Thursday, June 14, 2012

Keeping an Eye on Public Officials

Public officials are there to serve society and that society has the right to know how public officials perform and conduct the businesses entrusted to them. Civic engagement enhances close cooperation between the one providing service and the one receiving services. This form of collaboration is known to exist in governments where there is law and order and where governance is “for the people, by the people, and of the people”. Unlike in authoritarian regimes where an official becomes the sole owner of a public office, to the contrary, in modern democracies, public offices exist to serve every citizen without regard to race, creed, color, religious or political affiliation, sex or gender. Citizen networks have become a global phenomenon mainly due to the proliferation of the internet and globalization (Deibert, 2000). Advocacy groups, associations, and interest groups have the responsibility to monitor and expose aspects they deem unconstitutional and degrading the dignity of their nation’s sovereignty. Since the legislative and executive branches of government have limited capability to keep an eye on all administrative agencies within their scope, it becomes paramount for organized citizens to mobilize and actively engage officials to advance public policy issues.

For the last few years, citizen networks have emerged as a global force to combat government corruption and official unprofessional conduct. The strength of these networks can be reflected in the debilitating effects witnessed in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt and the massive mobilization of interest groups that converged in major U.S. cities challenging Wall Street and others. Lobby groups are becoming diversified and their members increasing in numbers (Hudson, 2010). Citizens can now partake in referendums, perform virtual communities, mobilize supporters without fear of legal ramifications, and volunteer to pursue a just cause. Watchdog organizations and whistleblowers are vital to the running of a nation because they expose what would have otherwise remained unknown and hidden from public scrutiny. Social networks connect segments of society by creating awareness that lead to broader participation.

Associations like the National Rifle Association (NRA), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) exist as pressure groups to ensure the passing of a legislation exclusively to serve member interests. According to Hoefer (2005), social welfare organizations may have considerable knowledge of the jobs they perform and yet remain flawed in public policy issues. There are some barriers that restrict organizations from carrying out lobbying activities in offices having jurisdiction over legislation. Long distance travel, shifting policies, and financial expenses are some limitations that bar organized groups from challenging responsible legislatures.


Deibert, R.J. (2000). International plug ‘n play? Citizen activism, the internet, and global public policy. International Studies Perspectives. 1, 255-272.

Hoefer, R. (2005). Altering state policy: Interest group effectiveness among state-level advocacy groups. National Association of Social Workers, Vol. 50, No. 3.

Hudson, W. (2010). American democracy in peril: Eight challenges to America’ s future (6th ed.). Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

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