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Transparency International report calls for electoral reform and transparent political funding in India

Access to information is critical to enable the press and the public to monitor the public sector, says TI report, launched alongside new TI Corruption Perceptions Index, showing rampant corruption in 60 countries

"Corruption in politics is the biggest challenge to improving India’s anti-corruption record,” said (retired) Admiral R.H. Tahiliani, Chairman of Transparency International India, today. According to a new report published today by Transparency International (TI), India’s politicians have attempted to frustrate the ideals of the Constitution, subvert the rule of law, find and exploit loopholes in the system, and use political power to keep the executive subordinate.

“No one must be above the law,” said Tahiliani. “We therefore applaud the commitment of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring his own office under the purview of the Lokpal or Ombudsman law, which he said his government would bring forward without delay.” TI India is the national chapter of Transparency International (TI), the leading non-governmental organisation devoted to fighting corruption worldwide.

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report India 2003, which was made possible with the funding of the UK Government's Department for International Development, identifies a number of priority areas for reform, including the urgent introduction of the Lokpal and the strengthening of its state level equivalent, the Lokayukta.

“On the positive side, India’s political and administrative institutions are strong and independent," states the report, published today. Civil society organisations in India have “sought and succeeded in securing transparency in the electoral process through the declaration of the background of candidates pertaining to education, criminal record, and financial assets and liabilities,” states the report. In addition, say the authors, civil society action has “been successful in getting a Supreme Court decision on denying the immunity to members of the legislature for corrupt practice committed in connection with voting in the House.”

However, the report points to the need for reforms. First, electoral reforms are necessary “to keep away the criminal elements from accessing the system of power”. Second, the political party system is required to be transparent, democratic, and ethical. The report goes on to state that political party funds must be open to scrutiny of audit, and members of the legislature must be prevented, by law, from changing allegiance from one party to another “for the sake of deriving ministerial benefits”.

The authors argue that “the judiciary must be made more effective by providing more resources in terms of manpower, provision of technology, and financial autonomy for securing quicker justice”. In order to take more stringent and effective action against the corrupt, there is a “need for legislation on the forfeiture of assets acquired through corrupt means”. Finally, the report’s authors call for the enactment of the Financial Responsibility Bill to provide for fiscal austerity, as proposed by the Planning Commission, and of a Right to Information Bill for the whole country.

“Access to information is essential both for the media and citizens to exercise an effective monitoring role,” said Tahiliani today. “Whistleblowers must be encouraged and protected, and citizens’ charters must be mandatory for departments dealing with the public so that members of the public know their rights.”

Enforcement agencies, notably the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation, need to be given more extensive powers and independence, according to the report: “The jurisdiction of the Central Bureau of Investigation needs to be extended to the whole country and not be dependent upon the approval of the state government.”

In the TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2004, published today, India scores 2.8 against a clear score of 10, indicating persistent high levels of corruption. Speaking in London today, TI Chairman Peter Eigen said: “Corruption in large-scale public projects is a daunting obstacle to sustainable development, and results in a major loss of public funds needed for education, healthcare and poverty alleviation, both in developed and developing countries.”

TI estimates that the amount lost due to bribery in government procurement is at least US$ 400 billion per year worldwide. “If we hope to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, governments need to seriously tackle corruption in public contracting,” said Eigen.

A total of 106 out of 146 countries score less than 5 against a clean score of 10, according to the new index. Sixty countries score less than 3 out of 10, indicating rampant corruption. Corruption is perceived to be most acute in Bangladesh, Haiti, Nigeria, Chad, Myanmar, Azerbaijan and Paraguay, all of which have a score of less than 2.

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report India 2003 was authored by Professor Randhir B. Jain, National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, and P.S. Bawa, retired Director General of Police. The report was prepared under the auspices of a programme developed by the Transparency International Secretariat together with Professor Alan Doig and Stephanie McIvor of the Teesside Business School. It is the latest in a series of TI country study reports on national integrity systems.

The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report India 2003 and other country study reports can be downloaded at: http://www.transparency.org/


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