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1- CURBING PUBLIC-SECTOR CORRUPTION
2-
MICRO-FINANCING
3- ADB SUPPORT TO PAKISTAN
4- PRIVATIZATION OF HBL

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INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES

CURBING PUBLIC-SECTOR CORRUPTION

 

 

 


By KAUSAR QURESHI
Lecturer Isra University

Jan 05 - 11, 2004
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The ICT's had been playing an effective role in development of the public sector, by setting standards and policies which were for the overall benefit of country. Over the years the Secretariat and the Bureaus have extended technical, financial and expert support for adoption and absorption of technologies by the developing countries in changing their destiny. However, more concerted efforts are needed to help them in new technological solutions in a much shorter span of time so as to enable them to have more transparency in public sector.

The public sector in Pakistan is substantially struck with corruption. Corruption in public sector either for investment or procurement of goods and services are key manifestations of corruption. Many governments and business leaders have recognized the high risk and cost of bribery and extortion and seek ways to curb and eventually eliminate corruption in transactions Proper employment of information technologies for curbing public-sector corruption is definitely a burning task to be dealt with if the contemporary technological restructuring is not to bring disappointment and new corruption opportunities. Although information technologies possess a real transformative potential but their employment is not self-sufficient. It must be complemented by other conditions conducive to the task at hand. The employment of information technologies promotes anti-corruption action and with the help of (private firms and non-governmental organizations) to participate in the anti-corruption effort. This also thwarts new corruption opportunities that could arise if technology-enhanced control is concentrated in the hands of a individual such as the hierarchically organized state bureaucracy.

Pakistan has not only embarked on the road of deep political and economic transformations, but also entered the turbulent age of global technological restructuring. The information revolution of the 1990s has brought about profound changes in all social spheres. In conjunction with the new opportunities and the new problems created by the boom of information technologies in the public sector the information technologies generated a revolution in thinking about the future of the governance of public matters.

In the wake of global ICT's efforts and strategies for sector liberalization, Pakistan took bold initiatives, Internet connectivity has been extended to more than 900 cities and villages from just about 29 cities in two years, mobile market is growing with 1.5 million subscribers per year and the fixed market is being opened to competition from the year 2003. The Government of Pakistan is preparing an investor friendly policy with necessary regulatory framework in place to meet challenges that would be faced once licenses to new entrant are issued. De-regulation policy would address all pre-requisites, which make up a credible document. The ICT's should put in place strategies that balance the information gap and create enough confidence in developed world to curb the corruption in public sector. Corrupt public administrators undermine the basic system of checks and balances that operate in a free society.

The unexpectedly rapid development of the Internet and the Internet-based technological devices is expected not only to reorganize public administration, but also to make both the public-sector officials and the executives more accountable to the citizens. From this vantage point, the soft power of electronic media should make the notoriously self-interested bureaucrats to finally pursue the public interest properly. When applied in the field of public-sector corruption such visions sometimes result in the so-called 'Panoptic vision'. This vision implies that due to the management control made possible by the development of information technologies the ultimate victory over public-sector corruption is a matter of several forthcoming years. Although the new technological applications have a genuine transformative potential in the field of curbing corruption, their use must be accompanied by additional conditions if it is to result in a tangible inhibition of corrupt activities. An important condition for the successful employment of information technology applications against corrupt activities is the active involvement and participation of non-governmental heads interested in the quality and the transparency of public-sector governance. The relatively homogeneous and vulnerable to corrupt activities state hierarchies are being challenged by the diversity of hierarchically organized interests capitalizing on the new technological infrastructure. Such a reorganization of public governance ultimately presses for the restructuring of the state monopoly over public-governance control. The link between the information technologies, the public sector performance, and other stakeholders must be carefully considered if it is to have a practical value to today's policy makers.

How to bring transparency in bureaucracy? Where the chances of taking bribe exists? How to find out and eliminate those opportunities of corruption? How to minimize the chances of bribery and corruption for public sector procurement? What are major causes of corruption in public sector? Establishing e-procurement? What things should be considered while hiring public officers? What incentives should be given to them not to be involved in corruption? Using media for bringing awareness of the damaging effects of corruption? General public access to information will help them to make decision with consideration? Emphasize will be given to restructuring ICT's infrastructure in the country. How to develop the E-government Concept? Will E-government increase the opportunities for corruption or will it help to eradicate the corruption?

