Government Auto Auctions Guide

Government auto auctions are great opportunities to save a lot of money when your budget is tight. Everyone knows that auctions are a bit tricky though, you have to play your cards right, there’s a bit of a strategy to it.

Government auctions are popular because of the quality of the vehicles listed for auction. These auctions typically aim to unload fleet and service vehicles that serve many different Government agencies, staying in service for around 3 to 4 years, they usually have low mileage and a great record of maintenance.

Most Government auto auctions are open to the public, some are kept closed and reserved for licensed pre owned car dealers, and the majority of them get their inventory this way. But most are now open to the public.

There are thousands of these auctions going on throughout the US each week and they’re not that difficult to find. Usually local newspaper will have ads for local auctions.

The easiest way to find Government auctions is to use directory services that gather Government and Police Auctions listings from around the country into one single database that makes it easy to find these locations by zip code. Searching through these databases cuts down the chase of having to contact local Government agencies which usually have a very convoluted system of organizing this type of information.

But where do these vehicles come from? Well the sad truth is that everyday people default on their auto loans, fail to pay taxes or get in trouble for buying property with illegal funds. The Government and various other Law Enforcement Agencies around the country seize and auction off these vehicles to the public mostly to satisfy debts.

The chances of you finding the car you’ve always wanted are endless, since there tens of thousands of vehicles auctioned every month throughout the US.

Government Bidding Glossary (PT 2/2)

Fixed-Price Contract:
Fixed-price contracts normally provide a firm price, or even in some cases an adjustable price. If it provides an adjustable price, this may include a ceiling price, a target price (including target cost) or both. Unless stated in the contract, the ceiling price or the target price is subject to adjustment or other revisions of the contract price if stated in the contract. The contracting officer shall use the fixed price with economic price adjustments when acquiring commercial items.

Government-Wide Commercial Purchase Card:
A purchase card is similar to a commercial credit card, and is given to the authorized personnel to pay for goods and services.

Life Cycle Cost:
This is the cost to any agency/entity for operating, recurring, supporting and disposing of the goods gained over the life of the contract.

Market Survey:
A Market Survey is a way for an agency/entity to get a feel for the availability or qualified people or companies that are able to satisfy the agency’s procurement requirements. This survey can be anything from telephone calls to written inquiries with federal and non- federal experts regarding similar or identical requirements. This way the agency can better plan their solicitations.

Micro-Purchase:
The acquisition of goods and services, whose total amount does not exceed $2,500, or if it is dealing with construction $2,000.

Municipal Contracts:
Contracts with a village, town parish, city or other local government.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS):
The NAICS replaced the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Codes. NAICS is an industry classification system used by the statistical agencies of the United States for classifying business establishments. NAICS includes 1,170 industries of which 565 are service-based industries. Please see our article “What are NAICS Codes”

Parties Excluded from Purchasing Programs:
Any contractors included on the “Consolidated List of Debarred, Suspended and Ineligible Contractors.” The General Services Administration (GSA) creates, maintains and distributes this list.

Pre-Award Survey:
Before an agency/entity decides who to award a contract to, they may sometimes evaluate a contractor’s capability to complete their contract. This could include site visits to a contractor’s facilities to determine the contractor’s qualifications and eligibility.

Pre Bids:
Information regarding bids, including available plans or specifications, conferences and other details needed for a contract.

Private Bids:
A type of bids whose regulations or statute fall outside the realm of the public bidding process.

Procurement:
Procurement is the act of governments purchasing goods or services. This includes soliciting, specifying, selecting and awarding purchase contracts through a competitive bidding process.

Procurement Official:
Any official or employee of an entity who will be dealing personally or substantially with the process of procurement which includes, drafting and reviewing specifications or statements of work for a contract, preparing or developing the purchase request, creating the solicitation, evaluating the bids or proposals, selecting sources, Negotiating prices or terms and conditions of the contract, and reviewing and approving an award or contract modification.

Purchase order:
An offer made by an entity to buy goods or non-personal services from commercial sources with specified terms and conditions. The limit for these purchases is currently $100,000.

Purchase Request (PR):
This document is used to begin a procurement action. It could be called a PR, a requisition or a procurement directive and it is the authorization to proceed with a procurement.

Ratification:
The agency’s contracting officers use this process to legitimize and approve a contract made by someone without contract authority.

Request for Proposal (RFP):
This is a process where the agency can look for specific proposals from vendors. This follows a process of specifications and a formalized set of procedures and standards.

Request for Information (RFI):
An agency can look for vendor input on a proposed product or process. This allows the agency to have more information and consideration, instead of asking for a more specific proposal or actual quotes for the goods and services.

Request for Quote (RFQ):
This requests allows an agency to better determine prices from vendors for a specified good or service.

SCORE:
SCORE stands for The Service Corps of Retired Executives and is a 12,400 member volunteer organization sponsored by the SBA (Small Business Association). It matches volunteer business management counsellors with small business owners in need of expert advice.

Small Business:
A small business that is at least 51 percent unconditionally owned by one or more individuals who are both socially and economically disadvantaged, or owned by an Indian tribe or native Hawaiian organization.

  • “Socially disadvantaged individuals” are individuals who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their qualities as individuals.
  • “Economically disadvantaged individuals” are socially disadvantaged individuals whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system is impaired due to diminished opportunities to obtain capital and credit as compared to others in the same line of business who are not socially disadvantaged.
  • Individuals who certify that they are members of named groups (Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Sub-continent-Asian Americans) are to be considered socially and economically disadvantaged.
  • The preferred terminology for these businesses is Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs).

Please see our article about small business and minority businesses

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC):
These centers over a broad array of information and guidance about businesses and even assist in preparing loan applications.

Small Purchase:
Currently purchases can be deemed ‘small’ if they do not exceed $100,000. FASA has redefined the term and limit for “small purchases” and the are now called “simplified acquisition threshold” whose threshold is $100,000 or less. Under the Small Purchases umbrella are purchases under $2,500 (micro purchases). The small purchase set-aside for small businesses for these purchases has been desolved, but it now applies to values between $2,501 – $100,000. If an agency has temporary or full Federal Acquisition Computer Network (FACNET) capability (aka the ability to perform certain functions electronically) the $100,000 threshold applies. If they do not have a FACNET the threshold is set at $50,000.

Sole Source Procurement:
This is a contract for goods and services that is between an agency and only once source they solicited and negotiated with. This type of procurement must be fully justified to indicate the reasons why competitive bidding was not possible.

Solicitation:
This document is the beginning of the process of purchasing goods and services. Solicitations instruments must include Invitations for Bid (IFB), Requests for Quotations (RFQ), and Requests for Proposals (RFP) and for small purchase actions.

Source Selection Plan:
This document details how the proposals from the bidders will be evaluated. It includes evaluation factors to be used, the methods used to evaluate proposals and the relative weight of the factors involved.

Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code:
This code represents a category within the Standard Industrial Classification System applied by the Statistical Policy Division of the U.S Office of Management and Budget. It was established to classify all industries in the US economy. A two-digit code is assigned to each major industry group, and the placed with a second two-digit code describing the subcategory.

