what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Friday, October 16, 2009

making bureaucracy transparent and accountable


In all the complex discussions about accountability of public systems we sometimes miss the simple examples - which require individual integrity and the stubborness which comes from a belief that one's actions can and will produce results. Today brings such an example. The Scottish Review is a website driven by a retired Scottish journalist - which E-mails you 2-3 articles every 3 times a week (and some gloriously quirky photogarphs of Scotland). A week or so ago he identified a withdrawal from the public domain of the identity of 300 members of a tribunal for mental health and conducted a small campaign - which was today victorious. The names are back on the website.

It confirms my view that it only needs a few determined people to make enough (rational) noise to beat the bureaucrats. The EC Delegation in Macedonia seems to need such treatment. Bids for EC projects are valid for 3 months - and this period expired earlier this week without any news of the results of a project I was interested in there. I had written earlier to its Procurement Supplies Head to ask about progress - pointing out to him that it was normal to know the results within 1 month and that, if we experts observed strictly the 3 months' availability commitment, we would have periods of unemployment of at least one year. I got a reply which indicated they were not interested in this - but only in "obeying rules" (shades of the Nuernberg defence).
When I wrote to him yesterday to tell him that the Delegation was now in breach of those rules; and that I had heard that a cowboy company had won the contract, he replied the very next day. I appreciate this (many would not reply). But the reply included a veiled threat - "I am surprised that you claim to have information on the outcome of the procedure and hope very much that your remark on the assumed winner will not fall back on you (if you happen to be the lucky one) or that another company will not take it too seriously . Otherwise you might face eventual pursuits". Clearly the guy is not used to be spoken to bluntly. That is one of the weaknesses of the bureaucratic status. Maybe Mao had something when he laid down the requirement for work in the fields!
By the way, the reason there are so many postings today is that I am snowed in. Overnight the mountains collected a metre of snow - and it has been snowing all day around the house to about half a metre.

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