Unfortunately, corruption is an omnipresent part of our lives and most of us are fed up of it. Our present Chief Minister on assuming power had promised to deliver us from corruption within 100 days of his rule. Governments must not only act, but should be seen to act. What steps the government has taken uptil now, is for you to decide.
Below are some steps which could be taken to reduce corruption, both in Government and non – Government sectors.
- Assess the magnitude of corruption: hire a National level consultancy service to assess the extent of corruption by doing a survey. Firms like Transparency International India, Tata Consultancy Service or Andersons can be hired and asked to rank various Government Departments on a corruption scale. Make the report public. Stress on departments to improve their standing and repeat the Survey after one year. According to a survey done nationwide, it is estimated that each year Indians pay a total of Rs.21, 068 Crores as bribes.
- Reduce the opportunity for corruption: contact between file dealing public officers and the public should be reduced. For this a Single Window System or a Facilitation Desk should be set up in all public dealing offices, similar to the Single Window System for Corporates. Instead of sending people to different departments, this desk should accept all public inputs and pass them on and get the output back for the person. Feedback form should be given to all visitors to elicit their experience and opinions. This desk should be given on contract to outside agencies or NGO’s, with a specific warning against corruption. Entry of people into Government Offices should be minimal.
- Integrity Officers: Like Public Information Officers under the RTI Act, Integrity Officers could be appointed under an Anti Corruption Act. Distinct from Vigilance Officers, these officers could be entrusted with promoting positive behavior among staff. Part of the Integrity Officers job should be to hold interactive sessions with the staff on ways to reduce corruption in the office. He should also be in charge of all the feedback forms received by his department.
- “We do not take bribes in this office. Please do not embarrass us by offering bribes” should be displayed prominently in all offices. This is similar to the warnings displayed in Pan Shops and in Ultrasound Clinics. As is the case with the latter two, penalty should be applied if the board is not found. Feedback forms should be available easily in all offices till the Single Window System is not implemented.
- Procedural changes must be implemented once a corrupt official is caught so that no one else in the same position can replicate the corruption. It is of no use replacing one corrupt official with another. The Integrity Officer must investigate the loopholes which allowed the official to carry out corrupt practices and then recommend ways to plug the loopholes. Each “catch” must educate the system.
- Responsibility of Senior Officer: It is the responsibility of all Government officers to stop corruption in the staff working directly under them. Each year the Annual Confidential Report is filled with the integrity column. So if an officer is caught for corruption, his immediate superior should have a “Failed to check corruption” entry in his ACR by his superior officer. Five such entries should invite a letter of displeasure.
- Suspension Allowance? Employees suspended for corruption should not be given any pay during the period. At present, they are given half pay as “Suspension Allowance” for 6 months and then 2/3rd pay thereafter. This is almost akin to a paid holiday. Zero pay will serve as a good deterrent. Often it is seen that the suspension of such people is revoked after some months. Power to revoke suspensions, in corruption cases, should be with an officer above the officer who initially ordered suspension. This will reduce the effect of political and other undue pressures. Further officers once convicted of corruption must always be posted in places with no public interaction.
- Hire vulnerability assessment experts: The Government should publicly announce that it will hire people to do sting operations to catch corrupt people. Even if it actually does carries out only one or two such operations, the announcement itself will create a sense of insecurity among the corrupt. “Frying the big fish” has a tremendous cascading effect in reducing corruption. This technique was adopted by the Hong Kong Anti Corruption Commission set up in 1974, which single handedly transformed the most corrupt country in the world to one of the least corrupt. Efforts to catch bribe taking babus while ignoring corruption at top can never have any effect.