Subcontract:
A contract between a prime contractor and another source to acquire outside goods and services to perform the contract requirements. A subcontract could include any agreement, except employer employee relationship, which the prime contractor agrees to in order to complete the government contract.

Tender:
A bid or offer to provide a good or service to an agency at a specified price.

Unauthorized Commitment:
The placing of orders, in writing or orally, for goods and services by an employee from a agency who does not have a contracting officer authorize them to enter intothe contract on behalf of the agency. This could include contracting officers exceeding their dollar limit on a contract as well.

Unsolicited Proposal:
A written proposal submitted to an agency by an outside source to perform the needed goods or services more effectively and efficiently. The unsolicited proposal would not be a response to a formal or informal request, unless it’s an agency’s request forming a publicized general statement of need.

Women-Owned Small Business:
Companies which fit into the definition of a small business, and are at least 51% owned by a woman or woman who are U.S citizens and who control and operate the business. The preferred term is Women Business Enterprises (WBEs). For more information see our article on Small and minority businesses.

The Trend Toward Free Background Checks – Federal, State & Local Governments Open Access to Records

The Center For Democracy & Technology conducts surveys of the practices of federal, state and local courts in making information public via the Internet. It finds a wide variety of practices and policies, and an important, nearly singular trend. Courts and other government background check services are making their records available to anyone via the Internet, often for free.

Free background checks are being offered by many government sources. Are background checks becoming an “open source” service?

Governments are making records available that span statewide background check services to many instances of single jurisdictions, such as county-level courts, providing Internet access to their records. Some governments provide access to both criminal and civil records while others restrict users’ access to records that may contain sensitive background check information. And while some governments offer free comprehensive access to their background check services, many others charge users a range of fees for Internet access.

On the one hand, moving to post background check services to the Internet represents a hushed upheaval in transparency and accountability for both individuals and government, part of a rapidly shifting social reality. Public access to electronic court background check services provides a convenient way for the public to broaden government checks and balances and ensure the fairness and equality of its operations.

Concurrent to the trend towards background check transparency, governments are struggling to find balance, such as balancing privacy and accountability. What information should be available Internet? Many governments make judicial opinions at the appellate levels freely available Internet but do not offer Internet access to trial court proceedings, which generally contain more detailed and sensitive evidence. Others offer access to trial court dockets and a variety of other information at the trial level. Should a distinction be drawn between civil cases and criminal background check access? Another set of issues concern cost. Is it appropriate to charge for Internet access? Does a subscription or fee-based system unfairly discriminate against those who cannot afford fees for background check services? Do fees exclude everyday citizens? Questions like these pose a significant challenge to governments attempting to design background check services.

In addition to exclusions that may be caused by background check fees, there’s a knowledge gap. Very few citizens are aware that the information is available to them, much less what type or how to find it. Yet, for example, the entire Federal Court System is open to all. A search can lead to the federal government’s registry for all federal criminal, civil, bankruptcy and tax cases, for example. The federal registry charges 8-cents per search.

County courthouse websites can be located, many of which offer free searches of criminal, civil and traffic court cases. Also, Secretary Of State records can be accessed, giving users free background check information on business ownership and transactions.

In addition the web offers articles on important issues and laws, such as those surrounding privacy rights. Guideline for conducting background checks can also be found.

It provides anyone with the ability to search and locate individuals and businesses, criminal and civil court records, property records, bankruptcies, liens, judgments, tax cases, business records, employment histories, federal government exclusion lists, OFAC records, FDA debarment records, healthcare sanctions records — in short, information to conduct a thorough background background check.

There remains quite a bit of secrecy and misunderstanding surrounding background checks. In part because it was long the domain of private investigators who kept the tricks of the trade to themselves, such as the mythology “nationwide criminal records databases” that report criminal records from every jurisdiction in the United States. No such background check exists.

Many commercial background check companies offer database searches that cover many jurisdictions in the majority of states, but they are all incomplete. Commercial nationwide criminal records databases can cover a lot of ground and inexpensively. So, they are worthwhile. However, they may not include the jurisdiction needed. The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division manages the National Crime Information Center, a database of nationwide criminal records. It is the most complete source of records, yet even it is not perfect. Most misdemeanors are not included in the database and many county and state records never make their way to the FBI. En route to the FBI from counties and states there are breakdowns in the process.

All this to say, you can do your own, free background checks. However, it’s not always straightforward, you may need to do some homework to do it right.

Research Source: The Background Checkepedia [http://www.BackgroundNow.com]

Government Buying and Selling on the Internet

Global Insight, a leading economic and financial forecasting company, (formerly DRI-WEFA), states that all levels of government (federal, state, and local) should see steady increases in the purchases of goods and services through the year 2009.

Vendors willing to make the commitment to sell to government can reap the benefits of this projected government spending.

By the same token, government agencies able to expand and modernize their procurement programs can reap the rewards of increased productivity, and a reduction in the costs of goods and services.

If you are a company looking to efficiently market your goods or services, increase sales and receive targeted sales opportunities, or if you are a government agency looking to simplify your procurement process and increase vendor competition, there exist plenty of opportunities in today’s online procurement marketplace.

Vendors: Consider Selling to Government

If you haven’t considered selling to government, you are missing out. With past events like the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, and the slowing down of the private sector economy, more companies are focusing on doing business with government agencies. Believe it or not, the most reliable component of the economy right now is the government.

The U.S. Federal Government is the largest buyer in the world, and state and local governments often make up a large percentage of their respective marketplaces In many cities, government employs more people and buys more products and services that any other entity.

Doing business with government isn’t just for corporate giants, either. The U.S. Small Business
Administration (SBA) helps to ensure that small businesses obtain a certain percentage of everything the government buys. And despite budget crunches in many municipalities, state and
local government spending remains the largest in any single market in the nation.

Deciding whether to bid on a government contract can have far-reaching and long-term implications for companies. It is crucial to reach the right decision – a decision which contributes to the health of an organization. If a company decides to bid, it is creating an opportunity to make money, enhance its reputation, gain experience and cement a relationship with a major new customer.

Where do Vendors Start?

There are literally tens of thousands of purchasing agencies to deal with, and it is difficult to know where to begin. Unfortunately, bidding for lucrative government contracts is a highly decentralized process. Companies used to have to be on an agency’s bidding list in order to be notified of a purchasing opportunity.

Now, with the expansion of electronic government and recent government initiatives encouraging agencies to implement online procurement systems, many agencies are making the move to e-procurement. However, even with this move to online purchasing, identifying targeted bids
can still be very challenging for companies.

Finding and monitoring bid notices is difficult because they are posted in so many different places, and often not well organized. Your business can spend a great deal of time surfing from one site to the next trying to track down the right bid opportunities.

In one area of government bidding, however, an effort to create a government-wide point of entry web site has resulted in an Internet purchasing marketplace called FedBizOpps. As of October 1, 2001 the Federal government requires federal agencies to use this system to post all their opportunities expected to exceed $25,000.

Although no such central web site exists for the over 87,000 state and local government agencies in the country, there are services available that match a company’s criteria with agency bids on the Internet, then send this information directly to them via email.

