New Delhi: In an indictment of many important institutions in the country, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the government oversight body, recognized major shortcomings that can only be tackled through sweeping reforms that include tough legislation.
In what it calls “the national anti-corruption strategy”, the first ever, CVC has presented a “blueprint for commitment and action by the various stakeholders to the governance process” aimed at systematic and conscious restructuring of the national integrity system.
“The strategy recommends a set of action to be taken by the government and a set of action by the political entities, judiciary, media, citizens, private sector and civil society organizations,” states the draft report, which was forwarded to the government on 20 August. CVC has also sent it to experts and civil society groups, who, along with citizens, have been invited to submit their suggestions by 25 September.
Pointing out that the strategy should not remain on paper, but should be implemented effectively, CVC said it would review the progress every year and submit a report to Parliament.
To address political corruption, which the government watchdog describes as “grand corruption”, it recommends the speedy establishment of institutions like the Lokpal, which has been pending for long. The Lokpal Bill to check corruption in high offices in government was last introduced in Parliament in 2008 and been in the pipeline for more than three decades.
Also See | CVC’s Corruption Antidote (PDF)
Reiterating the need for transparency in the funding and expenditure patterns for elections, CVC endorsed the idea mooted by Left parties to introduce state funding and recommended tax exemptions for contributions to this corpus. It also urges political parties to adopt a formal code of ethics, while strengthening norms of financial disclosure.
It proposes to use the Unique Identification Authority of India, or Aadhaar project, and information technology to address administrative corruption. It adds that promotion of transparency, objectivity and merit in selection and appointment to important public offices, including regulatory bodies, is imperative.
“Citizens should be empowered to resist the demand for bribes by instituting mechanisms like ‘anti-bribery hotlines’ or whistle-blower provisions so that citizens can report solicitation of bribes, which should then be followed by prompt action,” the report says.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the government introduced the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010, also known as the “Whistle-blower Bill”, in the Lok Sabha that guarantees protection to persons reporting corruption.
The draft strategy also urged implementation of the 10th report of the Administrative Reforms Commission, which recommended norms for the selection process of senior officials, and establishing a system of blacklisting and debarring of companies found guilty of indulging in unethical practices.
To encourage anti-corruption policies in the private sector, CVC proposes a system of “credits” to recognize and reward the efforts of companies that voluntarily embody good anti-corruption policies.
It has recommendations for even industry lobbying groups. “Corruption needs to be mainstreamed on the agenda of bodies like Ficci (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry), Assocham (Associated Chambers and Commerce and Industry of India), CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), etc., who have either ignored this aspect or done very little in this direction,” it said.
None of the industry lobby groups could be immediately reached for comment.
In line with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s efforts for judicial reforms, the draft strategy suggests a mandatory time limit of one year for disposal of corruption cases, entrustment of such cases with special judges and instituting a National Judicial Council for investigating cases of corruption. It also said the Supreme Court and high courts may lay down guidelines to preclude unwarranted adjournments and delays.
However, not all experts are as optimistic.
“Though I have not read the report, it is a welcome initiative if implemented in the right spirit. But past experience raises serious doubts about the effectiveness of its implementation by concerned authorities,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of the Association of Democratic Reforms, a New Delhi-based non-governmental organization.
Adds Prashant Bhushan, a Supreme Court lawyer and civil rights campaigner: “CVC recommendations may make some changes. But the anti-corruption agencies have not been active or they have not exercised their powers effectively. To make these bodies effective, anti-corruption agencies should be revamped and the process of appointments should be changed.”