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Eradicating The corruption

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Eradicating the corruption

By Nizam A. Khan
Dec 20 - 26, 1999

Eradication of corruption is crucially important for the economic well being and progress of any country. Every one pays lip service but few know how this can actually be done. The purpose of writing this paper is to place before you a systematic method which can abolish corruption besides many other evils from any organisation. You be the judge what I am saying is credible or not.

Change the boss

Actually the basic requirement is to have a genuine desire and a resolute will to do that. Since it would be unrealistic to expect that from a sitting head of a corrupt organisation it is necessary to change the boss. Better even the entire top management. And give him a strong mandate to deal with the problem(s) with an iron hand. Since this would be the primary step it is necessary to exercise extreme care in selecting the C.E.O. Who must:

  • be a person of highest integrity beyond any shadow of doubt.

  • have the full backing and support of the establishment.

  • have authority and powers commensurate with the mandate.

If he is endowed with tact and foresight he will start by taking management and unions into confidence and publicly takes an oath, "not to leave any stone unturned to eradicate corruption from the organization. So help me God". This ritual does have some meaning and purpose behind it.

Insulate the employees from exposure

The most common method of extorting bribe from common man is to create obstacles and delays in his work until he succumbs to the desire of greasing the palms and get his job done. The remedy is very simple and straightforward. Insulate the employees from exposure to general public. They should not be allowed to roam in office corridors, following their files at every stage of its process. Their entry should be restricted to a reception hall only. Wherein there should be many tables or windows, each occupied by one responsible officer. Who will then become the only person in the organisation to see the applicant's case through to its final conclusion. His duties will be to:

  • give all necessary information to the applicant, what formalities and pre-requisites have to be completed before his case can be entertained.

  • he will register his case, give him an acknowledgment receipt and then send his case to various departments as per usual procedure.

  • as a sole representative of the applicant he will follow the case through each department as if it was his own and try to expedite it. In e=case of any in-ordinate delays he will approach the superiors for redress.

  • during the process if any discrepancies from the applicant's side are detected in the case, only he will get in touch with the applicant on phone and get the matters sorted out.

  • hand over the documents to the person after due completion of all formalities.

Caution: this implies that each officer in the reception hall can take only a limited number of cases in hand, which he can efficiently handle. That means the number of officers in the reception hall must be sufficient to handle all comers. This number can be dynamically increased or decreased as the rush of work increases or decreases during certain times. Once this procedure is in place it is bound to become more and more effective and efficient every day. Computerisation will make it still more so.

Establish accountability cells

Most common method of handling a complaint in any organisation, even in some good ones, is to redirect it to the relevant quarters for redressal. Or at the most an explanation is also called for. Isn't it most unfortunate that the very perpetrators are asked to handle it. No wonder it is handled with a "devil may care" attitude. In rare cases where the C.E.O. is strong and means business the grievance is redressed, and an all clear signal sent to him. And that becomes the end of it. As a matter of fact handling individual complaints with sole objective of redressal is not good management. Complaints are symptoms of disease and a valuable tool in the hands of a doctor for diagnosis. I have yet to come across an organisation where each complaint is painstakingly analysed to find its root cause and take remedial actions to remove it. This should be the clearly defined objective of a complaints cell. After conducting a thorough, independent inquiry they should submit a detailed report to C.E.O. consisting of 3 parts.

  • Suggesting actions to be taken to redress the grievance.

  • Pinpointing the actual cause or the culprit. And

  • Suggesting ways and means to remove the cause for good.

Where individuals are the root cause, C.E.O. after taking actions to redress the complaint, should refer it to accountability cell for taking the culprits to task.

Archaic and cumbersome rules, regulations, procedures, forms etc. are also often at the root of many complaints. These are used as a big handle to harass people, delay the work and extort bribe from them. Such cases should be referred to systems cell for necessary improvements in them. Big scope exist for such work.

Computerisation must be at the top of systems priorities. Without this no organisation can survive in twenty-first century. Nor can the corruption be eradicated effectively.

These three cells working independently but in tandem can go a long way not only in eradicating corruption, which was the primary objective, but also many other evils. Thereby improving the working and image of the organisation.

Important: in order to achieve good results, it is necessary that these 3 cells must:

  • report directly to C.E.O. and have full backing and support of the establishment.

  • be adequately manned to handle all work being generated in the organisation.

  • have a very lucrative results oriented rewards system in place.

  • be joined with other similar cells in the country through a network.