The benefits of using a bid matching service are detailed by Tammy Axlund, a Marketing Manager with Midland Resources who says, “(Using a Bid) service has helped us build a national database to keep track of the industry happenings throughout the country, rather than just our region. We have also been able to win a few bids of which we had no prior knowledge.”
Similarly, Teresa Eastman, the Inside Sales Manager for Accurate Safety Distributors, Inc. states “I no longer have to spend my days looking for bids individually, a needle in a haystack so to speak, instead (the bid service) does it all and sends them to me daily.”

While no service can provide your company with every bid opportunity from every state and local government agency, bid matching services greatly reduce a vendor’s time and money spent, allowing for additional time to be used to respond to bids.

e-Procurement Benefits for Government: Save time, Save money

In the recent past most agencies had to copy and mail their bid packages to any vendor who requested them, even though many would decide not to bid. Using an online e-procurement system allows agencies to simply provide vendors an electronic notice of their opportunities. This results in a tremendous savings in postage, paper, and time.

There have also been new efforts to simplify the entire procurement process for government agencies. For example, many agencies are having procurement systems customized for them using the Internet, driven by the need to disclose. Agencies used to be required to advertise all their requests for bid in the newspaper. But in recent years, the statutes in many states changed to permit advertising on the Web instead – which meets purchasing departments’ requirements to make contract information public.

While posting bid information may seem like a lot of work, it isn’t a duplicate process for government agencies because their sites serve a dual role as a vehicle for disclosure, and as their primary document archive. And usually only a minimal staff is required to keep the site up to date.

Karen Storm, director of Purchasing for Albany County, NY, explains that since joining the Capital Region Purchasing Group, an e-procurement system in upstate NY, “…our municipality has streamlined the bid distribution and vendor notification processes. This has saved us hours of repetitive clerical tasks and has significantly reduced our copying and mailing costs. Our vendors love the system because it provides them immediate access to our information at little or no cost.”

The City of Rochester Hills, Michigan, reports similar benefits, explaining that they have realized a savings of over $355,000 by posting approximately 85 solicitations from January to June of 2004 on their e-procurement system, the Michigan Inter-Governmental Trade Network. And, the Santa Rosa County School District Purchasing Department, which has been using an e-procurement system since the fall of 2000, says “The biggest benefit we have realized is that we no longer have to manage our bidder’s list. Our old bidder’s list had grown to over 20,000 vendors, most of whom never responded to solicitations. Managing the list was a burden that we do not miss!”

Many companies have been working with Purchasing Departments, to create customized e-procurement systems like the ones described above, that simplify and expedite the entire procurement process. And the best part is, they do this free of charge.

E-procurement systems provide many benefits for vendors as well. Vendors simply register themselves online with a system and create a profile specific to their products and/or services. Vendors then receive notices instantly by fax or e-mail every time bids are issued that match their profile and are given the ability to respond to quotes by fax or e-mail.

Systems like this can save companies significant amounts of time while increasing sales, it’s also a good way for tax dollars to help grow businesses of all sizes and generating new profit centers. At the same time, government agencies benefit by decreasing their spending, gaining more control and simplifying the procurement process.

What are you waiting for? The new era of “e-procurement” is here, and it has significantly streamlined the entire bidding process for both buyers and sellers alike.

Has Anyone Noticed What Has Happened to the UK Government?

For years now the choice between the different political parties has been eroded until the decision about which one to vote for comes down to what kind of tie a man likes to wear or the cut of their suit. There does not appear to have been any significant difference between the different parties for some time and the result of the last election seemed to confirm that we were just getting a different set of ties who would continue to behave in exactly the same way as the last government behaved, because that was the only way that there was to govern.

And then we had the coalition, which almost immediately began to show us a completely different way to govern. We have long talked about the destructive effect of target setting in any business or administration and one of the first things we heard was that the police forces have been told to ignore their old performance targets and instead, get on with policing the nation.

We now hear that targets in the National Health Service are also being dismantled and expect very shortly to hear that teachers have been told to stop filling in forms and get on with educating our children. How bonkers is that system? We have to close our schools to allow teachers to fill in the paperwork to prove how well they are educating our children.

The regional development boards which have cost the taxpayer millions and never had any effect except to use that money to prove that they too were being effective, are also being dismantled. We came across a document called “The LGA (Local Government) Briefing – Summary of Coalition Agreement.” We were stunned at the elegance and simplicity of their approach which seems to be, if it is not adding value then stop spending money on it.

The target savings for the public service budget are 40%. The opposition parties were very quick to lay into the coalition deriding their declared ambition as impossible and therefore foolhardy to even attempt, and yet what we are seeing in the change in the way that they are going about the business of government makes it look as if they will succeed massively and no party will be able to govern effectively again unless they behave in the same way.

We have left behind the directive style of government, where those in power decide what they think is best for the electorate then spend our money trying to force us to accept what they think we should have or how they think that we should behave. In business this is the management style that has proved so destructive and an increasingly expensive waste of resources.

Today we seem to have a government that is behaving in a significantly different way. First they listen to what the electorate want, then they try to give it to us. That sounds expensive until you realise that a lot of the expense incurred by the previous government was in forcing through legislation that we neither needed nor wanted.

Unfortunately there are still many managers who believe that this old style of management is the only way to manage. For them we hope that the example of this new inclusive, supportive, devolved government will allow them to see how destructive their own behaviour really is.

Nick Clegg, as deputy PM, has set up a website to find out what the public believe to be useless pieces of legislation, the usual suspects are the smoking ban, the hunting ban and the various other attempts of the last administration to tell the public how to live their lives. Apart from the person who wanted the law of gravity repealed because it discriminated against fat people, this approach is brilliant. We tried to get on the Deputy PM’s site but after the story was on the news it was inundated. Give it a try, it sounds as if they are trying to listen. Yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk

There is a man called John Seddon, an author and acerbic critic of the way that the public purse was being managed. This month he wrote from a loftier perspective than we:

“I listened to Andrew Stunnel, a minister for communities and local government (CLG) in the new coalition, speaking at a conference two weeks ago. He made it absolutely clear: there will be no specifications coming down from the centre. I asked him, for clarification, that this really would mean getting rid of those roles, he said yes. I read Eric Pickles’ article in the Local Government Chronicle, he is the minister in charge at CLG; he said the same. Last week I met Greg Clark, another minister at CLG and he too was unequivocal.

The regime is over. No longer will children in Whitehall dream up their dumb ideas on how to design, manage and measure public services; no longer will they tell local public service managers what to do and send the Audit Commission in to bully people in to compliance. The message from the ministers is crystal clear: they want leaders of local public services to get on with it. Responsibility has been put in the right place. We should rejoice. “

Thank You John, Indeed we should!

Albanian Governances – Beyond Tax Policy

Governments use their taxation systems to get their hands on, and then spend, between 10 percent and 40 percent of national income. That is a lot of money. There is little doubt that taxing is one of the most important things that governments do. Correspondingly, it is widely agreed that it is important that governments should get tax policy right.

