PAISA Course

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PAISA Course

The PAISA course is the capacity-building wing of the PAISA (Planning, Allocations and Expenditure, Institutions: Studies in Accountability) project, which teaches participants to monitor, evaluate and analyze allocations, expenditures and institutional responsibilities for service-delivery of social sector schemes.

PAISA Course Framework

Our work at Accountability Initiative is driven by our vision to create transparent and accountable public service delivery systems. In order to achieve this, the course provides a holistic framework that empowers citizens and governments alike and builds capacity to enable them to understand, analyse and actively engage with public service delivery systems. The course is delivered through six distinct but interrelated modules. Each module has been carefully curated to ensure a judicious mix of theory and practical knowledge, and draw on Accountability Initiative’s research expertise and evidence, on-ground experience and expert advisors[1].

 

PAISA Course Modules

Understand

Modules in this section focus on exploring concepts, theories and existing evidence in order to develop an in-depth understanding of the public service delivery system, and contextualise the issues of accountability and transparency

Transparency: A transparent service delivery system is one where all information on procedures, rules and criteria, and decisions is easily available and widely understandable. The concept of transparency is not simply the act of making information available, but encompasses the processes and instruments used to make relevant information available and accessible in a timely and accurate manner. Instruments for enhancing transparency generally fall within 2 broad categories – proactive dissemination where the government publishes / make public its activities and information, and demand-driven, where the government responds to citizen requests for information.

A transparent system enables citizens to know what their government is doing, allows them to ask questions from their government, and can lead to a more responsive government and more effective service delivery system. Therefore, it is well accepted that transparency generates accountability. However, in practice, different types of transparency measures and conditions lead to different levels and types of accountability[2].

In order to understand the concept and instruments of transparency and the conditions under which transparency generates accountability, this module of the PAISA Course focuses on:

  • Expanding on theories and concepts of transparency and accountability to enable a deeper comprehension of their relationship,
  • Developing an understanding of government structures, levels and systems, types of decisions made and information available at each level, as well as processes to access this information, and
  • Strengthening skills and capacity to use transparency tools to analyze information on functioning of service delivery systems of the government, and develop transparency-promoting instruments

 

Accountability: Accountability can broadly be defined as the obligation of those holding power to take responsibility for their behavior and actions. It is a relational concept as it concerns the relationship between those that perform an action or deliver a service, and those on whom the action or service has an effect.

Public accountability
i.e., the need for the state to be accountable to
its citizens, stems out of the ‘social contract’ that the citizens share with the state. While there are many institutional provisions to ensure that the government respects this contract, there is general consensus among observers today that India’s institutions of accountability have
under-performed
significantly[3].

Institutions and transparency-promoting measures are often established with the hope that these will lead to greater accountability. This hope is rooted in the belief that transparency generates accountability. However, evidence suggests that this relationship is not so simple, and does not always hold true. In order to have a truly accountable system, transparency-promoting measures need to be complemented with the institution’s / citizen’s capacity to scrutinize the information, produce answers, and introduce sanctions and remedial measures where necessary.

This module aims to strengthen accountability systems by improving the understanding of and the quality of debate on aspects that are considered critical for actualizing accountability. The module focuses on:

  • Determining who should be accountable to whom and for what,
  • Understanding institutional mechanisms and incentive-sanction structures on the basis of which accountability is realized, and
  • Building capacity to promote the usage of accountability tools and frameworks to investigate information, and encourage the development of citizen led accountability systems

 

Decentralized Governance and Public Administration: Decentralization is a critical institutional mechanism through which accountability can be achieved.

Governments make decisions relating to the use of public resources and are expected to mobilize and utilize these resources for the public good. The government creates public policies, and these are operationalized and enforced through public administration. When the responsibility, power and functions of government and public administration are dispersed away from a central authority, and given to people and institutions at different levels – national, state, district, city, village – the process is called decentralization, and the resulting system is called a Decentralized Governance system.

