India’s PM wants better public procurement to fight corruption

The political landscape in India has been shifted by the emergence of Anna Hazare, a man from outside the main party political system who has built a huge base of followers by his stand against corruption. He fasted recently to protest that the government wasn’t taking anti-corruption measures seriously enough, and his public support seems to have had an effect.  As the Telegraph reports:

The anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare ended his 12 day hunger strike on Sunday after the Indian prime minister accepted his demands for a powerful new watchdog to check graft.... His India Against Corruption group has been transformed by his fast into a nationwide movement propelled by public anger at a number of bribery and malpractice scandals. .. He launched his fast in protest at a government attempt to exempt the prime minister's office, MPs, and the judiciary from the scrutiny of the new ombudsman.

Corruption comes in many forms, and there's no doubt it is a real issue in India. You have to say however that India hasn't done too badly in recent years, with rates of economic growth "the West" can only dream of, and a ranking in the Transparency International "corruption perception index" league table of 87th  - a mid-table position, but lagging countries such as China and Colombia, for instance.

But some alleged frauds have cost the country dearly; to the tune of £23 Billion in one alleged case! Here’s the BBC from last November :

The reluctant resignation over the weekend of India's Communications and Information Technology Minister Andimuthu Raja marks the end of a concerted campaign over the past two years for him to be removed.  The allegations against Mr Raja have been described by some analysts as the country's biggest-ever scandal - amounting to about $37bn (£23bn). He is alleged to have sold scarce electromagnetic spectrum - used for mobile telecommunications - at discount rates to a select group of firms.

So it was interesting to see the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in his speech the other day, making public procurement a key area for effort.  Here's the relevant extract from his speech, reported by the Business Standard.

Yet another source is, where government contracts are given in a manner which creates suspicion that something is going wrong. Therefore, we need a Public Procurement Act, as some other countries have, to streamline our contracting mechanisms, leaving less scope for corruption in future. In certain areas, greater competition itself will reduce the scope for corruption. But, we still know that there are areas of infrastructure where competition can at best be only limited. There is scope for regulation. We have, in the last couple of years, put in place regulatory mechanisms, but the functioning of these mechanisms, requires attention.

We await the Public Procurement Act with interest.

First Voice

  1. Rajan Alexander:

    Open letter to Ford Foundation and Arvind Kejriwal on charge of US bankrolling anti-corruption agitation

    Business Standard published this morning an interview with Arvind Kejriwal and Steven Solnick, India country Rep of Ford Foundation in an article titled Claims that Hazare’s movement is US-funded baseless: Arvind.

    They confirmed Arundhati Roy’s charge that Kabir, a Kerjiwal NGO received $ 400,000 during the last 3 years as funding from Ford Foundation. On the broader allegations whether the US steamrolled the Anna Hazare anti-corruption agitation, they drove themselves further to a corner. We send them an open letter as a reaction to their interview.

    Read more: http://exitopinionpollsindia.blogspot.com/2011/08/open-letter-to-ford-foundation-and.html

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