In simple words, public hearing is public gathering where concerned authority, officials, and public interact about public works. Public hearings are events organized to bring stakeholders, common citizens, and officials of public agencies face to face to hold open and frank discussions on a matter of public concern in an open public place.
Public hearings are performed in order to: establish a two-way dialogue between public agencies and citizens; engage people constructively in development process; improve the quality and effectiveness of development works and service delivery through transparency; and to develop a culture of accountability amongst public officials.
The concerned agency procures the service of a qualified facilitator who facilitates the discussions in presence of the officials from public agencies, beneficiaries, common people, journalists, and other participants in a public place. S/he also handles question answers and documents the proceedings of the entire event.
During such hearings, the beneficiaries or service users can frankly express their grievances or discriminations suffered by them due to the actions of public agencies in front of the relevant officials. This can be instrumental in making public services more people-oriented, transparent, and prompt, as well as reducing the distance between the public agencies and service users. To conduct public hearings the following procedures are to be carried out:
- Prepare an account by reviewing the commitments made in previous public hearing;
- Collect information by using the tools of Citizen Report Card and Exit Poll at least 15 days before the event;
- Dispatch invitations to common citizens engaged in preparing Citizen Report Card and Exit Poll to participate in the hearing;
- Procure the service of a qualified facilitator to manage the event;
- Issue public notice informing people of the date, time, and place of public hearing;
- Invite representatives of various organizations, journalists and common people;
- Designate the official to answer the questions likely to be raised;
- Review the public hearing programme after its closing;
- Receive the public hearing report from the facilitator; and
- Make arrangements to disseminate information about public hearing.
Provisions made in Rule 30–of Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act, 2064 (2008) with regard to Public Hearing is as follows;
- The Chief office-holder at province, district and local level involved in delivery of service, shall conduct public hearing as prescribed, with the purpose of making the activities of the office fair, transparent, and objective and addressing the lawful concerns of general people and stakeholders.
- While conducting public hearing pursuant to Sub-section (1) the expert of the related subject, stakeholder, and representatives of civil society and officials of the local bodies shall be invited.
- Notwithstanding anything contained in this Section, public hearing shall not be required to be held in the matters to be decided judicially.
Provisions made in Rule 19 of Governance (Management and Operation) Regulations, 2065 with regard to Public Hearing is as follows;
- Public hearings should be organized at least once every trimester and in the process the service users and common people should be informed about the actions initiated and efforts made to realize the commitments made in previous hearings.
- Following issues may be included in public hearing, among others:
- Informing service users/beneficiaries about the goods and services provided by the office concerned;
- Problems, grievances, or petitions related with the office concerned;
- Informing stakeholders or other interested participants the details of the plan, programme, projects, and budget of the office concerned for the current fiscal year;
- Evaluation of the positive and negative impact produced by the programme implemented by the agency;
- Progress and achievements on issues raised in previous hearings;
- Other relevant issues.
Legal provisions related to Public Hearing
- Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act, 2064, (Rule, 30)
- Good Governance (Management and Operation) Rules, 2065 (Rule, 19)
- Local Governance Operation Act, 2074 (Article, 78)
- National Monitoring and Evaluation Guidelines by National Planning Commission
Dipak Kumar Patel
Assistant Manager, Nepal Oil Corporation Limited