When people debate and argue about tax policy, they mostly address some aspect of four big questions:

- How much money should government gather as tax? It should be enough to meet public spending needs and contribute to fiscal stability, but not so much as to encourage the government itself to be wasteful or to appropriate money that could be better used in private hands.

- How should the tax burden be distributed among actual taxpayers? This issue may be argued either in terms of fairness in burden sharing, or in terms of the potential instrumental advantages of using tax policy to help achieve other public policy goals, for example, encouraging businesses to locate in poorer regions or to invest in particular sectors, or actively redistributing income or wealth from one group of citizens to another.

- How can the potential adverse economic costs of taxation be contained or minimized? Taxpayers tend to be alert to the costs that they directly incur, whether these take the less damaging form of complex and costly paperwork and record-keeping obligations, or the more malign form of harassment: arbitrariness on the part of tax collectors and the need to pay bribes. If collectively well organized, taxpayers or their legislators may inquire into the efficiency of the tax administration itself.

- How much of the money that it raises is absorbed in the collection process? Economists also routinely focus our attention on the indirect costs of revenue raising that taxing any activity almost inevitably discourages it. If, for example, a government chooses the easy option of raising most of its income by taxing chrome exports, it may be biasing the whole economy, in an inefficient way, against producing chrome for export. It is probably more efficient simply to spread the tax burden broadly. These tax policy questions are very important.

These questions will continue to dominate debate about taxation in most countries and to absorb the attentions of tax policy specialists. However, they are not the only important tax policy issues. In particular, there is a growing debate focused on poorer countries and on governments enjoying large incomes from grants and borrow funds or from oil, and mineral exports that addresses a different and in some ways more foundational set of questions: not ”What is good tax policy?” but ”How does the taxation relationship between state and citizens itself contribute to the quality of governance?”

Taxation and Governance?

Governments need to command the services of a large number of people and acquire substantial monetary and material resources. Historically, governments have depended on two main kinds of material resources, extracted from the societies over which they rule: conscript manpower, mainly for military purposes, and financial resources to pay the salaries of civilian and military personnel and to meet the other capital and recurrent costs of warfare and government.

The most convincing evidence on the connections between tax dependence and governance is now emerging from comparisons between local governments within the same country. They depend substantially but with significant inter local variations on fiscal transfers from central government and, in a few cases, local revenues from the specific region industry. The local governments most dependent on broad taxation of their citizens had historically been more democratic. When provincial governments were most generously supplied with financial transfers from central government or specific region industry revenues, local political leaders had been better able to buy off or suppress competition from democratic oppositions.

I have compared some economic statistics of big local governments in Albania, a country in which central and local revenue raising is often coercive. I term ”coercive taxation ‘an assessment and collection conducted in ways that are likely to be validly perceived by taxpayers as arbitrary, extractive, unfair, or brutal. Why? There is a formal answer: Taxpayers have few rights. But why do they have few rights? I don’t have a complete answer, but I can see some reasons why public authorities in Albania are motivated to tax coercively.

The structure and organization of economy and businesses are the main reason that matters. It is difficult actually (a) to collect taxes from middle-income services-agrarian businesses like economy of Albania is organized in small and medium size enterprises that lack formal, bureaucratic structure and operate without extensive use of banking systems and written or electronic records of economic transactions, and (b) to collect without resorting to arbitrariness and coercion. In this model of economy, tax collecting tends to be coercive and conflictual. The dearth of records of economic transactions and the limited use of banking systems encourage face to face interaction between taxpayer and tax assessor or collector and oblige the latter to make discretionary decisions about tax liabilities that cannot easily be independently validated. The inspector who tells you what you owe also gets his hands on the money. These logistical factors endow tax collectors with considerable discretionary power, facilitate corruption and perhaps extortion, increase the leakage of tax revenues into private hands, generate resentment and tax resistance on the part of taxpayers, establish taxation as the issue of choice for political rebels, and make it practically and politically difficult for governments to appropriate a high proportion of national income through taxation, especially direct taxation.

How Much Do Citizens Pay in Taxes?

The potential causal interactions between the state and taxpayers are many and relatively complex, especially because government face choices between taxing broadly and thus engaging with citizens, and exploiting unearned revenues, which requires to be engaged with a narrow range of other actors and monitors or a small number of large companies, public or private, in the oil, construction, telecommunication and minerals sector. The question of how heavily government tax citizens is distinct and conceptually less complex. How the level of revenue demand might impact the political actions of taxpayers? We know that the political implications are not straightforward. Increases in the tax take are unlikely to occur in isolation. They will generally result also in increases in public expenditure, which might in turn intensify the processes through which the politics around public expenditure ”confuses” the politics around revenue raising. However, there are good, logical reasons, to believe that the more of their income the citizens pay in tax, the more they are likely to be politically engaged in and demanding of the government. Marked increases in the level of tax burdens has mobilized taxpayers, as well as recent statistical evidence indicating that increases in revenue demands precede by only a few years shifts toward more democratic tax resistance. In sum, there is compelling evidence that the dependence of state on unearned income is likely to have adverse effects on the quality of governance and that the overall level of taxes does help mobilize citizens politically.

Who and what is taxed and how are taxes assessed and collected?

Government is more accountable and responsive to their citizens when dependent on them for revenue. Does that also imply that governments are only accountable and responsive to taxpayers that is, those citizens who pay taxes? Is the policy implication that we should find ways of ensuring the poor are taxed to prevent government being accountable and responsive only to the non poor, at the expense of the poor?

The answer to the last question is no. There are two reasons:

The first is cautionary: We simply do not know enough about the effects of taxation on political behavior to justify this kind of experimental social. The second is that there is good reason to believe that the entire polity and all social groups normally will benefit from greater state responsiveness and accountability to taxpayers. Why? Especially, in Albania with relatively fragile public institutions, politics is rarely the kind of rational public finance game that economists love to model, in which one particular definable group for example, small entrepreneurs will be calculating in detail the benefits of, say, exchanging reduced simplified profit tax for a stronger legal commitment to employees’ rights. The more that politics is like that, the more we should be concerned about the problem of accountability only to taxpayers. However, in some of the regions with which we are concerned the poorest, and those dependent on aid and mineral resource wealth the pressure for government to be accountable or responsive to taxpayers is likely to have more positive effects at a more basic level of the polity by encouraging the creation of the kinds of stable institutions and predictable political behaviors that are often in deficit. Poor people will normally benefit and rarely lose out when ruled by government that, because they are dependent on general taxes, face incentives to coax rather than simply extract revenues from citizens, and therefore confront restraints on their power, are motivated to protect human and property rights, and understand that they and citizens share a common interest in economic growth.

What is needed then?

Take a look at the logistical advantages enjoyed by tax collection agencies in wealthier economies. Four factors facilitate their task and help to explain the historical shifts from levying taxes on specific items (oil, tobacco, beverages, landed property, houses) to levying them according to accounting categories (especially income, value added, and profits rather than simply asset values):

- Extensive written and electronic records of economic transactions help collectors to hunt down their quarry accurately and to create effective checks against misappropriation within the tax bureaucracy itself.

- The relative insulation of most economic transactions and incomes from seasonality or the weather makes it feasible to collect most taxes in regular installments over the course of a year.

