there are time-tested best practices that are in place in
many countries that can be adapted to suit our requirements.
I will try to focus on a few such instruments.
of Information is one of the most powerful tools to combat
corruption and increase transparency in the functioning
of public authorities and is in use in most developed countries.
A few states like Maharashtra, Goa, Delhi, Rajasthan and
Karnataka have enacted sensible laws to ensure Right to
Information, but in most cases the enforcement has been
quite feeble. In the meantime, the union government has
recently enacted a reasonably good legislation on Freedom
of Information, but with a few significant defects, namely:
there is no provision for second appeal; no penalties or
compensation in case of delay in providing information and
information that is made available to the legislature is
not made available to citizens.
The union government is yet to frame the rules for the Act.
These defects in union legislation can be addressed either
by the state law or through framing appropriate rules. If
these defects are addressed, it can significantly enhance
the efficacy of the Freedom of Information Act. Sunlight
is the best disinfectant. Exposure and transparency are
the best antidotes to corruption.
Charter is another effective instrument to enhance accountability
and reduce corruption. An ideal charter should have components
such as: who will provide the service; what does the citizen
need to do - application, fee, information etc.; what is
the time frame in which the service shall be delivered;
what is the compensation for delay and instant redressal
mechanism. Obviously, such a charter will work only when
there is no supply constraint for the particular service.
to Lok Satta's advocacy, such a charter was introduced by
the government of AP in municipalities covering four such
basic services: Issue of birth and death certificates (5
days) ; Residential water connection (30 days; 10 days under
OYT); Approval of house construction plan (15 days); Property
tax assessment (15 days). For the first time in the country,
the charter provided for a compensation of Rs 50 for every
day's delay in service, which has radically changed the
nature of relationship between the citizen and the government.
The charter is working well, and several hundred citizens
received compensation too. The need of the hour is to introduce
such charters where there is no supply constraint and ensure
wide publicity and effective implementation.
One innovative instrument for combating corruption is a
legislation modeled after the False Claims Act of the US.
Public procurement is an area that is most susceptible for
collusive corruption where the supplier in conjunction with
the corrupt civil servant defrauds the exchequer. The recent
scam in CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) is one such
The Whistle Blower provisions of the False Claims Act allows
individuals, to file suit on behalf of the United States
against those who have falsely or fraudulently claimed federal
funds, including Medicare, Medicaid, disaster assistance
and other benefits, subsidies, grants, loans and contract
payments. Persons who file such a suit can recover from
15 to 25 percent of any penalty levied, depending on their
contribution to the case. The court can levy penalties upto
three times the loss sustained by the public. In the past
15 years, over $10 billion was collected as penalties in
4000 such suits.
The legislative initiatives by the government only scratch
the surface, and we need effective instruments to yield
practical and sustainable results.