The success of Jan Lokpal Bill
Published in Hindustan Times | August 16th
The lokpal bill is being seen as a panacea for the ills of our society. But it would be effective only if all facets of corruption are understood and addressed. Apart from the enforcement of any legislation, we must understand its preventive and educative aspects. At present, we are only stressing on the enforcement part of the Jan lokpal bill.
Having reviewed the experiences of other countries and their responses to corruption, I believe there is immense scope to further strengthen the lokpal bill’s proposed mandate. Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is a good example for India since both places face a similar problem.
ICAC was established in the mid-1970s when it came to light that senior police officer Peter Fitzroy Godber had got away after amassing over 4.3 million KKD. It wasn’t as if Hong Kong didn’t have an anti-corruption branch. But the branch was structurally incapable to lead the charge against the problem.
The emergence of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission is a more recent case. It can investigate and prosecute. Till date, it has had a 100% success rate in conviction that includes politicians and senior government officers.
The enforcement rate in China is also very high and punishment includes the death penalty. But there is only enforcement – with minimal effort at prevention or public education about corruption. As a result, public perception of corruption remains unchanged.
Singapore, on the other hand, has approached the issue more holistically. Blessed with a prime minister determined to rid Singapore of its ‘Sin Galore’ image, the country has its counter-corruption office directly under the PM. Solid systems of prevention, firm enforcement, public education on the dangers of corruption and the certainty of punishment have ensured that graft no longer threatens the fundamentals of its society.
The lesson from these countries is that success has been achieved when a three-tiered programme of enforcement, prevention and education is applied. At this stage, the Jan lokpal bill consists only of enforcement. Prevention comprises repairing the system and/or correcting certain processes. This requires a capacity to review systems and procedures through the lens of integrity to spot possible loopholes and reduce the potential for abuse. The ombudsman or the commission should be constantly looking for patterns of corruption. These patterns can be found in people’s complaints and should be used to check whether there are the bugs in the system (preventive measures) or if the problem lies with individuals (enforcement measures). Any institution set up to tackle corruption must be empowered to recommend improvements to systems and procedures.
Another element of successful counter-corruption strategies is education. It involves understanding corruption – defining what comes under the purview of corruption and what does not. People should also understand that they don’t have to engage in corruption to get what they want.
We must remember that corruption can’t be contained overnight. It is a complex socio-economic-cultural phenomenon. At the heart of corruption lies the disparity of power. So the solution to corruption lies in making our society more egalitarian in more ways than one. The Jan lokpal bill, then, is only a good beginning.
Naveen Jindal is a Member of Parliament.
The views expressed by the author are personal.