- Uttarakhand Jan Nigrani Samiti: One of the best ways to reduce corruption is to have an autonomous body to monitor the Government’s actions for corruption. The concept of Public audit of Government contracts has proved highly effective in a number of places in India. To formalize such a practice, a voluntary Uttarakhand Jan Nigrani Samiti could be formed by the State Government. Headed by an eminent personality, the Samiti could have 10 members; 3 ex-servicemen, 3 ladies and 3 other prominent active citizens of the state. The most important criterion for appointment should be that one should never have belonged to any political party. Once appointed this Samiti should appoint similar District Jan Nigrani Samiti for all the districts, which in turn could appoint Block Jan Nigrani Samitis, permeating down to Village Jan Nigrani Samitis and City Jan Nigrani Samitis. Membership in all should be voluntary and involve once in lifetime 5yr tenure. The State Level Samiti should have direct access to the Chief Minister. These Jan Nigrani Samitis should be provided copies of all proposed and current projects of their areas. The grass root level Samitis in villages / cities should hold Jansunwais with such information and visit the actual project site to satisfy themselves of the quality of work. They should be provided a copy of all bills submitted by the Contractors before payment is made.
- Increase transparency: Copies of all proposed and current projects should be pasted at a prominent place in all villages and cities and put up on the Internet.
- E Governance: produces dramatic reduction in corruption, wherever it has been introduced. An outstanding example of this has been the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), where tenders and bids for all sales and purchases are online and fully automatic.
E Governance ensures that the best bid, the best tender and the best contractor is
selected and not the one who pays the maximum bribe.
Computerized booking of Railway tickets has almost eliminated the rampant corruption which existed in booking of tickets earlier.
- Integrity Pact: – Corruption is a two way street. The person giving bribes is as guilty as the person taking bribes. Corruption thrives because the chances of getting caught are slim and the chances of conviction after getting caught are even slimmer. As recommended by Transparency International, an anti corruption organization, all persons interested in dealing with the Government should sign an Integrity Pact, in which they agree that if they were caught indulging in corrupt practices or bribing public officials or if the work done by them was found to be substandard, then besides the usual legal action, they personally would be debarred for 10 yrs or till a court exonerates them, whichever is earlier. In cases of firms, the proprietor should be personally held responsible, as it is very easy to evade responsibility by forming a new firm.
Versions of this would apply in all Government departments, for example while applying for any license the person agrees not to be eligible for a similar license if caught paying bribes to Government official for the license.
An important application of the Integrity Pact would be to control the problem of rampant encroachments of public land. While applying for approval of building plans from MDDA, each person should agree to be debarred from getting any further map cleared for 10yrs if he was found to be encroaching on public land or till he is cleared by the courts, whichever is earlier. Just demolishing encroachments is not an effective deterrent. Proprietors of firms must be personally held accountable to prevent them from coming back in business by starting a new firm.
Similarly, builders violating building laws, using place shown as “Parking” on paper for construction of shops etc could be debarred from seeking a fresh project for 10yrs personally. Simply sealing a complex for a few days will not deter future violations by him or other builders. By simply agreeing to such a clause in the Integrity Pact while applying for approval of maps, Builders would be under pressure not to violate laws.
An interesting variation of the Integrity Pact can be used while registering sale / purchase of property. The Government looses a lot of money by the “routine practice” of undervaluing the property during registry and giving the balance money in black. By signing an Integrity Pact before registry the seller and buyer would certify the price and agree to empower the Government to acquire the property at a 10% higher price, if it was found to be substantially undervalued for registry purposes. This practice was used in Brazil in the 80’s with a dramatic increase in values reported.
- Organize Real Estate Market: To reduce the amount of black money in circulation, Property dealers must be licensed. If Doctors, Engineers, Accountants, Nurses, technicians and even roadside vendors can be licensed, why should Property Dealers be an exception? The only reason they are not licensed is the political clout they hold due to their ability to donate liberally. It is very rare to find a property deal not involving a dealer. All registries should have the name of the Property Dealer written in them. Also all Property Dealers should be legally required to verify a property before selling it to anyone. Annual returns of all deals should be filed by property dealers. After few years, a degree or diploma in law could be prerequisite for anyone dealing with Property.
Other well debated ways include streamlining and simplifying procedures, reducing discretionary powers of officials by instituting a code of conduct, a better police force, a better and an efficient judiciary, functionally independent CBI and CVC, decriminalization of politics, more transparency in all Government actions, protection of whistleblowers and finally a motivated public.