It will be just the beginning that ICT's 's will be used for corruption cure in Pakistan. And strong information and Communication Technologies will help the government in an "image building process. Despite the aforementioned developments, the application of information technologies for curbing public-sector corruption in the Pakistan has been relatively modest. Unlike the preceding governments, current Government declared curbing corruption one of their main objectives. The government is recently working with the collaboration of Transparency International (TI), World Bank and Federation International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the Protocol Engineering Council (PEC) on the plans for fighting corruption and launched various programs intended to redress the cases of privatization, mismanagement and other.

Despite several "success stories" the government is unable to mobilize wider social support for its anti-corruption objectives and its campaign fading away without a major social impact. Pakistan Government in cooperation with civil society groups such as Transparency International, who, by lobbing for the adoption of the law on the free access to public information, contributed to the increasing accountability of public-sector officials. The fight against corruption is and has been the declared goal of the present Government as well as all the past four governments in Pakistan. One can safely say that all the past governments were completely corrupt, but it is the common perception that the present government's declared intention to fight corruption seems relatively serious. It has to some extent backed up its intentions with action in the form of the National Accountability Bureau and simultaneously in its many reforms that it is trying to implement within the different sectors of the government. The fight against corruption has also been the intended goal of the International Financial Institution's (IFI's) including World Bank, the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC-2001), Asian Development (Bank ADB-2002) and the Protocol Engineering Council (PEC-2001) and the Asian Development Bank which is evident in their regular revision of their guidelines for selection and award of procurement contracts. The regulatory bodies such as the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), Pakistan Engineering Council and the Planning Commission of Pakistan like the International Financial Institution's (IFI's) and the Donor Agencies for many years continued to stand by their guidelines in procurement procedures.

Most national governments swear by their procurement procedures as being transparent and having the necessary checks and balances. Then the question can be asked of all the above organizations.

Why is there still rampant corruption in procurement contracts not only in the eastern but as well as the western world and evidence that this corruption is ever increasing?

The above agencies whether governments, the IFI's, the Donors or the Regulatory bodies at most times find it very hard to accept the possibility that their procurement procedures are flawed. Till recently the word corruption was a taboo seldom spoken openly and it has taken a decade to shatter this taboo. Government should take initiative for curbing corrupt activities from public sector with new perspective and that is curbing corruption through ICT implementation.

The interrogations on detecting some of the causes of corruption are supposed to cover following subjects:

Relationships between public officials and executive authorities.
Professionalism, competence and problems of training and improvement of professional skill of the public of miscellaneous levels.
A system of assigning, displacement, promotions and wages.
Problems of the public sector official's practice.
Public sector procedural formalities and official's responsibility for not following them.
Extent of use of ICT in public sector and how it can improve transparency in system.
Lack of Transparency in public sector systems.

Now the question arises that how the existing system can be improved? Given the identified potential of IT to substantially contribute to the anti-corruption drive and to social innovations instrumental in curbing public-sector corruption, it is important to explore the concrete impediments to a more extensive technology employment for:

a) Generating wider social support for the anti-corruption objectives.
b) Providing access for a variety of interested heads.
c) Assisting robust communication channels among the involved heads.

 

 

RATE OF CORRUPTION IN PUBLIC SECTOR IN PAKISTAN

It is important to understand the extent of corruption in various organizations in the country. According to general public concept 81% of Government of Pakistan's organizations are corrupt. And 61% private sector organizations are also deemed as corrupt. General perceptions are that it is impossible for the private sector organizations not to indulge in corrupt practices and survive in Pakistan because of the corrupt practices of public organizations.

