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Towards Improving Governance
SK Agarwal, Vice Chairman  Transparency International India  01/01/2011 12:29:32 AM

According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index-2009, India continues to be one of the most corrupt countries. With little change in its Integrity Score of 3.4 (as in 2008) out of 10, India ranked 84th out of 180 countries in 2009. Improving Governance is a part of development process. It needs the ‘Right to be Heard and Consumer Education’, i.e., educating the consumer about his rights. 
The right to good governance is considered as an essential part of the citizen’s rights. It can be introduced through public participation, transparency, accountability and probity in administration, and can also help to curb corruption. Accordingly, a number of initiatives are being taken by the government to incorporate citizens’ concerns as inputs in the formulation of policy as well as in the quality and reliability of services. These can be brought through various tools, including the Citizens’ Charters, Right to Information, e-Governance, Report Cards, Social Audits and the Integrity Pact. 
Among the various tools, Citizens’ Charters constituted an official commitment towards the standard, quality and time frame of public service delivery, grievance redressal mechanism, transparency and accountability. It may be defined as “a document which charts the way of a citizen to avail hassel-free public services. According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer, most of the respondents perceived that maximum corruption is in the public services, particularly those which have monopolistic nature. Therefore, the Citizens’ Charters Citizens’ Charters are to be drawn-up with care and concern for the concerned service users with the following essential ingredients:
(a) Listing of standards of specific services, including anticipated time schedule, being offered by the Department in consultation with the concerned service providers, service seekers and NGOs;
(b) Location and timings of offices connected with the delivery of services;
(c) The names (with address, telephone no. etc.) of the officers responsible for delivery of the concerned services;
 (d) The grievance redressal authority in case of deficiency in promised standards;
(e) Amount of ‘compensation in case of deficiency in promised standards.
Accordingly, 842 Citizens’ Charters (131 of the Central Govt. and 711 of the State Govts) had been formulated by the Central Government, State Governments and Union Territories. These can be accessed from the GOVT. WEBSITE - www.goicharters.nic.in
Accordingly, the Delhi Government has introduced eSLA (Service Level Agreement) enabling the common man to get timely services in the offices of Transport, Food & Supplies, Trade & Taxes, Divisional Commissioner, MCD, NDMC and Chief Electoral Officer. The penalty has been set between Rs. 10 to Rs. 200 per day in case of any deficiency. This money will be handed over to the applicant in the case of delay. Similarly, Madhya Pradesh has passed a Public Services Guarantee Act on July 30, 2010 to ensure delivery of notified public services in a fixed time. In case of delay, the concerned service provider will have to pay a fine of Rs. 250 per day with a maximum of Rs. 5,000 to applicants as compensation.
Earlier, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) issued a circular on November 22, 2006, asking all public dealing departments to put all forms on their websites in a downloadable form by January 1, 2007, and make available on-line status of applications pending with them, including deficiencies, if any, by April 1, 2007 in an effort to minimize personal contact, which breed corruption. The CVC had also proposed disciplinary action against erring officials. It would also help the foreigners who have to approach the Foreigners Registration Office with their applications for longer stay.
Besides, each department has now developed its public grievance redressal mechanism by designating a senior officer for the purpose with authority to call for files/papers relating to grievances projected by the clients. The public is at liberty to approach them with relevant information supported by documents for seeking redressal of their grievances. Failing in their efforts, they may contact the Addl. Secretary, Deptt. of Adm Reforms & Pub Grievance, Sardar Patel Bhawan, New Delhi-110001. In addition, the web address of the President of India’s Secretariat’s Help-line is: http://helpline.rb.nic.in/
Meanwhile, the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DAR&PG) has evolved a Certified Service Standard called Sevottam (Best of Service). Now, all Ministries are expected to mention the level of their preparedness for improving their public service delivery to achieve certification under Sevottam in their Annual Reports. The Sevottam framework will institutionalize assessment improvement exercises undertaken for service delivery departments and their results will be available in public domain to ensure that a transparent and accountable mechanism of service delivery improvement is visible.
Through this framework, it is possible to foster a culture of continuous improvement and bring about large-scale changes even in organizations that have been operating in traditional environments. At the heart of this whole initiative lies the fact that service provider organizations should have confidence to publicly acknowledge the quality of services delivered and engage in dialogue with civil society or their representative groups to align their actions with citizens’ expectations. Implementing Sevottam is no doubt a challenging task and yet the challenge is only as big as the implementing agency is capable of taking on.
The Right to Information Act (RTI) came into force on 12th October, 2005, is a part of fundamental rights under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution of India. It has jurisdiction over every public authority in the whole of India except the J&K State. In States, which have already passed such laws, both the Acts will co-exist — giving citizens a choice. Under RTI, public servants can also be questioned on their conduct. It empowers all individuals by providing penalties on erring officials for not providing information or misinforming, and thus ensures administration accountable, and to bring transparency. There is a provision of penalties or fines @ Rs. 250 a day and to a maximum of Rs. 25,000 for delaying without reasonable cause. Besides, the government bodies have to put on website all information which may be required by general public. Its National Helpline (in Hindi and English) is 9250-400-100.
This law is considered to be among one of the most progressive RTI laws enacted by more than 66 countries. The problem lies with its ‘malafide’ interpretation only flouting basic principles of natural justice, because most of the information commissioners are former bureaucrats. They do not have the will and strength to make governance transparent and are not willing to leave their old mind-set.
Bihar’s Exemplary Initiative: As an example for other States, Bihar launched a help line service (0612-155310). Under the system, a RTI applicant is required to dial (0612) 155311 requesting to send an application to the concerned official with a duplicate copy to the District Magistrate (DM) through e-mail, followed by a fax message and a copy to the caller within three days. Thereafter, the caller will be given a special number for follow-up action. This service is expected to save the common man from the nitty-gritty problems.  

