Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Transparency & Accountability: Buffering

The suicide of a young contractor Santosh Patil due to nonpayment of bills by K S Eshwarappa Ministry demanding commission on a verbally approved works is a classic case of institutionalized corruption, and of lack of transparency in not only procurement process but also in the administration, and this has not happened for the first time but the long kept dirty secret stands exposed finally. 

To ensure transparency, accountability, grievance redressal and to regulate public procurement United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government had brought in the Public Procurement Bill in Lok Sabha in 2012, the Bill lapsed eventually. National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government introduced the revamped and improvised the provisions in the Bill and introduced it in 2015, but sadly the Bill has not been a reality till date. 

Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Assam are the only States which to some extent have regulated public procurement, but a weak grievance redress mechanisms in these State Acts raises several questions on efficacy. 

NDA Government that came to power on the anti-corruption plank with an overwhelming majority in 2014, but its almost 8 years and there have been no efforts to stop the corruption that is infecting the administration faster than ever before. RTI the strongest tool to seek information and demand transparency in administration process has been weakened since 2014, millions of applications laying unprocessed as left the RTI in crossroads. Lokpal almost seems nonexistence and Lokayuktya in States like Karnataka are striped off the power and systematically destroyed. 

The whataboutery on corruption and systematic dilution of the institutional powers is only helping the people involved in corruption to brazen it out without fear of Law, whereas people like Santosh Patil will continue to become victims of the system driven corruption. 

Media is muted on several people related issue be it Unemployment, Price Rise, Violence, Disharmony, Corruption, the current dispensation both in Delhi and in Karnataka are yet again on polarization mode as the Assembly elections get closer.

Series of corruption charges during COVID 1st and 2nd wave are not even investigated, even with clear evidence on the infamous BBMP Bed Scam not a single arrest have been made nor there is any serious investigation. After Ramesh Jarkiholi who was forced to resign due to the CD episode, K S Eshwarappa reluctantly resigned after relentless protest by the opposition that forced the BJP high command in Delhi to do damage control. But the bigger question remain unanswered, will there be a free and fair investigation on the charges made by Santosh Patil and also will there be a larger probe on the 40% Commission allegation made by the Contractors Association of Karnataka against the State BJP Government. 

Lokayukta in Karnataka was once the most feared institution by Politicians and Government Officials, but today most do not even know if the institution still exists, the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) that was established to gather information, intelligence and to investigate complaints from Public, Government and Lokayukta looks like a paper Tiger. 

Without stringent Act, subverting and misuse of the system has made it easy for the fearless corrupt, there is no Political will to fix the loop holes and strengthen the system, even as technology is making several innovations the systems seem to be literally insulated from use of any technology interface that can bring more transparency and accountability. 

Definitely corruption is making States like Karnataka extremely unpopular for investors and corporates, with polarization taking centerstage and corruption filled administration it’s only the ordinary people, youth who are suffering both the short and long term implications. 

Kavitha Reddy

KPCC General Secretary & Spokesperson