Corruption in Mumbai

Corruption in India, as a symptom of misgovernance, exists in various forms. There are many ways to temporarily stop it, the two main ones being:

  1. Improving law enforcement, sentencing and punishment/correction via the home ministry and the judiciary; and/or
  2. Improving transparency in the taxation regime and tax compliance through reform of the finance ministries at the center and the state.

Neither of these functions has had much impact on current corruption. The imbalance of power between the haves and the have-nots has led to increased misgovernance. Overlapping laws should be reduced and simplified to a manageable and publicly understood size. Parliament and state legislatures should have no items under the concurrent list with instead all items under the state list or the central list so that problems of jurisdiction do not occur.

One duty of legislatures is to incrementally simplify and rationalise laws in such a way that they can be easily and universally understood and efficiently implemented. This can only happen when the legislature sets targets and the people monitor its output or lack of output in this direction.Problems faced in reporting corruption

  • Lack of awareness about the fight against corruption in a regular manner.
  • Lack of convenience — Until recently there was no easy way of reporting petty corruption, such as a website or a voice recording machine. This has been partly rectified via internet sites such as Praja (municipal problems) or Reporting corruption to the anti corruption bureau But these sites are insufficiently publicized. The number 1090 for Convenient interaction with the Police, 1916 for municipal complaints and 22633333 for Crimefighting complaints also need greater publicity.
  • Procedures are cumbersome and exhausting.
  • Money is locked up. Time and energy put in by the complainant are not considered at all. The complainant is often treated very poorly and his turning hostile later is conveniently reported against him, even if the fault lies with the authorities in maintaining an unfriendly system.
  • Poor logistical reach and infrastructure of the Anti-Corruption organisations.
  • Poor track record of the Anti Corruption Bureau and lack of faith in the government.
  • Anonymous reports are always discarded.
  • Report by email or fax is not considered as proof.
  • Poor media image and poor perception by word of mouth.
  • There is no whistle blower protection or institutionalised support by the state for complainants within the government or in sensitive cases.

Problems faced in tackling corruption in Mumbai

  • Issues of misconduct leading to corruption are not tackled at all. There is no dedicated internet site like [1] for all citizen charters. However, the central government [2] does have a website for citizen charters.
  • Lack of a common measurement system . There is no common center for recording number of departmental enquiries and action taken in cases of harassment or for citizen feedback. There is no equivalent site like the central website link at the [3] Ministry of personnel, public grievances, administrative reforms and pensions for reporting complaints centrally which can act as a one stop shop for recording and measuring government efficiency and improvement.
  • As of November 10, 2005 there was no political will for tackling corruption at higher levels of the government, for example implementing some of the recommendations of the National Police Commission Report.
  • The key ministry dealing with corruption and misgovernance is the state Home Ministry headed by the Home Minister and the Home Secretary. This key organisation deals with all crime in the state, but does not have a proper website as of Nov. 10, 2005. The website does not have any mechanism to see list of departments under it, the citizens charters of those organisations, how to complain and how to follow up the complaint. It does not have any statistics for measuring its own performance. Tenure of the Home Secretary and other key officials is not fixed, but rather ad hoc. Certain officials rotate through the same departments and the same locations for extended periods and have developed into roadblocks to reform.
  • The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) of the state government is not an independent statutory body but comes under the state Home Minister and senior bureaucrats. This makes it difficult for the ACB to take action against its superiors in cases of corruption at higher levels. There is no statutory state vigilance commission, which should be the role given to the ACB as is the case for the Central Vigilance Commission at the federal level.

