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SOCIETY  CORRUPTION: HOW TO COMBAT
AND CONTAIN IT?
CORPORATE PROFILE  1- THE AWAKENING OF THE SLEEPING GIANT
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CORRUPTION: HOW TO COMBAT AND CONTAIN IT?

 

Nationwide awakening is needed on this issue
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By Prof. S. SABIR A JAFFERY
Sep 30 - Oct 06, 2002
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Corruption like malignant cells has penetrated deep through the fibers of our society. It has grown massive in size and multidimensional in nature. There may be several reasons of our financial ruin. But, the basic derangement that is the root cause of all our failings, which underlies all our shortcomings, and which counters all the corrective measures, is Corruption.

Moreover, the gene of corruption is the financial corruption. It is the mother figure that nurtures all other species of corruption. Obviously, therefore, if financial swindlings alone are contained, all other channels of misdoings and misgivings are likely to, if not fully dry up, at least flow at low ebb.

Nationwide awakening is needed on this issue. Lately, people at the helm of affairs seem to have turned on the alert. NABís seminar on corruption vividly indicates govern-mentís concern to disseminate the devastation this menace has in its fold. It is high time any body who may have any thing in his quiver to hit right at its roots should come forward with his prescription. Hence, these submissions.

Once we reach the conclusion that corruption is the basis of all other evils, the question that arises next is, how to check it? It is a million-dollar question that remains unanswered despite superabundant rhetoric. What is more alarming is the common belief that the situation is, or at least seems to be, incorrigible. The disease has since been diagnosed. Great many amulets have been proposed. Several consultant physicians, both indigenous and hired from IMF museum, assumed in rotation charge of the patient, each claiming his prescription to be the panacea, devolving on himself the Kar-e Maseehai (assignment to cure the incurables), and claiming to bring the dead to life. Yet the relief is not forthcoming. On the contrary, we are heading fast toward a total collapse. Why is it so? What is that which is instrumental to such an undying devastation? Sooner an answer to this question is found, better would it be for our financial health, thereby leading to an overall convalescence.

The most widely proclaimed line of action for eradicating corruption is to strengthen accountability process. The proposition, although sounds expedient, is not an unmixed blessing. Punitive actions, no doubt, have their own impact. However, they can not be the substitute of preventive measures.

Corruption is an attitude of life. It is a behaviour of human beings. It has, therefore, to be dealt with in consonance with the human nature that prefers material possessions and physical comfort to moral values. In order to smoothly overcome this nature of mankind, it is immensely desirable that emphasis should be shifted from punishing the corrupt to preventing the corruption.

PRIORITY

This does not, however, mean that corrupts should be allowed to go scot-free. It rather suggests that priority should be given to creating the conditions in which resorting to corruption becomes, if not impossible, at least difficult. Simultaneously, systematic and consistent efforts should be made to strengthen the moral fiber of the society to operate as a deterrent against all sorts of misdoing. Impartial, judicious, transparent, and brazen-handed accountability culture should also coexist, although to be looked upon as a last resort. This of-course refers to future. Accountability for crimes already committed should be fast and meaningful.

It may be argued here that severe punishment operates as deterrent against crime. This is not an unmixed truth. The "Consent" or "Acceptance" Theory of managerial Authority presents limitations to this phenomenon. One may possess formal authority which is meaningless unless it can be effectively exercised. And, an authority can only be exercised effectively if those on whom it is exercised accept it. Formal authority, in fact, is merely nominal; it becomes real only when accepted.

It is also the attitude of the individual convict that determines the impact of punishment. Habitual criminals donít care even for life terms. Capital punishment also fails to tame the hardened outlaws. There are also the ethnic and emotional repercussions, instantaneous reactions, and ancestral traditions that at times stimulate crimes. Suicidal bombing, karo kari ó honour killings ó, vani ó girls trade-off ó, blasphemous retaliations, ethnic killings, and diffierent kinds of terrorist activities are the examples to quote.

Moreover, punishments often convert the casual wrongdoers into hard-liners. Again, wide-ranging and indiscriminate punishments create an atmosphere of fear and apprehension, which tends to vitiate initiative and decision-making capability.

What, therefore, we actually ought to ensure is that the crimes which have not been committed shall not be committed. This needs a socio-cultural set up that has built-in checks to discourage wrong doings.