Pakistan has a Corruption perception index (CPI) score of 2.6 out of 10 and Pakistan's rank was 77 among 102 during 2002. Pakistan steadily improved from 2.3 to 2.6. It reveals that progress has been made in the last decade in reducing opportunities for corruption through policy and regulatory reforms. For Pakistan, Transparency International's estimates of CPI have steadily improves from a low of 1.0 in 1996 to 2.53 in 1997, to 2.7 in ]998, to 2.2 in 1999, to 2.3 in 2001 and to 2.6 in 2003 (High CPI on scale of 1 to 10 means a lower perception of corruption). Though encouraging in the sense that progress has been made, low score also says there is a long way to go. This means mechanism can be developed for opposing corruption using ICT, bringing awareness in society and mass media control, to eliminate the loop-holes in public sector, setting out priority areas to attack corruption, understanding relationship between ICT's and development, establishing electronic procurement to meet the new challenges of electronic commerce, to use international experience in struggling with corruption. Establishing E-Government that facilitates transparency, to faster growth of ICT in public sector, to replace corruption elements with computerized systems must be a major task of government.

Major tasks to be achieved by implementation of ICT are:

In implementing ICT's the main focus should be on the ability of information technologies to enhance the involvement of diverse actors representing various social interests so as to

i) De-monopolize the anti-corruption effort; and
ii) To enable various heads to obtain information about the activities of other heads.
iii) Full automation of the processes thereby reducing human interventions significantly.
iv) Repositioning of controls to where they are most effective without obstructing business and trade.
v) Provisions of remote lodgement facilities (via a computer network), to enable the public interact with the organization from their offices, removed from face to face interactions.
vi) Complete paperless and cashless processes.
vii) Privatization of certain operations.
viii) Electronic linkage of all the participating agencies in the system.

ICT'S SIGNIFICANCE TO PAKISTAN

ICT's are not just about technologies, they are more about information transfer and communications. Introduction of ICT's in public sector will affect the way in which the organization will interact, asses; adapt and access vast amount of information at reduced costs.

ICT's can reduce corruption by improving the enforcement of rules, lessening the discretion of officials, and increasing transparency. ICT's eliminates many opportunities for corruption of those who do not understand the new technology fully. ICT's enable reforms that can yield many benefits, including lower administrative costs, faster and more accurate response to requests and queries. The ICT's will help organizations to increase production.

MERITS OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES

The government on its part will commit itself to prevent extortion and the acceptance of bribes by its officials, and to establish and follow transparent procurement rules. Major merits of ICT's are:

 

 

1. The public sector transparency will be ideal with taking into account international efforts on fighting corruption.
2. Mechanisms of interaction of non-governmental sector, business, state and international organizations in fighting corruption will be developed.
3. ICT's will not only give transparency to the procedures but at the same time provide the necessary checks and balances. These are powerful deterrents to bribery.
4. A transparent system with the help of ICT's will help to create a good image in the minds of international investors.
5. Jobs will be generated in public sector.
6. ICT's fulfill management and accountability requirement in Pakistan .
7. Enhance opportunities and enterprise development.
8. At national level government needs to be connected to the world with help of Information Technology.
9. It not only affects public sector but external agencies and communication around them.
10. The benefits can be seen beyond the targeted beneficiaries to consider all the stakeholders.

RISKS FOR IMPLEMENTING INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION IN PUBLIC SECTOR

1. Growing popular mistrust in public officials?
2. General indifference to the issue among the general public and the major institutional heads.
3. Diverting productive resources to unproductive (corrupt) activities.
4. Draining away valuable personal and financial resources through channeling them into strategies with a limited impact.
5. Creating new corruption opportunities by mismanaging the employed information technology applications.

Information technologies for promoting communication between various interested heads to mobilize sufficient support for the anti-corruption campaign should be promoted by the government. The governmental strategy should pay more attention to information technology for corruption cure in public procurement process. A lot of work has been done both for elimination of corruption and ICT's development by Central Board Revenue in Pakistan. By creating link between corruption cure activities and development of ICT's infrastructure in public sectors, this would increase the transparency of the whole system without concentrating the power of control in the hands of a single institutional head such as the state.

Finally we can say that increasing the transparency in public sector through development of public sector structure by means of rapid adoption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT's) will lead to economical prosperity of our country and reduction to great extent in corruption and corruption-based activities.