Intro: Corruption cannot be controlled by the officials who are mostly beneficiaries of corruption. The way forward is to restrict the ambit of privacy and place all papers of government servant’s appointment, promotion, performance and wealth on the web so that they are subjected to true public scrutiny.
Assets of about Rs 1,000 crore have been traced to Chief Engineer of Noida Authority Yadav Singh. Noida Authority had acquired large tracts of land from farmers to establish this new city near Delhi in UP. Modus operandi of Yadav Singh was to allot land from Noida Authority to his own companies at throwaway prices and then sell them at market rates. He also gave away large numbers of contracts to builders and collected thirty per cent commission from them. Apparently he has parked most of his wealth in the name of his wife. It appears he has “divorced” his wife on papers so as to officially de-link himself from the wealth amassed in her name. I do not think this will help. His wife will be hard pressed to disclose the source of her wealth and the pointer will ultimately turn to Yadav Singh.
It is clear that the corrupt ways of Yadav Singh were well known not only to the highest officials of Noida Authority but to the Chief Minister as well. Mayawati had given him charge of all infrastructure works in Noida despite charges of corruption against him. Akhilesh Yadav had suspended him in June 2012 but not only reinstated him a few months later but also gave him charge of Chief Project Officer of Yamuna Expressway Authority. It is obvious that a “deal” had been struck at the highest level. The Chairman and CEO of the Noida Authority knew about the corrupt ways of Yadav Singh but chose to look the other way in view of instructions from the top. Therefore, instead of focusing on the corrupt activities of Yadav Singh; it is more important to restructure the system so that such
corruption is exposed in the
The Chief Ministers are much concerned about their “image” that has a significant bearing on the way people vote. Voters are also increasingly becoming conscious and more number of activists are willing to take on the corrupt. The way forward, therefore, is to set-up systems that enable the voters to scrutinise the workings of the Government and raise hue and cry when corruption takes place. It is futile to expect the politicians to take a proactive stance against corruption since they are beneficiaries of the game. The way forward is to put in place systems that provide information to the voters such that the corrupt ways of the coterie is exposed. Internet can help much in this.
The mischief begins with the appointment of corrupt officials to powerful positions. It must be made mandatory to place complete records of all appointments and promotions on the web. The information may consist of resume of all candidates; names of in-house officials who were eligible but did not apply; names of the members of the Committee that scrutinised the applications and made selection; copy of the ranking sheet in which tells the numbers allotted to all candidates on various criterion; etc. The selection should be followed by a period of 15 days in which the records of the selection process are placed on the website and comments invited from the public. The Committee should sit again, scrutinise the comments received and give its response to the same. Indeed the politicians can override the inputs but this will reflect badly on their “image,” therefore, I think there will be less chance of a corrupt person being appointed to high position. Remember, those who are not selected will scrutinise these documents in detail and inform the public.
The Fifth Pay Commission had recommended that external evaluation of the work of Class “A” officials should be noted every five years. Need is to go a step farther. The performance of the officials should be evaluated by the public. We the teachers at the IIM are evaluated by the students at the end of the semester. Government officials must similarly be evaluated by the consumers. A “Government Officials’ Evaluation Organisation” should be established along the lines of Central Vigilance Commission. This organization should secretly evaluate the performance of the Class “A” officials by conducting surveys, sending confidential questionnaires to “consumers” of that service. For example, questionnaires can be sent by post to 1,000 consumers of electricity in a Electricity Distribution Division seeking their comments on the performance of the Executive and Superinten-ding Engineers. The responses will certainly identify the corrupt. Results of the survey should be put on the website.
The importance of corruption in the appointment process is brought out by an example. Santosh Mamgain of Society for Revolution Against Corruption had filed an RTI request for providing information regarding the selection process for appointments to the National Institute of Technology, Uttarakhand. He sent a RTI request to provide (1) Number of marks obtained by each candidate in written test; (2) Ranking of candidates as per written test; (3) Numbers secured in interview by the candidates; and (4) Final ranking according to which the selection was made. NIT refused to provide the information. Central Information Commission confirmed the order of NIT. Now the matter is before the High Court. The fact that authorities refuse to provide information about the selection process tells of the fear of public scrutiny. This problem can be managed by making a law requiring such disclosure; and more, importantly, soliciting people’s input on the candidates.
The same approach should be applied to all tenders especially those involving sale of land. All the applications, evaluations, rankings and basis of selection should be thrown open to public scrutiny. Such disclosure will enable the public to raise hue and cry on the adoption of corrupt practices. The Noida Authority has reduced the threshold for e-tendering from Rs 2 crore to Rs 50 lakh as a reaction to the Yadav Singh episode. Why not every tender be got done through e-tendering? Corruption cannot be controlled by the officials who are mostly beneficiaries of corruption. The way forward is to restrict the ambit of privacy of government servants and place all papers relating to their appointment, promotion, performance and wealth on the web so that they are subjected to true public scrutiny.
Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala (The writer is a former Professor of Economics at IIM Bengaluru)