DOCUMENTATION:

AB IMO PECTORE

The first and the most effective step in this direction is to enforce complete documentation of financial transactions in all walks of life. Ours is a cash-ridden society. Most of our day-to-day financial transactions are settled in cash. This, on the one hand, facilitates embezzlement, and, on the other hand, makes it difficult to lay hand on the culprit for want of adequate proof. The underlying temptation encourages swindlers and borderline wrongdoers to adopt wrongdoing as a permanent way of life. Hence, tax evasion, bribe, commission, kick back, misappropriation, fraud, embezzlement, and all sorts of financial swindling flourish in a cash-nurtured society. We have to dispense with this culture if we want to have financial discipline in our ranks.

In cases where documentation becomes unavoidable, a small part of the money involved is declared, while the remaining major part changes hands surreptitiously. The most glaring example is that of undervalued registration of sale deeds of immovable properties. This is how the vendor evades wealth tax, the vendee saves the duty on the amount paid beneath the table, and the functionaries of the sub- registrarís office get their share of butter and honey. The only loser is the public exchequer.

These transactions take place right under the nose of the people at the helm of affairs, inflicting on the exchequer a loss of millions of rupees every day in the wake of the persistently deficit budgets, smashing the national economy year after year. All concerned have turned deaf ears towards such a massive monetary swindling as it serves their vested interests, notwithstanding the cost the nation has to pay for it.

The government of Sindh has recently (reported in the print media on September 2, 2002) issued Stamp (Sindh Third Amendment) Ordinance 2002, whereby stamp duty on all sorts of conveyance deeds regarding movable and immovable properties has been reduced from 5% to 3%. Further, registration fee has also been slashed from 1.5% to 1%. This is a step in the right direction that should encourage documentation of these transactions for the full amount of the deal.

This was only one example to symbolize the pecuniary corruption, which like termite is eating up the roots of our national economy. There are many more manifestations of wide spread corruption. Any attempt to illustrate them would be a futile exercise since the majority of the populace is already seized of them. There would hardly be a person who, directly or indirectly, in one way or the other, would not have fallen prey to them.

How to proceed with the documentaiion process?

Over-bearing rhetoric, tall claims, and ill-conceived, half-baked? or impracticable measures, or the measures pursued with low or no commitment, lead to no where. Money, time, and energy spent on them go down the drain. These rather add one more layer of frustration to the morale of an already dejected nation.

What is needed is just one bold step to turn the corner. It should be self-contained and self-controlled, that is to say, a one-time action that needs no monitoring or follow up for being continuously operative. A three-in-one step as under shows adequate potential to take up the glove with success.

1. Financial transaction in cash in excess of the prescribed limit should be declared illegal through an Act of Parliament. Violation of this law should be treated as an offence attracting exemplary punishment.
2. No debt or financial obligation, public or private, for amount exceeding the prescribed amount should be recognized by law as paid or settled unless it is paid through approved banking channels. In other words, currency notes should not remain legal tender for exchange of goods and services and settlement of debts beyond the specified amount.
3. Currency notes of the denomination of Rs. 500/- and Rs. 1,000/- should be demonetized straightaway, and their value credited into the bank accounts of the owners, without requiring them to declare the source of acquisition.

The cash-free culture that would emerge as a result of this three-fold step will be self-maintainable. No person on earth will be willing to acquire or possess the money which he will not be able to use. Money is a means, not an end. When it ceases to serve the end, it becomes non grata. Thus, there will be no violation of this law, and, therefore, no monitoring or supervision by any government agency or functionary will be needed to ensure its unhampered implementation.

In the recent past, government had made an attempt to pay by cheque salaries to its employees of specified grades. However, a short while later, the practice was abandoned. Such decisions are the test of the nerves of the decision-makers. Obviously, rulers toiling under their own weaknesses could not withstand the resultant pressures from interested quarters. Again, payment of a sum of Rs. 50,000/other than by crossed cheques, bank drafts or pay orders would not qualify for tax credit, adjustment or deduction, or refund or drawback, or zero rating at tax. These measures denote a half-hearted beginning of a really good job whereas what is desirable is a full-blown action in one go for the nation as a whole, leaving no room for its sabotage by vested interests.

To achieve this objective, developing of banking habits and popularising of cheque currency are prerequisities. Lately, government has withdrawn excise duty and withholding tax on cheques, pay orders, and all other modes of remittance. This is a welcome step. Surprisingly, the excise duty on cheques withdrawn by the government has been reimposed by the banks in the name of "cheque book issuing charges". This is unprecedented and unjust, and should be withdrawn.