  • be accessible to all employees and outsiders very easily. That is their address, phone and fax nos. E-mail address etc. must be widely publicised and common man encouraged to use it. The very publicity should give an impression that you mean business.

  • performance of each cell must be reviewed regularly by top management at least once every month. Good performance, producing concrete results must be recognised and rewarded.

Get accounts audited

You can get rid of the corrupt and fraud employees through this one big clean surgical operation in a relatively shorter period. No doubt you will face fierce resistance by the vested interests. The only argument you have in your favour is that the regular auditors and procedures have failed to nip the corruption in the bud, which they are paid for. Because the tentacles of corruption seem to have reached there. Hence the need for this radical step. It requires courage to do this. But the cancer of corruption is distressing enough to call for it. You may even have to mobilize legal and constitutional cover to get this done.

The guilty, after facing fair and transparent disciplinary actions, be given exemplary punishments to deter others from indulging in such malpractices. In order to make this exercise more effective the audit firm, besides their usual remuneration, should be given an extra incentive bonus for good performance. e.g. a certain percentage of all amounts recovered from the corrupt and fraudulent, as a result of their work.

Get of rid of the opulent

Those employees whose life style is ostensibly not commensurate with their salary and status are positively not desirable to be retained in service. By definition an opulent employee is one whose other income from assets in his own or immediate family's names and other sources exceeds his gross salary. If he is not able to explain satisfactorily how the wealth declared in his wealth statements has been acquired he should be dismissed. And if he has some good explanations c.g. inheritance etc. he should be asked to resign honorably for the simple reason that his presence is demoralizing for others and vitiates working atmosphere of the organisation. No further justification is required. Yet here are a few more:

  • he needs some time, effort and attention to look after his other business. This can only be done at the cost of his duties and responsibilities of service.

  • since he does not depend on his salary for his livelihood, he cannot put in his heart, soul and undivided attention into his job, as the others do, whose livelihood depends on it. Therefore he should make room for them. He deserves no sympathies because he will not go hungry on streets.

  • and if by any chance his other income is from sources which are in conflict with organisation's interests, he should not be tolerated for even a single day. No matter how small the income is e.g. a policeman owning a public transport. Which is conflict of interests.

  • Note: this is an important cleansing step without this you cannot rekindle the spirit of honesty and selfless service, the most important ingredients of a clean and efficient organization. Half hearted measure will not do any good.

Revise time salaries

One of the causes given for corruption are low salaries. If steps 3,4 and 5 have been effectively implemented quite a few employees would have left. Besides some others would have been absorbed for the implementation of steps 2 and 3. This should have taken care of a good part of the surplus staff, a malaise present in almost every organization. This is the time when a general raise in the salaries should be given. Even if this first tranche is not a substantial one, it is an important motivating and morale building gesture. If you still feel that there is a definite need to further reduce the staff you can offer a lucrative handshake to a few carefully selected employees, who in your considered opinion have lost their usefulness for the organisation (dead wood). It is not advisable to offer a general golden hand shake scheme, lest you may loose some competent employees. The suggested timing of this general increase is such that employees under investigation for any misconduct do not get the benefits while those who are being let off for no fault of theirs do get something extra to wipe out their tears with. The second more generous tranche of increase in salaries should be promised subject to a predetermined quantifiable improvement in the performance of the organization.

Some important points:

These are some of the actions required for eradication of corruption from any organization. There are a few more which are not directly related but very important for the health of any organisation e.g.

  • a good performance appraisal system which rewards good performance and not just seniority.

  • a system of rewards for those who make innovative suggestions resulting in improvement of working and profitability of the organisation.

  • a system of rewards for those who provide any information, resulting in recovery of misappropriated amounts.

Resistance to change is a natural human instinct. Top quality managerial skills are required to bring about any change in an organization. There are two ways of doing it. Either by an evolutionary process which takes longer time but is easier to counter the resistance. Or by a revolutionary operation which can achieve results quickly but is painful and requires guts to do that. The action steps suggested above remain the same in both cases. Except that in the later case audit of accounts and computerization is started by the new boss on day one. Every thing else will then fall in line by itself in due course. The C.E.O. depending on his own personality may choose the line of action he feels relatively more comfortable with. The road is difficult nevertheless.

For the sake of brevity I have not gone into details of many points. This is just the tip of an iceberg. However I will be pleased to answer all queries if given an opportunity to make a presentation before any group of authorities who are willing to take up this challenge as a service to nation.