What forms of public consultation do you think are realistic in terms of building trust and legitimacy when policies are being made?
Public policy falls under the umbrella of Public administration. Public administration has four states namely: the legislature which passes laws, the executive which carries out laws and the judiciary which interprets laws and the various departments which constitutes Public administration. I would further like to append the members of the public as the fifth state of Public administration, because a crucial component of Public administration is the implementation of the public interest and that cannot be done without the voice of the public as the fifth but most crucial state of public administration – I believe.
Addressing the question at hand, I deem communication between members of the public and government at the core of drawing up public policies. So the Bottom-up approach works well in theory because you have the ward councilors who liaise with their communities about a particular issue that pertains to a particular policy. Thus when is it publicized anyone who is interested they can give their suggestions, comments and ideas. This is valuable in process of proposing amendments or other proposals and/or removal of certain details of a policy for further discussion and final decision. But it is evident that in reality a sector of the public knows about these “discussion meetings” which are open to the public to attend and yet these meetings “occur” without the broader community being there is very unjust and exclusive.
I think news broadcasting houses and print media houses such as eNCA, the Sunday Times and many others should advertise local and/or provincial meetings of the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Integrated Development Plan (IDP), in that way they will be reaching a majority of the population and a broader community of the public will more likely attend these meetings.
Moreover, there needs to be an educational programme whereby political actors and political parties of a ward or region present the policies and initiatives that the government are advocating so that the public’s interest can be included and clearly defined in the policy.
What responsibilities do you think that members of the public have for holding government accountable and what should their primary role be in formulating local government policy?
I think the public can give the government set deadlines that are reasonable to accommodate for any unforeseen delays that might occur in the implementation process of the policy or plan. But before that the public can submit demands or proposals that can be incorporated or adopted into the drawing of a policy or a plan that will have the universal label of the public interest so that anonymous administrators do not have the job of defining the public interest. Thirdly, if the executive and the legislative branch fails in implementing public policies such as the National Development Plan and the Integrated Development Plan then members of the public can file a class action against the government in the Constitutional Court. In addition, processes such as this need commitment from government to make sure that the implementation of these public policies are done within a specified timeframe and if government fails to do so there they will be held accountable for not delivering.
“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot do so well for themselves – in their separate, and individual capacities.”
- Abraham Lincoln