Sunday, September 11, 2011

A primer for the corruption fighter

The dust has settled and a degree of calm prevails. Anna Hazare has returned to his village after conquering Delhi. He ought to consolidate his gains now before letting loose another storm. He would do well to sit down with his advisors in this lull and draw up a result oriented, longer term agenda to fight corruption. To this end, I offer Team Anna a primer on what we know about corruption--what works and what doesn’t--a sort of corruption fighter’s manual.

A strong Lokpal is a good idea but it should be lean and effective. Less is always more and the Lokpal will succeed if it does few things. Let it focus on the big fish and leave the smaller ones to Lok Ayuktas, Vigilance Commissions, and other agencies. The Lokpal should have the power to initiate a case without the government’s permission and its decisions should be binding. Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) has failed for these two reasons, and it too should be reformed by removing these two handicaps. The CVC should be answerable to the Lokpal but not be under it. Similarly, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should be answerable to the Lokpal, but not under it. All three—Lokpal, CVC, CBI—should be autonomous bodies. However, in CBI’s case, the “single directive” (which requires prior government permission before prosecuting senior officers) should not scrapped as suggested by the Supreme Court for it was paralyze decision making.

A lot depends on luck when it comes to who is the Lokpal. The Election Commission was a mediocre institution until the determined T.N. Seshan came along, and he was followed by another outstanding CEC, J.M. Lyngdoh. Karnataka’s Lok Ayukta has recently brought the state’s chief minister to his knees. One can help ‘luck’ by insisting on probity, toughness, will power, and courage when selecting a Lokpal.

While the Lokpal is needed medicine, it is administered long after the sickness appears. Hence, prevention is better than cure. To prevent corruption, we must reform our institutions of governance—the administration, police, judiciary, and elections. Since Indians confront the bureaucracy daily, it is the first priority. Corruption will be cut if decision making is transparent, discretion is reduced, rent seeking opportunities shrink, officers are punished for deliberate delay--the favoured tactic of a corrupt babu-- and punishment is guaranteed to the guilty.

But none of these administrative reforms will work unless the incentive system within the bureaucracy is changed from the present one based on seniority--where everyone gets promoted based on years of service--to rewarding good performance and punishing poor outcomes. The present assessment system is ineffective—you cannot have eight out of ten officers being rated as ‘very good’ or ‘outstanding’, especially when India’s bureaucracy is rated the worst among 13 countries in a survey by an independent firm in Hong Kong.

There are two types of corruption—harassment and collusive. In collusive corruption the bribe taker and giver collude—such as in the 2G scam—to steal money that belongs to the state, and both should be harshly punished. In harassment corruption, an official gives a citizen what his rightful due—a ration card or a birth certificate--only after he earns a bribe. The bribe giver is a victim here and should be encouraged to complain. This is why Kaushik Basu has suggested that a bribe-giver be given immunity to encourage him blow the whistle. The virtue of the Jan Lokpal draft is the strong protection advocated for victims of corruption. The government’s bill is superior in stipulating strong punishment for false complaints.

The Internet is our best friend in preventing harassment corruption because it brings transparency in transactions. We got our first taste when buying railway tickets and corrupt booking clerks have practically gone out of business. Placing land records on-line in Karnataka and Andhra has reduced the corrupt power of revenue officials. Those states which are using e-governance in giving birth and death certificates, ration cards, pension payments, driver license renewals have cut down on speed money. It should be mandatory for every government department to place its rules, procedures, and forms on its website. Cash transfers based on the Aadhaar smart cards will do much more to reduce the massive corruption that exists in delivering jobs, subsidised food and fuel, and other services to the poor.

Citizens Charters have been a flop so far but post-Anna some state governments, like Delhi, have decided to implement these and from September 15 officials will be fined Rs 10 to Rs 200 per day when they fail to deliver services to citizens on time. Five states have announced that they plan to follow suit.

Land is the biggest source of corruption because government decision making is deliberately opaque. Change of land use, municipal permissions, completion certificates, plus dozens of permissions result in massive collusive corruption. The amounts are even larger in awarding contracts for natural monopolies--mining, oil and gas, telecom spectrum—and the answer is open, transparent bidding (like an auction) under a firm regulator. Because most industrial and large real estate projects require environment clearance, the ‘licence raj’ had shifted to this ministry.

Ever since Indira Gandhi disallowed corporate donations, elections are now only fought with black money. Cleaning up electoral funding has to be a priority along with other electoral reforms such intra-party democracy and banning criminals from politics. Judicial and police reforms are crucial. The police cannot be a lackey of state chief ministers and has to be given autonomy as reform commissions have suggested. Given the growing cases of the misconduct of judges, the judicial appointments must come under a judicial commission comprising of non-judicial persons.