Internal Problems of the ACB

    • Appointments are ad hoc and incompetent officers are shunted here.
    • Tenure of the ACB director and other officials is not fixed.
    • A posting to the ACB is considered as a punishment posting, as it is a deliberately crippled organisation. It is kept under staffed. It has very few computers, vehicles or other resources such as communication facilities with the field offices or personnel on the move. The Mumbai office is the only office which is somewhat adequate. Consequently, nobody wants to be posted outside Mumbai.
    • There is only one assistant public prosecutor attached to the entire ACB for the whole state of Maharashtra. One legal officer cannot take the burden of representing the organisation properly in courts.
    • Legal training is weak for the officials and the clerical/constabulary staff who are posted on an ad hoc basis to the ACB.
    • The fight against corruption needs a dedicated cadre of personnel with special skills, particularly for white collar corruption which is increasing.
    • The ACB has only one field office location for the whole of Mumbai, which has a population almost equal to that of Australia (approximately 16 million)
    • The outdated Indian Evidence Act hampers new methods of collecting evidence, and new technologies such as microphones and CCD cameras are nonexistent.
    • The track record of the ACB is very poor. The conviction rate less than 10% of the cases filed. Only 400 to 500 cases are filed annually, although many cases are unreported or not investigated in a population of 6 crore plus and rampant corruption.
    • In the case of traps set by the ACB to catch corruption red-handed, bribe money gets locked up in court procedures and the victim of corruption is unduly harassed, especially when he is poor. A change of procedures, by producing the bribe amount as evidence in front of any magistrate within 5 days of the detection of the act of corruption (trap), will lead to less harassment of the general public and higher cooperation from complainants. After recording the evidence, the magistrate’s record should be accepted by the court in subsequent hearings and the money returned to the complainant immediately. A complainant’s time and energy are not taken into consideration while fighting corruption. The fight against corruption needs to be made citizen centric instead of government centric as at present or the state should pay the complainant a daily equivalent amount to that which he loses due to delay by the state authorities after the case starts.
    • Statistics on all cases cannot be maintained due to a lack of a single authority for this purpose. Cases relating to departmental misconduct in various state government undertakings and organisations should also be reported in the filing system of the ACB so that corruption and action taken can be measured. Only proper measurement will lead to a better analysis of the problem and help the war against corruption.
    • The ACB website does not have a convenient way to check the status of a complaint by a complainant or visitor. Additionally, a complainant cannot be automatically informed through an email alert, an SMS message or a voice recording in case the complainant is required to appear for a hearing or any other official matter. On the CVC website one can check the status of a complaint.
    • Profiles of key officials of the ACB are not available on the website, unlike at the CVC website.
    • We have never heard of action being taken against corrupt ACB officials themselves who have diluted cases leading to the ACB’s own poor performance record.

External problems of the ACB

    • The ACB does not have any control over the internal vigilance officers of various state government undertakings, who are in some cases of the same seniority or senior to the ACB director. There is no way to access a current civil list of all the vigilance officers of the state at one place and know how many of these crucial posts are vacant. Though there is an updated list of Vigilance officers of the central organisations at the CVC site.
    • The public prosecutor’s office, which also comes under the State Home Ministry, does not cover special cases of high profile corruption. There is no provision for the ACB to have a special prosecutor for high profile cases, such as in the US.
    • The ACB needs to seek permission to prosecute any higher official from the state government, which is not easily forthcoming or is generally never given, which destroys the case totally.
    • The Anti Corruption Bureau and the Central Bureau of Investigation do not coordinate properly and their functions are little known. The local CBI office contact details are not shown on the ACB’s website, nor can CBI be conveniently contacted. The ACB also does not have any links with the state CID.
    • The state income tax deptt and the audit department of do not work with the ACB. The ACB has yet to have a dedicated arm for investigating cases of disproportionate assets. There is no formal linkup with the federal Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), which comes under the union finance ministry.
    • No action is taken on the reports of the state audit department and its reports are not easily accessible. The audit department is not a statutory body, and its findings are not acted upon since the ACB lacks the legal sanction to go deeper into the matter of wastage of public monies, as found by its own the auditor’s reports. If the ACB was a statutory body, it would have this freedom of action.
    • There is no computerised database which is accessible to the officers of the ACB for tracking benami properties and money laundering cases. For tracking financial transactions, the ACB has to depend on the state Home Ministry’s police wing for white collar crimes, which is known as the economic offences wing but is also seriously hampered. The federal income tax department and the DRI are not linked to the ACB. Nor is the state sales tax and excise department, via the state finance ministry, linked to the ACB for investigating disproportionate assets.