- The widespread use of banking and other indirect systems of money transfer reduces the need for tax collectors to meet personally with most taxpayers.

- The prevalence of bureaucratically organized economic enterprises provides opportunities to place the collection process on the impersonal and quasi-automatic basis that underpins most contemporary company taxation and employees’ pay-as-you-earn systems.

When local populations have the greatest potential economic mobility, and therefore the widest scope to flee from coercive local and national taxation, local and central government spend higher proportions of their revenues on providing services for their citizens and less on themselves. In different ways, studies provide evidence for the balance of power hypothesis: When governments face the strongest pressures to finance themselves by coaxing rather than extracting revenues from their citizens, they are more likely to rule democratically or to spend money providing services to citizens.

It’s pity, but true the fact that in Albania there are no great intellectual or organizational wars that need to be fought and won before government is in a position to change tax policies in ways that will improve governance: abolish some taxes, replace them with more modern and effective alternatives that can be levied less coercively, use widely known techniques to make the taxpaying experience less coercive, and find national revenue sources to replace the former coercive techniques in the long term. Let’s hope to see soon the change needed to go ahead.

How Adopting Local Government Software Can Create Efficient Public Services

Local government software solutions are designed to fill the exacting needs of users such as city, county and state governments who require assistance with core concerns relating to day-to-day management. These users can employ such solutions to help them more efficiently manage a comprehensive range of key activities.

For instance, users can look to these software solutions to help them properly manage public works and utilities. These software systems enable the dedicated management of individual public infrastructure assets such as streets, bridges, water resources, parks and landscapes, and other facilities and projects. More specifically, these municipal government software solutions permit users to record and track key information concerning these individual assets, may also allow users to save and track information concerning code enforcement and permits, and can also assist with licensing activities.

A comprehensive government software system can also assist with work planning. To this end, these systems can also serve as financial tools, making use of activities based benchmarking and helping prepare budgets. To help improve budgeting, these solutions evaluate budgeting and financial activities by tracking budgeted work versus completed work in terms of the actual amounts of equipment, materials and labor utilized. Such planning and analysis can take place weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annually as per the needs of users.

Lastly, in addition to these powerful standard functions, many of the best local government software solutions also offer expansion and additional functionality through modules. By doing so, they allow government users to ensure a customized fit whatever their needs.

Getting City Contracts; Local Government Contracting

All cities have a purchasing office and/or a procurement officer. They handle all city contracts that are sent out to bid. Usually, to become a small business vendor of the city you must satisfy either some or all of the requirements listed below:

Minority Or Woman Owned Business

Small Business (Under $500,000/Year Gross)

Worker’s Compensation Insurance (If Employees Work On Contract)

Liability Insurance Of $500,000-1,000,000 Aggregate With The City As Additional

Insured (For Autos And Completed Operations) (finish products liability)

City Business License

Local Business In Town

Hire Local Employees

Not all contracts are sent out to bid however. Some of the gravy contracts are ad-ons, additions or “Oh, by the way,” contracts. The latter of which are by far the best. These contracts come up often. Here’s how its works. Now for this example lets use a cleaning service:

The city manager comes up with an idea. He’s seen you out at the corporation yard cleaning cars with your high-pressure machine. He needs you to clean the bird droppings off a flagpole in front of city hall, frontage of the library and awnings around the civic center. You work out a price at $100/hour once a week. Since this is out of their budget, they settle on every other week. You adjust the price to $120/hour. Then as you do the job, you figure out a way to do it in one-half the time ($240/hour).

You then donate $30-50 in coupons to his kid’s school, rotary club and whatever church he and the current mayor attend. First you have to get a city contract. Bid low. It’s worth it. This is how it really works, no matter what the rest of the world says. Government is no different or anymore ethical than rat living at the dump. If you are wondering why all the same companies get all the city’s business, it is because they understand how it all works. It would be nice to have a more honest government at all levels, but since you can provide great services to the city and you deserve the business, you may as well get out there and go get it. It is not good or bad, it just is; it is much different than they teach you in school. Maybe some day it will be; one can only hope. Think about it.

Local Governments Under the Indian Constitution

1. Introduction:
Late Rajiv Gandhi came to the helm of affairs in the country he repeatedly stressed the importance of Panchayati Raj. He formed his views on the subject by under-taking whirlwind tours of rural India to familiarize himself with the realities of rural life, by holding frequent workshops of district magistrates all over the country, and thus assessing their views and understanding their difficulties. As a result of this interaction with the people and the administrators, his views on Panchayati Raj gradually evolved, his thoughts ware clarified and he could form his own plan of Panchayati Raj and place it before the parliament with perfect self-confidence and case. He also sought to give it constitutional sanction by proposing to add a fresh chapter to the Indian constitution in the form of the 64th amendment, through the Bill which he moved in the parliament on the 15th of May, 1989. As a result of his clarity of thought and powerful advocacy, the bill was passed with near unanimity, with only five M.P.’s voting against it. Late Rajiv Gandhi forcefully and clearly unfolded the concept of Panchayati Raj, the urgent need of constitutional sanction for it, and the salient features of his scheme for making it a reality. He told the members of the parliament that, “Democracy was the greatest gift of our freedom struggle to the people of India. Independence made the nation free. Democracy made our people free. A free people are a people who are governed by their will and ruled with their consent. A free people are a people who participate in decisions affecting their lives and their destinies”. “Gandhiji believed that democratic freedoms have to be founded in institutions of self-government in every village of India. He drew his inspiration and his vision from the Panchayats, the traditional ‘village republics’ of India. Panditji established the institution of Panchayati Raj as the primary instrument for bringing development to the doorstep of rural India. Indiraji stressed the need for the people’s participation in the processes of economic and social transformation.

In this era of globalization and rapid economic growth, it is even more essential to ensure that the voices of the Panchayats are heard, that Panchayati Raj leaders and workers have a say in shaping and influencing development policies. So that grassroots needs and aspirations are represented, and the benefits of our economic growth flow. The Panchayat system has been integral part of the Indian village system through ages. A village is self contained microcosm, a composite peasant society representing different communities and cultural hues. It does not have irritant elements but represent an integrated culture, free to a greater extent from the penetrations of urban cultural patterns into the village life.

2. Local self government:
In the context of a large, diverse nation like India where the public faces a myriad of problems large and small, a functioning system of local self-governance becomes even more critical. To speed up the development process and make it most effective, people at the grassroots level must have as much authority to tackle the issue facing them as possible. Their powers should not be limited only to casting a vote once in five years. They should be actively involved in day-to-day governance issues and should have a say in the matters that concern them. They should not have to run for every small task to their local bureaucrats and politicians. The efforts to eliminate poverty must synthesize the top down policies of the central and state governments with bottom up knowledge, problem solving abilities and the needs of the grassroots citizens.

Idea of Gram Sabha in Panchyats Raj system was created with the hope that it would provide a platform to the local people to collectively plan and implement programs for their own development. However, they are yet to become effective institutions of local self-governance. The local institutions, though exists formally now, have far too little power particularly over funds and local officials to accomplish the will of their constituents. In case of Municipalities, it is even worse because at the least Gram Sabha in Panchayat Raj provides a platform to the villagers to collectively deliberate and decide but no such platform in Municipalities, where people can collectively express their will and concerns.

