Role of Lokayukta in combating Corruption and Mal-administration and measures for strengthening these Institutions



Nowadays, corruption is internationally recognized as a major problem in society, one capable of endangering the stability and security of societies, threatening social, economic and political development and undermining the values of democracy and morality. International cooperation is indispensable to combat corruption and promote accountability, transparency and the rule of law.

In its widest connotation, corruption includes improper or selfish exercise of power and influence attached to a public office due to the special position one occupies in public life. The developing countries like India face this problem. Throughout the fabric of public life in the developing countries runs the scarlet thread of bribery and corruption.

Corruption hurts the public directly and tragically, particularly as it penalizes the honest and rewards the dishonest among them.

Corruption and mal-administration impose a great strain on democracy and we all know that corruption is the end product of a process of administration and is preceded by mal-administration.

To live in a society which pursues good governance practices is today a basic human right. The quality of an individual citizen's life is materially affected by both the decisions taken by government and the manner in which those decisions are implemented.

A just and civil society requires a system of government which whilst operating within the rule of law provides for a wider recognition of the need for accountability to citizens on whose behalf government undertakes its responsibility. The traditional role of Ombudsman provides an effective accountability mechanism, which is now in place in more than 100 countries. The role of Lokayukta is necessary in providing a mechanism which can balance the fundamental requirement that governments must be able to govern but with appropriate accountability
"Good Government"-- is expected to contain a number of key components: political legitimacy for the state through democratic elections and transfer of power, and an effective political opposition and representative government; accountability through transparency and the provision of information; separation of powers; effective internal and external audit; effective means of combating corruption and nepotism; official competency, such as trained public servants; realistic policies and low defence expenditure; human right as indicated by freedom of religion and movement; impartial and accessible criminal justice systems; and the absence of arbitrary government power. Good government is also seen as an essential condition toward the wider goal of good governance. Described as the "use of political authority and the exercise of control over society and the management of its resources for social and economic development", good governance encompasses the "nature of functioning of a state's institutional and structural arrangements, decision-making processes, policy formulation, implementation capacity, information flows, effectiveness of leadership, and the nature of the relationship between rules and the ruled".

Those who have tried to live as moral men in an immoral society have generally given way, sooner or later, under agonizing pressures of legitimate ambition which can only be achieved through illegitimate means- the pressure from family obligations, the slow insidious pressures of a society in which material success is adulated and where material failure is ruthlessly mocked, the pressure of increasing defeatism, or realization that public opinion stigmatizes the transgressor so lightly, and that so little seems to be gained by trying to swim against the tide.
In view of the cumbersome and curious procedures and practices in the Government departments the anxiety on the part of the common man to avoid delay has encouraged practice of paying speed money. This has become a fairly common type of corrupt practice particularly in matters relating to the grant of licensees and permits. Very often the bribe giver does not wish to get anything done unlawfully, but just wants to speed up the movement of files and communications from department to department. Certain sections of the staff have got into the habit of not doing anything in the matter till they are suitably rewarded.

Besides being a most objectionable corrupt practice, this custom of 'speed money' has become one of the most serious cause of delay and inefficiency and no work culture. Deliberate delay in the movement of papers by petty officers in Government offices in the hope of collecting 'speed money' is one way of frustrating honest citizens.

Frequently enough the dishonest contractors and suppliers who, having obtained the contract by undercutting, want to deliver inferior goods or get the approval for sub-standard work, and for this purpose are prepared to spend a portion of their ill-earned profits. Tax evasion, malpractices in the share market and in the administration of companies, monopolistic controls, under invoicing or over- invoicing, hoarding, profiteering, sub-standard performance of contracts of constructions and supplies, evasion of economic laws, bribe, election offences, malpractices, are some examples of white collar crime. Behind this sordid picture of conditions is a fine network of details about the techniques adopted in the process of corruption. while small people might give bribes to get small favours there are large contractors and other anti-social sharks who consciously follow corrupt practices to further their greedy designs.
Thus the honest taxpayers pay their legitimate dues, pay the extra taxes to make up for the tax-evader, and also pay interest on tax-evader's investment in loans. It amounts to penalizing honesty and rewarding dishonesty.

There is yet another temptation to which some officials succumb, namely, to use their public office as a means of making money in an allied private business in which they are engaged. Doctrinaire attempts to regulate public morals is yet another root of corruption. Prohibition is one source which provides the police with immense opportunity for corruption. The more the laws the greater the opportunities for making easy money.

A second set of social cause of corruption can broadly be described as lack of personal virture or a sense of morality. Corruption is a consequence of the way of life of our acquisitive society, where people are judged by what they have rather than what they are. The possession of material goods seems to have become the sine qua non of life. There inevitably results a scramble for acquisition of glittering prizes, irrespective of the means adopted. The lack of vigilance by the people has also contributed to the growth of corruption.

The best means to combat corruption, even in terms of the cost for society, is prevention. Effective prevention can thus reduce the extent and the costs of penal action.