Other bodies besides the ACB

  • The Lok Ayukta is supposed to tackle the aspect of political and higher level corruption, but also has a poor track record. Additionally, it lacks good linkages with the ACB or the state CID.
    • There are structural problems with getting sanction for prosecution of MLAs/MLCs from the Speaker of the Legislature.
    • The Lok Ayukta’s Powers Act, and similar laws are not well known
    • There is no website yet for the Lok Ayukta. Although an email address exists, is not an official address.
  • The State Chief Information Commissioner’s website has yet to become functional.
  • Other bodies, like the following enforcers, have no coordination with each other or the ACB and are deliberately kept weakened.
    • State High Court
    • State Administrative Tribunal
    • State Human Rights Commission
    • State Election Commission
    • State Information Commission
    • State Directorate General of Auditing or State Auditor General
    • State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission – no website yet
  • The media is not free, although appearances are maintained. Many media organisations are controlled, to varying degrees, by the state and key politicians. Control is kept by employing a carrot and stick policy. Issues and solutions are deliberately frustrated from gaining momentum to usher in positive change through selective editing. Disinformation is rampant. Public monies are deliberately channeled to crony media organisations in very subtle ways.

Procedural Issues

  • The system of checks and balances in the Indian constitution is not known to officials or the public.
  • The list of Acts to combat corruption is not widely known.
  • Internet and email are not encouraged to save time and energy, either within government bodies at higher levels, or between citizens and government.
  • Open-source software is being deliberately sidelined in ongoing computerisation and there is very little e-governance. Hence, e-governance initiatives are mostly shams or being implemented at huge costs.
  • Reports of committees and commissions of enquiry are still not accessible in a convenient manner, such as the internet. A few have been posted such as the Sawant Commission report
  • The procedure for appointment of key officials of the agencies involved in the fight against corruption needs to be made more transparent to curb political interference.
  • The ordinance for controlling political interference in transfers of officials has not been made into an Act, despite being promised since 1999 or before.
  • Structural reforms –The city does not have an executive mayoral form of civic government, which leads to many problems and multiplicity of authorities . The executive ward committees in the municipal government are non-transparent, and as a result decentralisation of the government continues to be discussed, however power is still controlled by a few key executive ministers and secretaries at the state level.
  • Chairpersonsship of government-sponsored organisations and committees continue to grow.
  • Ad hoc-ism prevails in setting up unnecessary new organisations and government bodies.
  • Instead of tackling and improving existing schemes, buildings, organisations, etc., public money is being wasted on new schemes and populist measures.
  • Every political functionary and civil servant corners extra privileges such as chauffeur driven cars and unlimited mileage and other perks.
  • Financial laws and rules need to be simplified to reduce harassment.
  • Selective implementation and interpretation of laws is rampant, and checks and balances have been weakened due to disinformation and the breakdown of communications.
  • The constitutional framework, laws, rules and procedures are deliberately kept vast and vague to continue the present situation.
  • Financial deficits have continued to increase year by year.
  • Crony capitalism prevails through various modified licence raj schemes.
  • People have yet to correlate the size of the government with the costs of maintaining such a government. The government is top-heavy and needs to be reduced in size.
  • Human resource development policy does not exist in the government — no incentive or appreciation is given to those who do good work, nor is any punishment given for poor work. There are no 5-year or 3-year contracts. It is deliberately difficult to prune the organisations. The perception is that nothing can be changed under the existing personnel rules. Therefore, the personnel rules themselves need to be made coherent.

Reasons for hope

  • The movement for Right To Information (RTI) is gaining ground with the passage of the National RTI Act.
  • New, more powerful and better media organisations continue to enter the area, improving the communication problems and the disinformation of earlier periods.
  • Dissatisfaction continues to grow, and more people realise what is wrong and how it can be tackled or improved.
  • The new ACB website is a good beginning and has been well-made, although it has a few drawbacks, as mentioned above.
  • More people are becoming aware, through the use of the internet, about possible solutions. Awareness is likely to grow, which will lead to increased pressure for implementing correct solutions.
  • Justice PB Sawant’s report on a corruption allegation involving 3 ministers and a noted social worker has been published at: Sawant Commission Report.
  • The Maharashtra Government website is now becoming a little more user friendly through increased posting and access to information.
  • Other departments and undertakings are developing their own websites, which are slowly being improved.
  • The public is finally able to interact and act conveniently via the websites, weblogs and Yahoo groups. The number of people interacting on governance and corruption issues is increasing, and debates are getting more solution oriented.

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