3. Panchayati raj:
The panchayat raj is a South Asian political system mainly in India, Pakistan, and Nepal. The word “panchayat” is a traditional one and are an ancient form of local government based on the idea that when five (panch) respected elders chosen and accepted by the village community, God will be present. It literally means assembly of five people. Traditionally, these assemblies settled disputes between individuals and villages. The five elders in a village who mediated conflict and spoke on behalf of all the residents of a village in pre-modern times. In these traditional bodies, the lower castes and women had no representation. The question did not arise. Modern Indian government has decentralized several administrative functions to the village level, empowering elected gram panchayats. Panchayati Raj is a system of governance in which gram panchayats are the basic units of administration. It has 3 levels: village, block and district.

4. The Panchayat Raj system has a three-tier structure as:

1. The Village Panchayats
2. The Panchayat Samitis and
3. The Zilla Parishad

4.1. The Village Panchayat or Gram Panchayat:
The village panchayat or the gram Panchayat functions at the Village level. It is called a Panchayat at the village level. It is a local body working for the good of the village. The number of members usually ranges from 7 to 31; occasionally, groups are larger, but they never have fewer than 7 members.

4.2. Panchayat Samiti/ Intermediate level panchayat:
Panchayat samiti is a local government body at the tehsil or Taluka level in India. It works for the villages of the Tehsil or Taluka that together are called a Development Block. The Panchayat Samiti is the link between the Gram Panchayat and the district administration. There are a number of variations of this institution in various states. It is known as Mandal Praja Parishad in Andhra Pradesh, Taluka panchayat in Gujarat, Mandal Panchayat in Karnataka, etc. In general it’s a kind of Panchayati raj at higher level.

4.2.1. Constitution:
It is composed of ex-officio members all sarpanchas of the panchayat samiti area, the MPs and MLAs of the area and the SDO of the subdivision, co-opted members representatives of SC/ST and women, associate members a farmer of the area, a representative of the cooperative societies and one of the marketing services and some elected members. The samiti is elected for 5 years and is headed by the chairman and the deputy chairman.

4.2.2. Departments:
The common departments in the Samiti are as follows:

- General administration
– Finance
– Public works
– Agriculture
– Health
– Education
– Social welfare
– Information Technology and others.

There is an officer for every department. A government appointed block development officer is the executive officer to the samiti and the chief of its administration the department in the samiti.

4.2.3. Functions:
– Implement schemes for the development of agriculture.
– Establishment of primary health centers and primary schools.
– Supply of drinking water, drainage, construction and repair of roads.
– Development of cottage and small-scale industries and opening of cooperative societies.
– Establishment of youth organizations.

4.2.4. Sources of income:
The main source of income in the panchayat samitis are grants-in-aid and loans from the State Government.

4.3. Zilla Parishad/ District level panchayat:
In the district level of the panchayati raj system you have the “Zillah parishad”. It looks after the administration of the rural area of the district and its office is located at the district headquarters. It is headed by the “District Collector” or the “District Magistrate” or the “Deputy Commissioner”. It is the link between the state government and the panchayat samiti.

4.3.1. Constitution:
Members of the Zilla Parishad are elected from the district on the basis of adult franchise for a term of five years. Zilla Parishad has minimum of 50 and maximum of 75 members. There are seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, backward classes and women. The Chairmen of all the Panchayat Samitis form the members of Zilla Parishad. The Parishad is headed by a President and a Vice-President.

4.3.2. Functions:

1. Provide essential services and facilities to the rural population and the planning and execution of the development programmes for the district.
2. Supply improved seeds to farmers. Inform them of new techniques of training. Undertake construction of small-scale irrigation projects and percolation tanks. Maintain pastures and grazing lands.
3. Set up and run schools in villages. Execute programmes for adult literacy. Run libraries.
4. Start Primary Health Centers and hospitals in villages. Start mobile hospitals for hamlets, vaccination drives against epidemics and family welfare campaigns.
5. Construct bridges and roads.
6. Execute plans for the development of the scheduled castes and tribes. Run ashramshalas for adivasi children. Set up free hostels for scheduled caste students.
7. Encourage entrepreneurs to start small-scale industries like cottage industries, handicraft, agriculture produce processing mills, dairy farms, etc. implement rural employment schemes.
8. They construct roads, schools, public properties and they take care of the public properties.
9. They even supply work for the poor people like tribes, scheduled caste, and lower caste.

4.3.3. Sources of Income:

1. Taxes on water, pilgrimage, markets, etc.
2. Fixed grant from the State Government in proportion with the land revenue and money for works and schemes assigned to the Parishad.

5. Gram swaraj (village self-government):
Gram swaraj was a goal of India’s Freedom Movement, although it was not enshrined in India’s 1951 constitution. Mahatma Gandhi advocated Panchayati Raj, a decentralized form of Government where each village is responsible for its own affairs, as the foundation of India’s political system. His term for such a vision was “Gram Swaraj” Village Self-governance. The village Republic will be managed by a panchayat which will be living political force and entity.

6. Objectives-panchayats raj institutions-gram sabha:
The 73th Amendment envisages the Gram Sabha as the foundation of the Panchayats Raj System to perform functions and powers entrusted to it by the State Legislatures. The amendment provides for a three tier Panchayats Raj System at the village, intermediate and district levels. Articles 243A provides that the Gram Sabha may exercise such power perform such functions at the village level as the Legislature of a state may be law provide. “Gram Sabha” means a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls comprised within the area of Panchayats at the village level. In the Panchayats Raj System Gram Sabha is the only permanent unit. Duration of Panchayats i.e. Mukhiyas and other members of Panchayats continue for 5 years only from the date appointed for the first meeting but the villagers do not change. Articles 243H empowers State Legislature to make by law provision for imposing taxes etc. by the panchayats. Drafting and implementation of development plans for the uplift of the villages would be vetted and monitored by the Gram Sabha. Panchayats Institutions are the vehicles of political empowerment of people at the grass root level for shaping their own destiny.

7. Constitutional Scheme:

7.1. Three-tier structure:
“India is poor because the villages of India are poor. India will be rich if the villages of India are rich. Panchayats should be given greater power; for we want the villagers to have a greater measure of real swaraj in their own villages.” According to Mahatma Gandhi, “Indian Independence must be at the bottom and every village ought to be a Republic with Panchayat having powers.”

7.2. Directive Principles:
The Constitution provided, in Part 4, The Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 40 for the setting up of village panchayats.

7.3. Gram sabha: Art. 234 A
To ensure that the panchayats stay accountable to all the people of their constituency, they are required to hold village assemblies means gram sabha with a quorum of citizens several times each year. In the Panchayati Raj set up, the Gram Sabha, the general assembly of villagers has a key role for effective functioning of Panchyats. In the Gram Sabha meeting, the rural poor, the women and the marginalised people would now get an opportunity to join in decision making on matters affecting their lives. Active functioning of the Gram Sabha would ensure a participatory democracy with transparency, accountability and achievement.

