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other steps should be taken in order to secure a uniform and efficient system of management of the executive business of maintaining a road.
The first measure that should be taken is to alter the present plan of having road business transacted at boards of trustees at which every trustee has a right to attend and vote. Experience proves that no contrivance can be worse for managing business than a board consisting of numerous commissioners or trustees possessing equal powers. This subject has been recently examined into by the commissioners of excise inquiry, and as what they say upon it, in their twentieth report, is in every respect applicable to turnpike trusts, the following extract has been taken from that report:—
"In submitting this topic for consideration, we should add, that the throwing aside of control is not the only inconvenience that arises from placing the administration of public business under a board; and that after having directed much attention to an examination of the question, as to the most eligible mode of conducting those portions of the public business which are at present intrusted to the management of boards, we have come to the conclusion that there are defects inherent in the nature of boards, constituted like those of the principal revenue departments, which prevent the affairs intrusted to them, and more especially those which relate to the discipline and control of large classes of subordinate officers, from being conducted with that degree of dispatch and efficiency, which are exerted when the governing powers are in fewer hands, and exercised under a less divided responsibility. In speaking of the boards thus constituted, as consisting of numerous commissioners exercising equal powers, we are aware that the numbers of each board have been of late years much reduced: still, however, a board composed of even six or seven members must be considered as a numerous body for the dispatch of executive business; and it may be added, that although the consequence of the reduction of numbers may have been the exertion of an increased degree of diligence and attention on the part of the individual members of whom the boards now consist, still that the defects in the general system of managing their business continue to be much the same in character, though perhaps less in degree, whether the boards consist of twelve members or of six. Amongst these defects, experience has shown the existence of a general disposition to avoid or postpone the discharge of those branches of the duty of a governing authority which require the exertion of individuals; and on the other hand, a disposition to make continual references to subordinate officers to obtain knowledge and information. The consequence of such habits are continual delays and adjournments of business; waste of time in debates; and, instead of that activity and energy, (which should be the characteristics of a body on whose superintendence depends the due administration of a complicated branch of laws and regulations requiring constant attention and variations in practice to
adapt them to the objects for which they are to be enforced,) it has been found to be a prevailing custom to allow business to run its course according to routines of ancient regulation. Changes and reforms of any large and therefore useful kind are avoided; means, that have been provided at a great expense for the checking of the violation of the laws and the protection of the revenue, are not brought into action. The powers of boards almost always fall into the hands of some clever and active subordinate officer; while the silence and secrecy with which their proceedings are carried on leave the public uninformed of them, and thus allow abuses to grow up and go on to a great extent without correction. In confirmation of what is here stated, the preceding pages of this report, and the evidence annexed to it, may be referred to, as showing that, in the case of the board of excise, the first class of surveying-general-examiners directs many of its principal proceedings: the under secretary, from his long experience and abilities, has necessarily a preponderating influence; the routine of business is carried on with a strict adherence to old forms; and although expensive schemes for suppressing smuggling have been adopted, they have not always produced much effect, for want of activity and energy in enforcing them. Throughout the department there is much room for more uniformity, simplicity, and economy both in time and expense, whilst the general course of its proceedings does not appear to be governed by anything like a system of fixed principles, such as we might expect to find established for regulating the administration of a great public department.
"There is another great defect to be noticed belonging to the management of business by boards, and that is, the depriving of the public of the security of personal responsibility for the proper performance of its business. In the case of managing the excise duties, the First Lord of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are relieved in appearance from responsibility by a board appointed with full powers to collect them, and the public adopt what exists in appearance as a reality, and do not consider them responsible.
"The responsibility of the board, as a board, is of no value whatever; and, as to the commissioners individually, no one of them is responsible for the acts of the board, as others participate with him in all he does, and as much may be done in which some member of the board has not acted; so that in fact the appointing of a board of several commissioners with equal powers, as the head of a sub-department for revenue purposes, completely sets aside all responsibility.
"Experience of managing business by boards (a system which in this country is so common) affords a complete illustration of the correctness of the preceding observations. The proceedings of the numerous boards of commissioners for paving and lighting, and of sewers, are seldom mentioned but in terms of complaint and condemnation. The conduct of vestries, which are boards of a more extended kind, produced so much evil while they had the management of the poor that it led to their being set aside by the new Poor Law; and such has been the general bad management of commissioners of turnpike roads, that, by common consent, parliament is called upon to introduce some great change in the system. When a board is composed of numerous members, many of them have too many occupations, and many are too indolent, or of too much dignity, to attend to the business of it; and thus the apparent management by the whole body becomes a screen for the measures of a few, into whose hands the management practically falls. Thus it may happen, that for want of attendance, want of intelligence, want of economy, or want of some other requisite in the quarter to which the actual management has been left, the most lavish and wasteful expenditure of funds may take place, and the interests of the public sacrificed in this and a number of other ways.
"As to the fitness of a single person to discharge the duties of the head of a revenue department, so far as fitness consists of intelligence, activity, and energy, this would be insured in a higher degree in a single person than in a board. The exertion which an individual would be called upon and be able to make would secure a higher degree of intelligence, while the admitted superior force of individual activity and energy would not be weakened by waiting for the opinions of others, by