Citizens’ Report Card
Citizens’ Report Card (CRC) is a participatory service delivery assessment system and provides an opportunity to reform and re-orient service delivery. It generates user feedback on a variety of qualitative and quantitative indicators of services based on a household and exit interviews.

Key to Improve Governance
Electronic governance or e-governance is considered an effective tool of improving governance to ensure better transparency and services to the public. It makes delivery of public services and information an efficient, speedy and transparent process and allows citizens to communicate with government, participate in its policy-making and to communicate without facing government officials physically. In other words, it is to:
• provide the productive and efficient work to the people
• reduce corruption & differences among communities
• make efficient use of resources and time
• make use of technologies for sophisticated, speedy, easy and accurate service
• acquaint the people about the government’s role in socio-economic development
• remove the inner flaws in the working system
In other words, e-Governance is to provide SIMPLE, MORAL, ACCOUNTABLE, RESPONSIVE and TRANSPARENT, i.e., SMART Government. Application of e-governance saves money, time and effort, while infusing efficiency into the system. With the passage of time, the adoption of ‘e-Governance’ is expected to become an effective tool, inter-alia, for efficient governance and eliminate corruption to a large extent. Among them, Railways, Judiciary, Post Offices and Income Tax have already taken some of the steps; more steps are on the way. There is a minimum agenda for each Ministry/Department for an effective e-Governance.
In a major thrust towards e-governance, the Central Government had decided to set up one lakh Common Services Centres (CSC) to provide e-governance services such as payment of electricity, telephone and water bills, and acquiring application forms. Several State Governments have also taken various innovative steps, such as Chief Minister’s Information System (Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) to monitor a range of activities from developmental programmes to redressal of public grievances; Vikas Darpan (mirror of development) of Rajasthan; APSWAN (Andhra Pradesh State Wide Area Network) for improving government-citizen and government-industry interface; single-window/one-stop delivery of public services in the case of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu; etc.
Realising the importance of e-Governance in providing better services, National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been providing informatics support by developing many e-projects. To create a knowledge base of key initiatives and best practices, NIC has published a handbook, titled ‘Good Governance Through ICT’ (Nov. 2005), so that the IT specialists and administrators can provide benefits of IT to the common man.  