One more obstacle in the way of the popularity of cheques is the lack of effective legal cover against their dishonour. Government had a plan to provide that cover. Some spadework had also been done in this regard. Then, probably the idea was shelved or committed to cold storage. This needs to be revived and enforced expeditiously if any decisive role is intended to be assigned to cheques in our monetary system.

Yet another excuse usually put forth against augmenting the use of cheques is the low literacy rate in Pakistan. How strange is this? Instead of making any serious efforts to raise the literacy level, we curb enlightened activities in the name of illiteracy. Moreover, we donít mind switching over to credit cards and ATMs, which indeed is a function one step ahead of cheque culture, but are scarce of cheques. The excuse is nothing but a hoax. Illiterate villagers taking agriculture loans or making Hajj deposits utilize banking services freely. Moreover, our bankers have never been deficient in handling the accounts of illiterate persons, purdah nasheen ladies, or disabled accountholders. Training material of our banks and code of banking practices are quite self-sufficient to manage these categories of accounts, and our bank officials are well versed with the practical snags and legal requirements of maintaining such accounts.

OMISSION: NO LESS AN EVIL

Corruption has two faces: one, the wrongdoing, i. e. commission: two, the wrongful undoing, i. e. omission. The former means: "to have done what should not have been done" It is visible by nature. The latter signifies: "not to have done what should have been done". It is by nature invisible, and therefore tends to be more disastrous.

The commissioning part of corruption can be identified, prevented, controlled, and brought within the ambit of law. We had so far been discussing this aspect of corruption. The other facet of corruption, i. e. omission; is outrageous for the reason that the law finds itself helpless in attacking it.

The inaction, dereliction, or delayed action ends in greater devastation as its effect is not quantifiable; its impact can not be measured. It may take as great a toll as loss of half of the country and may still remain unidentified. It cannot be controlled or countered by law or by administrative orders. You can stop a man from doing a thing, but you can not make him do a thing over a period of time if he is not willing to do it.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

1. Excessive security of job has been mainly responsible for inefficiency. This must be done away with. Each employee, from top to bottom, has to justify his or her being in the job every day. This, in other words, means that powers of hire and fire should vest in the management. There may be instances when this power is exploited or misused. To check and control excesses of management, Services Tribunals should be mandated to award summary judgements within the specified maximum time.
2. Trade unions have done immense harm to industry. These should be done away with. The jurisdiction of Services Tribunals may be extended to take all out care of the employees.
3. Seniority should be assigned the same sanctity in all the organizations as it enjoys in judiciary. All prestigious placements and postings, and promotions should base on seniority. Reasons of super session should be advised in writing to the aggrieved person. Corruption in banks increased manifold after the politicians and bureaucrats placed their cronies at the helm of affairs at the cost of seniority, mercilessly exploiting the name of "merit".
4. Punishments and rewards should be prompt and transparent Undue interference and meddling from any quarter should be curbed with iron hand as it kills initiative and power of decision making.
5. All sorts of perks for all categories of staff, irrespective of grade and rank, must go. Transport provided to an executive due to the nature of his job should be used strictly for official purposes only. Family members should not be allowed to use or share the official car with the executive. However, salaries should be rationalized to match the cost of living. These should be raised twice a year: once, effective from 1st January as normal grade increment; next, from 1st July, at the prevalent rate of inflation.
Recently, government has banned purchase of new cars. Earlier, ex-Prime Minister late Mohammed Khan Junejo had also taken the similar action. What was the outcome of that is no more a secret. Why should we then resort to such actions, which can be reversed any time? What is actually needed is the basic revision of Service Rules, eliminating the very provisions of perks and allowances, so that future governments may not be able to reverse the decision simply be administrative orders, without getting through the Parliament.
6. Some other causes of inefficiency and corruption in government offices are: lengthy and cumbersome procedure; undue secrecy of government businesses; and centralization of powers. Services of professional bodies may be utilized to ameliorate and simplify procedures, which may be widely publicized so that people should know what they are exactly required to do. Thus, extortion of money from them would become, if not impracticable, at least difficult.
7. Prize bonds schemes are speculative that create easy money, leading to all sorts of dubious practices. All such financial papers, which are prone to speculation, gambling, games of chance, and money laundering should be withdrawn forthwith.B