CVC K.V. Chowdary says the graft watchdog is working on an ‘integrity index’ for government departments to check corruption.
Central Vigilance Commissioner K.V. Chowdary says that corruption is on the decline under the NDA government. He says the graft watchdog is working on an ‘integrity index’ for government departments to check corruption. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Associate Editor Kumar Anshuman:
Has the CVC put a lot of emphasis on preventive measures to check corruption?
We have been trying to create more preventive measures in the past two years. Right now, it is more of a complaint-driven activity. We have asked CVOs in each department to see if there are laid down procedures and whether they are fully complied with or not. The number of complains would definitely come down if organisations start following the standard procedures properly.
How has been the response so far?
Some organisations have done very good work. For instance, in the coal sector, a number of trucks were found to be taking a detour after leaving the mines to offload a portion of the coal they were carrying. This was a huge challenge and the department knew it was happening but they couldn’t do anything. In the past two years, GPS-enabled RFID tags helped curb this practice completely.
Similarly, in the banking sector, verification of documents is a huge challenge. We asked the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to provide us a list of its members and life members with their address and contact details. This would help us carry out a quick fact-check whenever a person submits a document attested by a CA.
Do you think the system of internal inspections helps curb graft?
The practice of preliminary inspections by senior officers or their subordinates, a colonial era practice, had been almost done away with. Officers were reluctant to do it citing a shortage of staff. There was less than 30 per cent compliance in case of inspection by seniors. Then, we advised all the departments to conduct this exercise regularly and I can say that within a year or so, now there is 60 per cent of compliance with this rule.
During demonetisation, a number of complaints came up against bank employees? Can you give some details on that?
Complaints started pouring in from the first day onward. Banks had put their inspection teams on duty. Some cases of aberration have been reported in certain banks during and after the demonetisation exercise. Some bank officials were sacked as well. We received 40-50 complaints and initiated probe into them.
Do you really think that corruption has come down under the NDA government?
Corruption has come down in the past three years. Public perception is one thing. By and large, there has not been any major incident in the past three years. There are some cases involving individuals though. The speed of disposal of vigilance cases has also improved. Earlier, it would take ages to complete a case.
Another aspect is that there is a sense of fear among officials that the government won’t tolerate if someone is caught for graft. And this has also contributed to the overall perception that corruption is on the decline.
Does it apply to corruption at the state level as well?
State governments are competing with each other to attract investment. Everybody is trying to simplify their rules and makes it easier for the people to come and do business.
I cannot say there is no corruption in the states. But with simplification of processes, I feel there is a downward trend in corruption. It is difficult to quantify it though. The transaction-based corruption or speed money, something like bribing officials to clear your files, has come down.
Is there any plan to create a corruption index for government departments?
We are working on an ‘integrity index’. It is like an assessment of what you say and what you do. We are starting it this year with 25 departments and we will release it by October-end. From next year, we are planning to include all the government departments under CVC.