Knowledge Centres
Across Rural India:
Since connectivity is the key to empowerment in rural India, a consortium with representatives from the government, India Inc. and NGOs aims to create one lakh village Information & Communication Technology (ICT) centres across by 2008. The idea is to help them set up and manage kiosks for content and services in villages. Already 1,800 kiosks were operational as delivery points and learning centres for the rural community across the country. Microsoft along with International Development Research Centre (IDRC) has also announced a Rural Incubation Fund with a seed capital of $200,000. It will enable the independent software vendors to create relevant content and application for use in villages.
In order to ensure that the real should accrue to the citizens, it is recommended that e-Governance projects should be citizen friendly and build with defined deliverables for citizens. Further, the government needs to be at the doorstep of the citizen offering a basket of services.
The idea that Information Technology (IT) can be an enabling force, not only for business and trade but also for governance, has now been widely accepted. However, in view of prevalent illiteracy, it is felt that the kiosk having the Touch Screen Information System would provide easy real-time access to common community information needed to avail a particular public service. This system is already in operation at the selected Railway Stations/ Reservation Offices for the convenience of railway passengers.
Besides, TV channels have now given way to hope. They interview and capture the outrage of citizens on various issues with stunning effect, something print-media could not achieve. This interactivity have now made possible a revolution and a force for empowerment of a common man, suppressed for decades by a government monopoly. In fact, TV viewers have compelled the government machinery to listen to ordinary people. Such viewer activism can be called as ‘justice of the people, by the people, and for the people’. However, there are still hundreds of millions of people having no access to such tools. But we hope, they will soon be empowered with such a tool.