By bringing governments’ closer to the people, decentralization ensures that governments have a better understanding of and the administration is more responsiveness to citizen’s needs and also provides an opportunity for citizens to scrutinize and closely monitor government process and public administration – both of which are critical to accountability.

Decentralization holds the key to a more effective and accountable governance system. However, decentralization, in its true sense, requires two essential ingredients – willingness of the government (at higher levels) to redistribute authority and responsibility, and the capacity of local governments, institutions and citizens to partake in government processes. This module focuses on deepening the understanding of decentralization as an institutional mechanism by:

  • Exploring definitions and principals of decentralization and public administration
  • Examining the constitutional status and mechanisms of decentralization in India, and analyzing the on-ground implications and realities, especially with respect to service delivery
  • Understanding the structure of public administration in India, and the roles and responsibilities of different levels and institutions, and
  • Building knowledge and capacity to use tools such as PAISA to encourage greater citizen participate in and monitoring of government processes

Analyze

Modules in this section focus on providing skills, tools and know-how to analyze and evaluate information and draw inferences on the delivery of public services, with special emphasis on analyzing allocations and utilization of funds 

Data Literacy: Data literacy is the ability to read, understand and analyze data as information. While readily available government data and information is the first step towards building accountability, the ability to scrutinize the data and hold the government answerable is essential. However, dissecting data and drawing meaningful conclusions, is a process that requires skills and knowledge, which need to be developed. Therefore, the module on data literacy is designed to encourage analysis of public information by focusing on:

  • Providing in-depth knowledge of tools, formats and common data representation methods in order to make data more understandable
  • Strengthening the ability to analyze large sets of data and communicate information / knowledge

 

Public Finance and Budgets: Public finance is a branch of economics that is concerned with how governments raise and spend funds and its impact on society. It focuses on understanding the effects of government processes on the allocation of resources and the distribution of income. A public budget is a statement of government’s revenue and expenditure, and provides a snapshot of the ‘financial plan’ of the government. It identifies the functions of the government and the quantum of resources allocated to each function.

Tracking and monitoring budgets provides invaluable insights into the government’s decision-making systems and are especially useful in understanding service delivery and implementation bottlenecks on the ground. However, most budgets and public finance information is in a language that is technical, and in a format that is not easily assessable and / or understandable.

The Public Finance and Budgets module of the PAISA Course aims to demystify public finance and promote analysis of government budgets by focusing on:

  • Developing an in-depth understanding of budgeting processes, fund flow mechanisms and funding windows at different levels of the government, and
  • Providing access to and training on tools and products that can be used to track fund flows and understand budgetary implications

 

Engage

Modules in this section focus on building citizen capacity and knowledge to enable them to activity engage in government processes, thereby creating a more accountable and participatory form of governance

Participatory Planning: Planning is a process of setting goals, determining activities and actions, and creating schedules and budgets. When the affected local community is the key player in the entire process, and planning is done through regular consultation with these communities, the process is called Participatory Planning. This form of planning encourages communities to be more responsible for, and more involved in their local governance. It is often viewed as a more equitable and democratic form of planning as it gives each community a voice and empowers them to make key decisions.

While this form of planning has many benefits, it can be time consuming and when local communities do not have adequate information and tools to take complex decisions, the process tends to be overwhelming and can break down. The PAISA Course module on Participatory Planning aims to promote citizen engagement in government processes by focusing on:

  • Highlighting the principals of planning, and the Indian Government’s planning processes
  • Delineating the expectations and responsibilities of communities and citizens in the planning process, and
  • Building capacity (tools and knowledge required) for communities to effectively participate in the government planning process

 


[1] External expert in Capacity Development – Ms. Parimala Inamdar, Advisor, Organisation & Capacity Development, Aquarians Management Consultancy (P) Ltd 

[2] Fox, Jonathan A (2007). The uncertain relationship between transparency and accountability. Development in Practice, 17:4, 663 - 671

[3] Bala Posani and Yamini Aiyar (2009). State of Accountability: Evolution, Practice and Emerging Questions in Public Accountability in India. Engaging Accountability: Accountability Initiative Working Paper Series, Working Paper No. 2.