and to ignore 1992 obligations under the Framework Convention on climate change to reduce greenhouse gases, and under Chapter 9, Atmosphere section of the 1992 Agenda 21.to move towards environmentally safe and sound alternative energy. The budget will most likely financially support new sites of off shore drilling for oil.

(vii) to subsidize practices that undermine the1992 international commitments to socially equitable and environmentally sound development, as well as to the "precautionary principle" --where there is a potential threat to the environment, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measure to prevent the threat.

(viii)to subsidize under the Department of Fisheries in contravention of the precautionary principle the aquaculture industry

(ix) to fund the policy of undermining international resolve, through the World Trade Organization, to ban harmful substances such asbestos, and harmful practice such as genetically engineered foods and crops

(x) to subsidize, under the Department of Agriculture, the production of genetically engineered food and to undermine agriculture around the world by exporting genetically engineered food and crops including living modified organisms; and to subsidize aquaculture, including salmon aquaculture.

(ix) to ignore full funding of the right to food, and the right to housing etc, as was agreed in the International Covenant of Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights, and other international human rights instruments.

(xi) to fail to commit funds in the 2006 budget to the long standing international commitment to .7% of GDP for overseas development.

(xii) to fund security-obsessive institutions, and laws such as the Anti-terrorism Act which perpetuates racial profiling and discriminates on the grounds of political and other opinion in violation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

etc


SIGNIFICATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY: PUBLIC TRUST BUDGET

To move towards significative accountability, the government should instead introduce a Public Trust Budget which stresses the need to redirect, relocate or reassign funds from subsidizing military, industrial and financial wants to fulfilling human rights and needs within a socially equitable and environmentally sound economy.

A distinction could be made among redirecting,relocating, or reassigning
funds. Redirecting would be moving funds within the same department but allocating the funds for different purposes. . For example, funds in the Department of Agriculture would be redirected from subsidizing genetic engineering and chemical dependence to promoting organic farming and other forms of ecologically sound farming. Similarly, funds in the Department of Natural Resources would be redirected away from subsidizing the fossil fuel and nuclear industry to promoting environmentally sound alternative energy. In the department of Fisheries, funds would be redirected from promoting aquaculture to preventing destruction of fish habitat and preserving wild stocks. Likewise in the Department of Transport funds would be redirected away from subsidizing the automobile use to promoting systems that facilitate the moving away from car-dependency.

On the other hand, Relocating of funds means either allocating funds from one department to another department, or to a newly designated department. An example of ?relocating funds? would be the relocation of fund from the Department of Defence to Department of Finance for Transfer payments for health care to education, to the Department of Human Resources, for Anti-poverty fund, and .to the Department of Environment. Similarly "relocating funds" would be the relocation of 10,000 from the salaries of MPs, Senators and the Governor General into an Anti-poverty Fund for poor children and their families.[transfer payments to the provinces in the Department of Finance to assist in the eradication of child poverty.]

An example of "relocating" to a newly designated department would be the relocation of funds from the Department of Industry to a new Department responsible for implementing ?Fair and Just Transition and Conversion ?

Finally, Reassigning of funds would be the elimination of a Department and its budget and reassigning the allocated funds to a similar or different purpose. For example, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs should be dismantled and the funds in the Department reassigned and transferred to aboriginal communities for the creation and implementation of their own policies within a framework of international principles.

POLITICAL WILL FOR SIGNIFICATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY

Few will deny that there is an urgent need for change. Political action happens when it does not conflict with vested economic interests. The political response to issues - like erosion of health care, environmental degradation, disintegration of communities, over-consumptive models of development, globalization through corporate control, and privatization of essential services - has been mostly inadequate. .

If positive change is to occur, it must come as a reflection of global public trust, rather than at the whim of vested economic interests. For over sixty years, through international agreements, member states of the United Nations have incurred obligations through conventions, treaties and covenants. Member states of the United Nations have also made commitments through UN. Conference action plans, and created expectations through General Assembly resolutions.

SIGNIFICATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY: PUBLIC TRUST BUDGET

For meaningful significative accountability the government must introduce a Public Trust Budget which stresses the need to redirect, relocate or reassign funds from subsidizing military, industrial and financial wants to fulfilling human rights and needs within a socially equitable and environmentally sound economy.

A distinction could be made among redirecting, relocating, or reassigning  funds. Redirecting? would be moving funds within the same department but allocating the funds for different purposes. . For example, funds in the Department of Agriculture would be redirected from subsidizing genetic engineering and chemical dependency to promoting organic farming and other forms of ecologically sound farming, and instituting fair and just transition programs for workers affected by the conversion. . Similarly, funds in the Department of Natural Resources would be redirected away from subsidizing the fossil fuel and nuclear industry to promoting environmentally sound alternative energy. In the department of Fisheries, funds would be redirected from promoting aquaculture to preventing destruction of fish habitat and preserving wild stocks. Likewise in the Department of Transport funds would be redirected away from subsidizing the automobile use to promoting systems that facilitate the moving away from car-dependency.

On the other hand, ?Relocating? of funds means either allocating funds from one department to another department, or to a newly designated department. An example of ?relocating funds? would be the relocation of fund from the Department of Defence to Department of Finance for Transfer payments to health care, to education, to the Department of Human Resources, for Anti-poverty fund, and .to the Department of Environment. Similarly "relocating of funds" would be the relocation of 10,000 from the salaries of MPs, Senators and the Governor General into an Anti-poverty Fund for poor children and their families.[transfer payments to the provinces in the Department of Finance to assist in the eradication of child poverty.]

An example of "relocating" to a newly designated department would be the relocation of funds from the Department of Industry to a new Department responsible for implementing ?Fair and Just Transition and Conversion ?

Finally, Reassigning of funds would be the elimination of a Department and its budget and reassigning the allocated funds to a similar or different purpose. For example, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs could be dismantled and the funds in the Department reassigned and transferred to First Nations and other aboriginal communities for them to create and implement their own policies within a framework of international principles.

NEED FOR ACCOUNTABILITY BOTH ADMINISTRATIVE AND SIGNIFICATIVE

Few will deny that there is an urgent need for change. Political action happens when it does not conflict with vested economic interests. The political response to issues - like erosion of health care, environmental degradation, disintegration of communities, over-consumptive models of development, globalization through corporate control, and privatization of essential services - has been mostly inadequate.

If positive change is to occur, it must come as a reflection of global public trust, rather than at the whim of vested economic interests. For over sixty years, through international agreements, member states of the United Nations have incurred obligations through conventions, treaties and covenants. Member states of the United Nations have also made commitments through UN. Conference action plans, and created expectations through General Assembly resolutions. These obligations and commitments are related to substantial accountability, and it will only be in the full discharging of these obligations and the full acting on these commitments, including the corresponding expenditures in budgets, that ?significative accountability" will be achieved.

Joan Russow (PhD)


Global Compliance Research Project

author of public trust budgets (1998-2001) based on an analysis and diagrammatic representation of the treasury Board estimates presented to the media in Ottawa on budget night





 
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 January 2015 11:43
 

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