Integrity Pact
It is the public procurement that most of the “grand corruption” occurs with much of the damage visibly inflicted upon the development process in poorer countries and countries in economic transition. Numerous tools and resources have been created to assist companies in the effective implementation of anti-corruption policies for procurements and contracts. “Islands of integrity” is a process in which voluntary agreements are made, involving bidders and the government, to restrict opportunities for corruption in a particular project. Keeping it in view, the Integrity Pact (IP) was designed and launched by Transparency International. It is such a tool developed during the 1990s by Transparency International (TI) to help governments, businesses and civil society in fighting corruption in the public contracting. It consists of an agreement between a government /government agency and bidders participating for a contract.
The IP sets out rights and obligations to the effect that neither side will pay, offer, demand or accept bribes, and that bidders will not collude with competitors or bribe representatives of the government/government agency to obtain the contract. Other obligations are: bidders would disclose all commissions and other payments made by them to anyone in connection with the contract. The IP further establishes a monitoring process for determining violations, which carry sanctions as a consequence.
IP in its present form has three players:
i) The Principal or the Company,
ii) The Vendor, and
iii) The Independent External Monitor (IEM)
The Principal signs an agreement with the participating vendor/vendors for any type of contract related to procurement of goods and services. Its obligations essentially include an undertaking by the Principal that its officials will not demand or accept any bribes, kickbacks, gifts, facilitation payment etc. The bidder gives an undertaking that it has not paid, and will neither offer nor pay any bribe, kickbacks, facilitation payments, gifts etc. in order to obtain or retain the contract. IEMs, appointed by the CVC among the persons having the unquestionable integrity and domain knowledge, play a role only if the obligations in the IP are not fulfilled by the Principal and/or bidders/vendors. Thus, IP is both a legal document and a process. It is also adaptable to many legal settings.
The goal of the Integrity pact is to reduce any (and almost ensure no) chances of corrupt practices during procurement through a binding agreement between the agency and bidders for specific contracts.  It is intended to accomplish two primary objectives:
• To enable companies to abstain from bribing by providing assurances to them that (i) their competitors will also refrain from bribing, and (ii) the government procurement, privatisation or licensing agencies will undertake to prevent corruption, including extortion, by their officials and to follow transparent procedures.
• To enable governments to reduce the high cost and the distortionary impact of corruption on public procurement, privatisation or licensing.
Thus, the Integrity Pact is a specific tool used to build transparency in public procurement, bidding or licensing process by both public institutions and private agencies. The establishment of such a fair and transparent basis for awarding contracts not only ensures efficiency but also helps in building public trust in government and the private sector. Its key elements are:
• A pact (contract) among a government office inviting public tenders for a supply, construction, consultancy or other services, or for the sale of assets, or for a license or concession (the Authority, i.e., the “principal”) and those companies submitting a tender for this specific activity (the “bidders”);
• An undertaking by the principal that its officials will not demand or accept any bribes, gifts, etc., with appropriate disciplinary or criminal sanctions in case of violation;
• A statement by each bidder that it has not paid, and will not pay, any bribes;
• An undertaking by each bidder to disclose all payments made in connection with the contract in question to anybody (including agents and other middlemen as well as family members, etc., of officials); the disclosure would be made either at the time of tender submission or upon demand of the principal, especially when a suspicion of a violation by that bidder emerges;
• The explicit acceptance by each bidder that the no-bribery commitment and the disclosure obligation as well as the attendant sanctions remain in force for the winning bidder until the contract has been fully executed;
• Undertakings on behalf of a bidding company will be made “in the name and on behalf of the company’s Chief Executive Officer”;
• A pre-announced set of sanctions for any violation by a bidder of its commitments or undertakings, including (some or all):
— Denial or loss of contract;
— Forfeiture of the bid security and performance bond;
— Liability for damages to the principal and the competing bidders, and
— Debarment of the violator by the principal for an appropriate period.
Bidders are also advised to have a company Code of Conduct (clearly rejecting the use of bribes and other unethical behaviour) and a Compliance Program for the implementation of the Code of Conduct throughout the company. The Code of Conduct should include, inter alia, the following:
• Clear definitions and prohibition of all forms of bribery and bid rigging; 
• Rules on offering of gifts, entertainment, travel fees, and money contributions; 
• Education on the Code of Conduct throughout the company; Internal and external audits and inspections, and sanctions against violators (including dismissal); 
• Provisions against any retaliatory acts upon any of the whistleblowers reporting inside corruption
• To provide an incentive for Bidders to submit the Company Code of Conduct, it is suggested that the Government should adopt an amendment to the standards for qualification evaluation. 
TI India is pursuing the adoption of Integrity Pacts in various contracts and deals by various Government Departments and PSUs since 2001. As a consequence, the Ministry of Defence in its Defence Procurement Procedure Manual-2005 made IP mandatory for all of its deals of over Rs. 300 crores. Subsequently, this threshold limit has been reduced to Rs. 100 crores, and Rs. 20 crores for defence PSUs. Thereafter, ONGC became the first Central PSU to adopt IP in its major contracts and procurements. 
However, it got its boost when the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) issued an Office Order on December 4, 2007, recommending ‘adoption and implementation of the Integrity Pact in respect of all major procurements of the Government organizations’. This Order was followed by other orders/ circulars issued on 28th December 2007, 19th May and 5th August 2008. Enclosing these Orders/circulars, CVC issued a comprehensive “Standard Operating Procedure” on 18th May 2009 for adoption of IP in major government departments and organisations. As a result, the number of Central PSUs offering to adopt IP has risen to 39. Meanwhile, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, in its Fourth Report on ‘Ethics in Governance’, has also recommended IP’s adoption, and the DP&T issued a circular on June 16, 2009 addressed to Chief Secretaries of all States recommending adoption of IP for their PSUs.

However, despite the governments above mentioned efforts for improving the governance, the continuing general perception among the public is that the government is either not serious, or not sufficiently concerned, about combating corruption. According to our Defence Minister Shri A K Antony, our Government’s commitment to eradicate corruption “is reflected in the successful implementation of Right to Information and the way it has been received and is being used by the people. RTI has set into motion a process of ‘opening up’ which will gradually, but definitely lead to a change in old mindsets.” 

(The views expressed in the write-up are personal and do not re?ect the official policy or position of the organization.)


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