• Gram Sabha should meet a least in each quarter preferably on Republic Day, Labour Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti.
• Decide developmental work to be undertaken by Panchayats based on needs assessment.
• Suggest remedial measures for economy and efficiency in the functioning of the Panchayats.
• Discuss the Annual Financial Statement of Gram Panchayats.

7.3.1. Under the Act, Gram Sabha has been vested with powers for:

• Ownership of Minor Forest Produce
• Development plans approval
• Selection of beneficiaries under various programmes
• Consultation on land acquisition
• Manage minor water bodies
• Control mineral leases
• Regulate/Prohibit sale of intoxicants
• Prevent alienation of land and restore unlawfully alienated land of STs
• Manage village markets
• Control money lending to STs
• Control institutions and functionaries in all social sectors.
• Training and awareness generation programme

7.4. Constitution of Panchayats, Art.243 B:
There shall be constituted in every State, Panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels in accordance with the provisions of this part. Panchayats at the intermediate level may not be constituted in a state having a population not exceeding twenty lakhs.

7.5. Reserved seats: Art. 243D
The 73rd amendment reserves seats for the most powerless members of society. One-third of all seats including one-third of all panchayats presidencies are reserved for women.

7.5.1. Reservations for Women:
73rd Amendment of the Constitution in the year 1992 reserved 33% seats for women in Panchayats. This provision is a major move towards strengthening the position of rural women. The introduction of women in sizable numbers into the new Panchayats could bring significant changes in the functioning of these grass-root level institutions. Involvement of women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions is expected to bring qualitative change in the matters relating to health nutrition, children welfare, family care, drinking water etc. The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution of India is a milestone in the history of women empowerment in India.

7.5.2. Reservations for SC/ST:
There is a mandatory provision for reservation of seats for SC/ST in every tier of Panchayati Raj System. The reservation for SC/ST is another significant aspect for development of disadvantaged groups in the rural areas.

• The State Legislature shall provide for the reservation of offices of the chairpersons in the Panchayats at the village or any other level for the SCs and the STs.
• The Act provides for the reservation of not less than one-third of the total number of seats for women including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the SCs and the STs.

7.6. Disqualification for membership: ART.243F
1. A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of panchayats,
a. If he is so qualified by or under any law for the time being in force for the purposes of elections to the Legislature of the state concerned: Provided that no person shall be disqualified on the ground that he is less than twenty- five years of age, if he has attained the age of twenty- one years.
b. If he is so disqualified by or by under any law made by legislature of the state.

2. If any question arises as to whether a member of panchayats has become subject to any of the disqualifications mentioned in clause (1), the question shall be referred for the decision of such authority and in such manner as the state.

7.7. Powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats: Art.243G
According to the Constitution, Panchayats shall be given powers and authority to function as institutions of self-government. The following powers and responsibilities are to be delegated to Panchayats at the appropriate level:

a. Preparation of Plan for economic development and social justice.
b. Implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice in relation to 29 subjects given in Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.
c. To levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.

7.8. Constitution of Finance Commission: Art. 243-I.
Finance Commission has to be constituted in every state to review the financial position of the Panchayats and to make recommendation to the Governor regarding the allocation of fund to be Panchayats.

7.9. Constitutionalization of Municipalities:

• It emerged as the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 and came into force on 1 st June 1993
• This Act contains Part-IX A of the Constitution of India.
• It is entitled as ‘The Municipalities’ and consists provisions of Article 243-P to 243-ZG.
• The Act also added the Twelth Schedule to the Constitution.
• It contains 18 functional items of the Municipalities and deals with Art 243.
• The Act gave Constitutional status to the Municipalities.
• It brought them under the purview of justifiable part of the Constitution.
• The Act provided for the constitution of the following three types of Municipalities in every State;
i. A Nagar Panchayat for a transitional area.
ii. A Municipal Council for a smaller urban area.
iii. A Municipal Corporation for a larger urban area.

- The following types of urban local bodies are created in India for the administration of urban areas: Municipal Corporation, Municipality, Notified Area Committee, Town Area Committee, Cantonment Board, Township, Port Trust, Special Purpose Agency.

8. The Panchayati Raj Elections:
Seats for the SCs and the STs should be reserved on the basis of their population.

8.1. Election of the Members and Chairpersons:
• All members of the Panchayats at the Village, the Intermediate and the District levels shall be elected directly by the people.
• The chairperson of the Panchayats at the Intermediate and District levels shall be elected indirectly by and from amongst the elected members.
• The chairperson of a Panchayats at the Village level shall be elected in such a manner as the State Legislature determines.

8.2. State Election Commission:
Powers of the state legislatures to make provisions with respect to elections to Panchayats under superintendence, direction and control of the Chief electoral officer of the state,
• The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of all elections to the Panchayats shall be vested in the State Election Commission.
• It consists of a State Election Commissioner who is to be appointed by the Governor.
• His conditions of service and tenure of office shall be determined by the Governor.
• He shall not be removed from the office except in the manner and on the grounds prescribed for the removal of a Judge of the State High Court.
• His conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.

8.3. Inclusion and Local Elected Governments:
The Panchayat Raj System in India policy interventions to improve inclusion and spread benefits more equitably among village populations. As decentralization is a relatively new process where theory and practice are both still evolving, moving ahead without recurrent analysis risks discrediting the process.

9. Finances:

9.1. The panchayats receive funds from three sources:
i. local body grants, as recommended by the Central Finance Commission,
ii. funds for implementation of centrally-sponsored schemes, and
iii. Funds released by the state governments on the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions.

9.2. State Finance Commission:
• The Governor of a State shall, after every five years, constitute a Finance Commission to review the financial position of the Panchayats.
• The Principles which should govern the distribution between the States and the
Panchayats of the net proceeds of taxes, duties, tolls and fees levied by the State.
• The Principles which should govern the determination of taxes, duties, tolls and fees which may be assigned to the Panchayats.
• The Principles which should govern the grants-in-aid to the Panchayats from the Consolidated Fund of State.
• The measures needed to improve the financial position of the Panchayats.
• Any other matter returned to the Finance Commission by the Governor in the interest of sound finance of the Panchayats.
• The State Legislature may provide for the composition of the commission, the required qualifications of its members and the manner of their selection.
• The Governor shall place the recommendations of the commission along with the action taken report before the State Legislature.
• The Central Finance Commissioner shall also suggest the measures needed to augment the Consolidated. Fund of State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats in the States on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State.
• These areas include the Scheduled Areas and the Tribal Areas referred to in Article 244 of the Constitution, the hilly areas of Manipur for which a District council exists and Darjeeling District of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.

10. Participation in village level government:
Even though nearly all villagers participate in voting, far fewer between 20 and 40 percent are involved with the other activities that are associated with influencing decision making in PRIs.