Public awareness and tolerance and the effective role of the mass media would be of great help. The role of the mass media in uncovering corruption cases and in building anti-corruption awareness is important for both the prevention and the investigation and control of corruption.
Good governance cannot be said to be the exercise of power without accountability. The exercise of power should never be absolute in any system, that will lead inevitably to corruption. What is needed is balance between the ability to govern effectively and the processes by which those who govern are held to account. Good governance requires having confidence in the system by which we are governed and trust in those to whom as individual citizens we delegate through the ballot box the responsibilities and burdens of governing.

The unlimited, unbridled and unchannelized powers exercised by political leaders in democrative setup as Heads of the department is also responsible to a very great extent for mal-administration and corruption. The said powers should be curtailed and political intervention be reduced in public administration.

The so called red tapeism in bureaucracy requires proper tapering. The rules and procedure of administration should be simplified and made transparent. The administrative processes in all matters in which citizens are directly involved should be simplified and classified.

The most important element in combating corruption is effective and speedy punishment. The judicial system has failed and we will have to think alternative method by which the effective punishment could be achieved. It has been realized that the departments are slow in efficiency or with the desire to protect corrupt officials in going slow in departmental action.

In this information age where information is so readily available to, and shared with the world, we may be witnessing growing pressure upon the historical contract between a nation state and its citizens, particularly in countries with democratic traditions or moving towards democratisation.

Increasing accessibility to information and at greater speed, coupled with a powerful and free news media, is extending the expectation of what that historical contract entails. The power relationship in most states- the power balance between governor and governed- is perceived to be shifting dramatically away from those seeking to wield authority in the name of the state and in favour of the individual citizen.

Codes of ethics and integrity testing are of great importance in developing a civic sense of respect for institutions and human rights. Procedures for auditing by independent internal as well as external bodies is of paramount importance in preventing corruption. The prime need is a common standard of morality- by for the most important corruptive.

Re-organization of vigilance departments is required. This department is mainly intended to investigate and punish corruption and the misuse of authority by individual members of the services under the Government. However, there is no organic relation between the Administration vigilance Division and the Vigilance Officers of various departments.

The press has played a significant role in uncovering the cause of corruption and in mobilizing public opinion against such practices. Elsewhere too, it has done a great deal to publicize cases of proved corruption or allegation of corruption. But it has not played its legitimate role of probing administration.

Voluntary organizations in this country have not yet come into the field of helping people with their complaints. We have to mobilize ultimately public opinion and public involvement in the fight against corruption. That is where the NGOs can play an effective role. The NGOs should take each department and find out that what are the rules and regulations which breed corruption and come up with the suggestion.

Mal-administration is root cause of every wrong in governance. There appearance to be no justification why even routine matters are not disposed of especially when, there is no consideration of any discrimination or any legal impediment involved.

Providing channels for ventilation of grievances is bound to have a very sobering effect on an erratic administration. It lies with the public, which should be prepared to put up a stiff fight against it. For every corrupt official, there are hundreds of members of the public wanting to make use of him and to feed him. A society that does not attach any stigma to the corrupt man can hardly be rid of such ignoble men.

Ombudsman throughout the world, by whatever name they are described, have established themselves as an effective instrument of public accountability. We can be proud of the part we and our predecessors have had in meeting that purpose and should endeavour to make this authority more meaningful and effective.

Effectiveness of Lokayukta is related to his primary objective: to ensure that the constitutional state is maintained, that public authorities respect citizens' rights and laws and that administrative problems are corrected (eliminate formalities, reduce delays, revise discretionary decision-making processes….). Consequently, this mission is divided in to two parts: monitoring and correcting, if necessary, public authorities' behaviour. This is why the Lokayuktas effectiveness, or his success in getting his recommendations implemented by public authorities, relies on his ability to make public authorities accept and understand his recommendations. His purpose is to resolve conflicts, which he must make public authorities aware of. This is why he ensures that public authorities are aware of his intervention criteria, the general scale according to which he evaluates the government's administrative behaviour. He makes his general intervention policies public, the population, public authorities and media are better able to understand the rationale for any possible recommendations that he could make in a case under his scrutiny, no matter the nature of the investigation.

Suggestions which would go long way in achieving the said goal.
1. Public awareness
2. Media /press play significant role in covering the cases of corruption and in mobilizing public opinion against such practices as also creates awareness for preventive measures.
3. Deterrent, effective and speedy punishment.
4. Re-organization of vigilance departments and to be attached with Lokayukta organization.
5. Empowering public through transparency in administration.
6. Accountability-speedy fixation of
7. Reducing political intervention in public administration
8. Mechanization of offices- Computerization and Automating of procedures to provide citizen related information as also eliminate opportunities of corruption.
9. Public officials- disclosures of assets, liabilities and income returns.
10. Mobilize public opinion and public involvement and NGOs may play a vital role.
11. Simplification of rules and Procedures.
12. Simplifying and classifying of administrative procedure in all matters in which citizens are directly involved.
13. Enacting and freedom of information law.
14. Identical powers and functioning of Lokayuktas in all states.

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