Finally, the most important lesson--keep the government small. A lean government tends to be more competent and less corrupt. Sensible governments no longer run industries, airlines, and hotels. Fewer controls and fewer licenses mean less corruption, as we have seen since 1991. Reforms are the best medicine against corruption.

17 comments:

Umesh Bawa said...

Jan lokpal bill..!!
Is this is what really needed to obscure corruption or permanently terminates its instilled terminals in the system?
Is MGNREGA is helping poor to yield a day's meal or two?
Is Closing of Mumbai Dance bars afe yielding money for private property holder or bar girls who were just briefing their body on their own wish and to just those people who entered the bar after buying a ticket. There is nobody making any allegation or seriously reporting any problem. But legislation do. So , do we can say that :
We are free, we are free to educate, free to hold property of own , free to move anywhere without any state paper to grab on.
So every kind of janlokpal bill is a serious NONSENSE. Need to be change to NEW CONSTITUTION. Made up of complete liberty. Killing of The State rule and its limitations to jurisdication. Invoilability to property and Free market operations would be the permanent features of Indian constitution. Only then we 'll called corruption free and freedom enjoying country. We need market democracy rather political democracy, which lot worst already.

Pratap Dhopte, Entreprenuer-in-making said...

I could not agree more with your complete recipe for removing corruption from society.

I have not understood one thing from your post. You say -

However, in CBI’s case, the “single directive” (which requires prior government permission before prosecuting senior officers) should not scrapped as suggested by the Supreme Court for it was paralyze decision making.

If the CBI has to be truly independent prosecuting agency should it not act when it finds problems without waiting for government permission? There is something here that I am not understanding. Please clarify.

Shanker Nair said...

The last paragraph gives us a gist of the entire article.

Indeed a unicameral system of government would be the way to go, like China for example. Instead of having control over everything, the idea would be to privatize !

I lived in Shanghai for 2 years, and though the bus system still belongs to the govt. most taxi's services are private there, like what is being done in Indian cities too, meaning, better service. I live in the USA, and it was a pleasure for me during my stay back home in Bangalore how the new taxi system worked. So, hope India goes towards those strategies, even if the government does not take a leap towards the lean or unicameral approach.

windwheel said...

'There are two types of corruption—harassment and collusive.'
Wrong! This is an ignorant misreading of Coase.
There are five meaningful types of enabling (good)corruption
1) that which, in effect gives property rights and bargaining solutions to a scarce resource even though the 'nomos' of the Culture considers it a 'free good'. This averts a tragedy of the Commons.
2) that which permits 'leakage' between market segmented for purposes of price, wage or service provision discrimination.
3) that which has dynamic benefits- e.g rent seeking costs arising out of protection of intellectual property or environmental standards
4) 'Corrupt' practices- e.g interdining or inter-marriage with 'unclean' 'Infidels'- which even if materially motivated- help Society defend itself.
5) Arguments from mechanism design- as the dual of game theoretic Social Choice- face a halting problem which Corruption overcomes. Talleyrand ran his Foreign Office entirely through bribes from France's enemies. But his foreign policy turned out to be optimal not just for France but Europe.

There are many errors in this piece of writing- much foolish ad captum vulgi sententiousness.


In collusive corruption the bribe taker and giver collude—such as in the 2G scam—to steal money that belongs to the state, and both should be harshly punished. In harassment corruption, an official gives a citizen what his rightful due—a ration card or a birth certificate--only after he earns a bribe. The bribe giver is a victim here and should be encouraged to complain.

windwheel said...

'In collusive corruption the bribe taker and giver collude—such as in the 2G scam—to steal money that belongs to the state'

This is bad law, bad economics and utterly intellectually indefensible save as senile pi jaw or shrill partisan polemics.

I challenge the author of this sentence to show that it is not either a trivial tautology or else the corollary of a Carl Schmittian 'Homo Sacer' type of Jurisprudence.

Shameful.

sandeepchilukuri said...

Another Wonderful article from Mr. Das. Mr. Das philosophy totally matches to Loksatta party from Andhra Pradesh. Thanks Mr. Das for such an wonderful article.

WWW.ChiCha.in said...

