New Delhi: India would do well to grant autonomy to more constitutional offices such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) or the still to be created Lokpal, says Comptroller & Auditor General Vinod Rai.
Rai's office enjoys this autonomy since his appointment is for a six-year fixed term and he can only be removed through a complicated impeachment process. Also, after he demits office, he is barred from holding any post in government. It is perhaps this immunity from sacking which has enabled Rai to take on some of the most powerful politicians and corporate houses through his audit reports in recent times.
Speaking at a session titled 'Inclusive governance: Enabling capability, disabling resistance' at the World Economic Forum session this morning, Rai said just like his office, others such as the CBI and CVC should also be autonomous so that corruption is eliminated and inclusive growth is provided to the country's masses.
He did not spare corporate houses and individuals either. He advocated more transparency for corporate houses, saying there should be an independent regulator to oversee the corporate sector. Rai also made another interesting point: why do we leave it solely to the government to bring probity and transparency into the system instead of taking some of the onus on ourselves also?
"We must keep the waters around us clean and by that I don't mean to emphasise on only cleanliness. Some simple steps would eliminate corruption in the system to a large extent. For example, if the registration of property sold or bought is done at actual prices instead of just 30-40 percent of these prices, it will be a huge step," Rai said.
He also blamed a silent majority of Indians, who, till now, were silent over corruption and only now are they beginning to assert themselves over this issue. But what about the idea of checking corporate houses also more thoroughly?
Kris Gopalakrishnan, Executive co-Chairman of Infosys, said corporates were slowly getting to address the malaise of corruption but there are already many checks and balances in place for corporates: independent directors on their boards, independent auditors and institutions like Sebi. "What we don't need is another regulator but we need to ensure that these institutions already in place need to function and be active".
Rajat Nag, Managing Director General of the Asian Development Bank, said the single most effective method to bring inclusive growth and eliminate corruption (and middlemen) is by increasing e-governance initiatives. But he advocated stealthy implementation of e-Governance saying speaking too much about such initiatives well in advance defeats their purpose.
Ramesh Ramanathan, anti-corruption crusader and founder of the website 'ipaidabribe.com' said that now, when corruption is being debated and argued about like never before in the media and other public fora, it is an exciting time for India - as exciting as when the economic reforms were happening in 1991 and citizens felt a part of the entire process.
But he cautioned that lack of inclusive growth and rampant corruption are complex problems that don't have simple or single solutions. "We are not an either-or country but a country of 'ands'. We need to address these issues at multiple levels."
The participants in this discussion had some words of praise for the government too: its rural employment guarantee scheme, its rural health programme and the RTI Act. But Rai said though these schemes are architectured very well, as usual the implementation is filled with lacunae.
Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director of Gateway House India, made a strong pitch for an independent media which does its own independent investigation into irregularities without having to pander to corporate interests. "We need media which is not owned by corporate houses, which is not for profit". She also lamented the lack of enough opportunities in India for its youth to learn public policy implementation even through university courses.
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