11. Accountability:
The value of benefit and accountability are two key factors influencing people’s use of PRI system. The State acts and the rules of the gram panchayat provide for certain mechanisms through which elected representatives can be held accountable for their actions. In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan there are three common mechanisms by which villagers can hold their gram panchayat representatives accountable: (i) the gram sabha; (ii) the right of recall; and (iii) recourse to higher authority. In Rajasthan there is also the additional mechanism of the vigilance committee at the level of the gram panchayat. The gram sabha is intended to be the main platform for widespread transparency and accountability. Its central function is to take stock of past developments, review expenditures, and to decide which new activities are possible within the sanctioned budget. The purpose of the gram sabha is to provide villagers with the opportunity to obtain clarification from their representatives on all aspects and activities of the gram panchayat. But gram sabha, with only an average of seven percent of members attending, is not yet an effective mechanism of governance. Madhya Pradesh became the first state in the country to empower the people of a gram panchayat to recall an elected representative. The right of recall can only be exercised once a panchayat member has completed half of his or her term and requires that 50 percent of the total electorate support the vote for the representative’s removal. In addition to the gram sabha and the right of recall at the gram panchayat level there is also scope for recourse to higher authority. In both states, the District Magistrate has the authority to remove or suspend an elected representative assessed to be disqualified for the post. In Rajasthan, the vigilance committee is an additional mechanism of accountability. The purpose of the committee is to monitor and oversee the work of the gram panchayat, and its membership is comprised of nonelected representatives.

12. Political participation:
However, over the short span of five years since reservations have been implemented no directly visible impact has resulted either in terms of participation rates or distribution of benefits. Gender is a key factor in determining who’s included in gram panchayat activities. Women participate significantly less than men, and the social factors which limit women’s involvement in public affairs, are also reflected in the generally low levels of education and information that prevail among women. At the same time, however, education and information also suggest ways of reducing the gap between men and women that arise from social and traditional norms. Women who are educated and well informed are often able to bridge social differences associated with gender.

13. Recommendations:
Gram panchayats as instruments of democracy, development and service provision i.e. what gram panchayats do, and Increasing inclusion of women, tribal and the landless in gram panchayat activities i.e. who is involved. Gram panchayats as instruments of democracy, development and service provision the majority of rural people do not regard panchayats as particularly relevant to their lives. The reasons behind this low valuation suggest a need to examine current expectations of the roles that gram panchayats can play in the short and longer terms. Insofar as people participate in activities associated with electing representatives, the gram panchayat does work as a democratic entity. However, the tendency to regard elections as an opportunity to consolidate often inequitable social and economic relations implies that panchayats are not currently local bodies which can be used in the short If people are to begin to perceive these entities as instruments of change, actions that combine increased accountability to constituents with improved opportunities for gram panchayats to achieve results, need to be taken.

• Improving constituents’ knowledge of accountability mechanisms through better distribution of information about panchayats purposes, responsibilities and control;
• Using district administrators to enforce the use of gram sabhas and establish of vigilance committees;
• Monitoring for a limited period the functioning of gram sabhas, vigilance committees, right to recall and use of recourse to higher authority.

13.1.1. Monitoring instruments could include:
a study of effective accountability mechanisms in local organizations is required to further understanding of how to improve the performance of local units of governance. The study would need to cover both local level organizations used for a variety of activities in India, and other country experiences with decentralized governance.

13.1.2. Improving results:
Achievement of good results is primarily dependent on the quality and quantity of resources financial, human and organizational available to the gram panchayat. Efforts are being made to increase the level of financial resources available to panchayats, particularly through decentralization of line department budgets and channelling central government funds directly to PRIs.

14. States governments conducted their own experiments with local self-government
This is the result of the shift in power from the traditional upper castes to the OBCs How this impacted on the SCs and STs that Ambedkar was concerned about is another question. Caste and class are not overlapping categories. Grabbing political power from the Brahmin and other upper castes does not mean that SC/STs will automatically be empowered and the same applies to women as well. An interesting point missed out in all debates on reservations is that there are women in all castes, class and religions.

14.1. West Bengal
West Bengal has gone through several cycles of elections since 1978, when this system was introduced. A major reason for success here was the commitment of the Left Front government to these bodies. It has been argued that their strength comes from the fact that the cadres of these parties have now entrenched themselves in the PRI institutions.

14.2. Andhra Pradesh
Andhra Pradesh is another state that took to PRIs in the 1980s, when N.T. Rama Rao was the Chief Minister. Here also the system started with hope. 9% of the seats were reserved for women but not the chairman positions.

14.3. Madhya Pradesh
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister realised its potential and decided to gamble his political career on it. He had two advantages. None of the major parties in MP were looking at decentralised governance their attention was fixed firmly on urban areas and large contracts. Madhya Pradesh has made use of the panchayat system in an innovative way to meet social sector demands. Several of the Rajiv Gandhi Missions all implemented through the PRIs have done well, on an independent reckoning. Today it has the most progressive PRI system in the country.

14.4. Karnataka
Karnataka has been something of an exception when it comes to decentralisation and panchayati raj. For various extraneous reasons, the state legislature passed a law in 1983 setting up a system of panchayati raj. That system was a two tier one of the zilla parishad at the district level and the mandal panchayat for a cluster of villages at the local level.

3 Key Drivers Behind Improving Excellence in Government Customer Service

In customer service, it is imperative to know the difference between private and public sectors, because it helps define your customers’ needs. Though the terms are important, it’s not uncommon to see people use them incorrectly. But both the sectors have distinct characteristic that distinguish them from each other.

The private sector is privately owned

The primary differences between the sectors are who they employ and who they work for. The private sector is usually made up of privately owned organizations, like corporations. However, the private sector is not limited to big corporations and can include local business, credit unions, non-profit partnerships, and charities.

The public sector serves the public

This sector mostly operates through organizations owned by the government, and as a result, workers are paid by the government. These organizations can include: holding political office, the U.S Postal Service, and federal, state, or municipal governments. The public sector provides services that directly influence their governing province and/or country.

Private provides tangible products, while the public sector often outputs “anti-products.”

Ron Ross of The American Spectator put it nicely when he said, “The private sector’s products all around us – food, shelter, clothing, automobiles, home appliances, entertainment, for example. The public sector’s products include defense, the justice system, roads and highways, public schools, income redistribution (welfare), laws, and regulations… ” It’s easy to recognize the private sector because of its products, yet it’s important not to overlook the significant services that government provides.

We see that both sectors have their clear distinctions, yet they often find themselves in communication with each other. Customer service methods are a great way to share a dialoged between the two. Part of Customer Service Senior Leadership team is understanding that there are different approaches when it comes to customer service in both sectors.

A customer is a customer regardless of the product, yet in the public sector, when your customer is the public, it is a little bit different. As a customer of Wal-Mart, if you are dissatisfied with the service you have experienced, you can go shop at Target. Most of the time, with government services, you can’t shop around. There are long-term customers and the challenge is to provide them with the best customer service available.

Providing citizens with great customer service in government often means borrowing strategies from the private sector. Using social media as customer service tool, for example, is something that many successful businesses have done. Many government customer service centers have also implemented strategies directly connecting citizens with city services. Understanding what is being referenced, and being familiar with the distinctions, between both sectors, ultimately helps the public sector better meet citizens’ needs.