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ramesh kini said...

corruption is not desirable. but it has to continue for many more years. we require excellent planning before trying to make India corruption free. otherwise Indian democracy will collapse. has any one ever pondered, how significant corruption was for holding Indian democracy intact? how much more it will cost the country and also the citizens for enjoying the benefit of corruption free society.

the most corrupt dept. in my opinion is rto. in any state.
but if the police dont take bribe and allow the people for continuing with their work without interruption what is the fate of the people? how many vehicles are meeting the laid down fitness standard? what will happen to our factories? factory act, environment standards can any one meet? most of the factories will be required to be closed down because the legislation has many many loop
holes. not a single minister has the required qualification for holding is post and even understanding what legislation he is trying to pass?

who is our environment minister and what qualifications she has for holding the post. who is our petroleum minister and will he be able to answer the question why we have setup 150 million tone refining capacity when the country produces only 30 million tons of crude? why india cannot strive for producing enough crude oil? can oil prospecting can be left to private sector at the present juncture.

tehelka has been exposing eminent personalities for collection of party funds funds. but think about the country as on date without these dubious party funds. and then pointing a finger against other parties when they get caught?

if rto does not accept bribes getting your driving licence may cost you RS.35000 at the present petrol pric.

please use the available laws and get rid of all the pending cases in the law courts. set up thousands of courts and stop delaying justice. once people try to understand how significant the role of corruption in the country had been in the past
and decide what type of corruption
is desirable and not desirable then only any "PAL" can help us.

K.R.KINI

ramesh kini said...

corruption is not desirable. but it has to continue for many more years. we require excellent planning before trying to make India corruption free. otherwise Indian democracy will collapse. has any one ever pondered, how significant corruption was for holding Indian democracy intact? how much more it will cost the country and also the citizens for enjoying the benefit of corruption free society.

the most corrupt dept. in my opinion is rto. in any state.
but if the police dont take bribe and allow the people for continuing with their work without interruption what is the fate of the people? how many vehicles are meeting the laid down fitness standard? what will happen to our factories? factory act, environment standards can any one meet? most of the factories will be required to be closed down because the legislation has many many loop
holes. not a single minister has the required qualification for holding is post and even understanding what legislation he is trying to pass?

who is our environment minister and what qualifications she has for holding the post. who is our petroleum minister and will he be able to answer the question why we have setup 150 million tone refining capacity when the country produces only 30 million tons of crude? why india cannot strive for producing enough crude oil? can oil prospecting can be left to private sector at the present juncture.

tehelka has been exposing eminent personalities for collection of party funds funds. but think about the country as on date without these dubious party funds. and then pointing a finger against other parties when they get caught?

if rto does not accept bribes getting your driving licence may cost you RS.35000 at the present petrol pric.

please use the available laws and get rid of all the pending cases in the law courts. set up thousands of courts and stop delaying justice. once people try to understand how significant the role of corruption in the country had been in the past
and decide what type of corruption
is desirable and not desirable then only any "PAL" can help us.

K.R.KINI

ramesh kini said...

corruption is not desirable. but it has to continue for many more years. we require excellent planning before trying to make India corruption free. otherwise Indian democracy will collapse. has any one ever pondered, how significant corruption was for holding Indian democracy intact? how much more it will cost the country and also the citizens for enjoying the benefit of corruption free society.

the most corrupt dept. in my opinion is rto. in any state.
but if the police dont take bribe and allow the people for continuing with their work without interruption what is the fate of the people? how many vehicles are meeting the laid down fitness standard? what will happen to our factories? factory act, environment standards can any one meet? most of the factories will be required to be closed down because the legislation has many many loop
holes. not a single minister has the required qualification for holding is post and even understanding what legislation he is trying to pass?

who is our environment minister and what qualifications she has for holding the post. who is our petroleum minister and will he be able to answer the question why we have setup 150 million tone refining capacity when the country produces only 30 million tons of crude? why india cannot strive for producing enough crude oil? can oil prospecting can be left to private sector at the present juncture.

tehelka has been exposing eminent personalities for collection of party funds funds. but think about the country as on date without these dubious party funds. and then pointing a finger against other parties when they get caught?

if rto does not accept bribes getting your driving licence may cost you RS.35000 at the present petrol pric.

please use the available laws and get rid of all the pending cases in the law courts. set up thousands of courts and stop delaying justice. once people try to understand how significant the role of corruption in the country had been in the past
and decide what type of corruption
is desirable and not desirable then only any "PAL" can help us.

K.R.KINI

hindi songs mp3 said...

Nice post!!! I think Anna Hajare has done a wonderful job by raising voice against corruption, hope so this will stop corruption in our country. Thanks for the post.

love sms said...

Rhiagle in full over a year. Justice Santosh Hegde and Arvind Kejriwal's draft, the draft Bill, where a corrupt man found guilty of the complaint being made and their ill-gotten wealth are being seized in two years in jail have to envisage a system. This is the January Ombudsman seeks power without allowing the government to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats
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