South Asia's leading changemakers call for zero tolerance to corruption

ANI | Updated: Dec 11, 2017 18:35 IST

New Delhi [India], Dec.11 (ANI): Joining hands with UNODC South Asia on the International Anti Corruption Day, South Asia's leading changemakers emphasised the need for zero tolerance towards corrupt practices and called for stronger and united public action.

In exclusive interactions with UNODC's Communications Officer, Samarth Pathak, public representatives and icons from politics, business, governance, media and the civil society shared their insights and reflections on the impact of corruption and ways to address this threat in a special feature, "Voices against Corruption".

Stressing that development can only be brought by being united against corruption for development, peace and security, Mr. Sidharth Nath Singh , Minister of Health, Government of Uttar Pradesh, asserted, "It is important to building an effective government that has strong enforcement of law, ensures punishment of corrupt and that ends impunity. Citizens should also empower themselves and their communities, thus monitoring corrupt practices and bringing initiatives that lead to detection, reduction & elimination of corruption."

Suggesting three ways to root out corruption, Mrs. Meenakshi Lekhi , Member of Parliament, said, "First would be increasing transparency and accountability of the political and the administrative system by way of making such laws, which impose duty on the public servant to act in a timely fashion and reduce corruption. Second is use of Information Technology, like we have done it in the case of AADHAAR, connected with all subsidies and government schemes. Third could be electoral reforms, because when corruption exists at the highest level, it will percolate down below and in every system."

Reflecting on the impact of corruption on businesses and the way forward, Mr. Adi Godrej, Chairman, Godrej Group, asserted, "Governments can combat corruption by reducing controls, permissions of applications should be on the internet and if not okayed within two weeks should be deemed to be okay. Citizens should strongly resist all forms of corruption as best as possible."

Welcoming the initiative, Mr. Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, said, "From the very first day, my government launched a tirade against corruption by launching Anti-Corruption Helpline for the ease and use of the people and thereafter, an Anti-Corruption Campaign to tell the people about number of those booked for corruption to further send a message of fear in the minds of the corrupt and bribe takers. My government is pushing for establishing transparency, ensuring good governance and for protecting the whistle blowers."

Mr. John Abraham, Bollywood Actor, called for collective action, saying, "Corruption exists because there is an erosion of values, ethics and goodness in people today. We must unite against corruption and the corrupt, and commit to end it wherever we can. Remember: those who give bribes are also as guilty as those receiving them. So, stand your ground, and defeat corruption by speaking out against it in one voice!"

Mr. K V Chowdary, Central Vigilance Commissioner (India), said, "Corruption threatens social, political and economic security of a nation. Governments need to continuously review the existing systems, to eliminate discretion, make them simpler, efficient and user friendly through digitization, automation so that goods and services are available to the public easily."

Mr. Shailesh Gandhi, Former Central Informational Commissioner (India), said, "Citizens and governments must strive to reduce arbitrariness and create a system which would deliver within fixed time. Computerized, paperless working in government could facilitate transparency if almost all the files and working were displayed on the website each day. Almost all dashboards of internal working should accessible by citizens."

Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner (India), underscored the importance of electoral reforms. "I believe that elections are the biggest source of corruption in India. It is obvious that when candidates spend crores of rupees in campaigning, they will seek to recover the cost one way or the other. I firmly believe that there is a need to curb election related corruption. Public funding of political parties will be a step in the right direction. I also believe that the best way to end corruption is to reduce human interface between citizens and the government functionaries," he said.

Mr. Iqbal Mahmood, Chairman, Anti-Corruption Commission (Bangladesh) provided an overview of the impact of corruption in Bangladesh: "Corruption is one of dominant factors for which country like Bangladesh is still ranked at the bottom among countries surveyed on 'Ease of doing Business'. Through use of punitive measures such as inflicting punishment and imposing penalty on corrupt persons, degree of corruption may be restrained if not eliminated. This is direct approach through enforcement. But on top of enforcement measures preventive actions should be taken to help corruption eradicated from our society. Preventive actions include measures such as building moral character of officials and systemic development of institutions."

Sharing experiences from Bhutan, Ms. Kinley Yangzom, Chairperson, Anti-Corruption Commission of Bhutan (Bhutan), said, "Bhutan, despite being one of the smallest countries in the world, has come a long way in fostering a holistic socio-economic development guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness. However, with rapid socio-economic development where Bhutan prepares to graduate from LDC status and with increasing investments for development activities, Bhutan has become more vulnerable to corruption. Political will is a must in the fight against corruption. Words must be supported by action. There must be collective effort in building awakened citizenry that upholds the principles and values of ethics, integrity and professionalism in one's conduct, actions and dealings."

In a special message, Mr. Sergey Kapinos, UNODC South Asia Representative asserted, "As the custodian of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), UNODC is committed to working with governments, corporates, civil society, media and other stakeholders to address the issue of corruption. Our failure to collectively respond to this challenge stands to impact the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must push for greater transparency and accountability from the government and businesses, support and enable good governance, demand high ethical standards from officials and protect the whistle blowers. By working side by side, we can support governments in implementing anti-graft legislations and policies, enhance the governance systems, encourage corporates to embrace ethical and transparent business practices, urge criminal justice institutions to bring in meaningful reforms: in essence, spearhead a global revolution in minds towards justice, transparency and honesty."

Ms. Zorana Markovic, Regional Anti-Corruption Adviser, UNODC, said, "To fight this phenomenon successfully and comprehensively, governments need to cooperate with all segments of a society and to seek wide coalition of forces gathered on the common goals. Civil society organisations are the natural ally in these efforts and their primary role is in awareness raising actions and sensitisation of society to zero -tolerance to corruption. Public and outreach campaigns, use of modern technologies and social media platform that appeal to younger generation will help spreading the messages to the widest levels of population. Educational and training programme that will use mass media will help in promoting strategic messages to citizens on government actions as will any incentive to enable wide access to public information and transparent decision-making process."

The International Anti-Corruption Day provided a unique opportunity to recognize this very important threat to peace and SDGs. Corruption is indeed a major impediment to sustainable development and building effective institutions, as it weakens democracy and the rule of law and allows organised crime, terrorism and other security threats to thrive. Corruption is now endemic in many spheres of life, affecting businesses, education, governance, criminal justice, public welfare and healthcare, among others. No country or region is free from this crime. And the common citizens, especially the poor, are forced to pay the biggest price for corruption. (ANI)