Corruption in public services

I had some ideas for improving the scene on corruption in government services. Things like expense claims, false claims, and other small and large things. It seems every government service from political leaders to bus conductors have these in common – to fluff up accounts and get margins. The solution for this is two fold, but interlinked.

Disclaimer: When I say solution, it is the idea I am thinking of, not a miracle cure. Nor necessarily something that WILL work, just something I think is likely to work well.

This is a systemic problem rather than universal one. We have corporates scrutinizing accounts perfectly fine, for instance, but the assumption is that the government accountants are under the thumb of someone exploiting the system – I don’t know if this is true, or it is simply a matter of not risking unpopularity for the same of “sarkari” money. So, rather than assume people are corrupt and thus beyond hope, I am choosing to look at factors that will invite and empower more ethical stands.

  • Facilitated programmes can be designed to allow employees to come up with ways where they can arrest misuse of government funds. Note that I am not saying they should be taught ways. There is a reason for it. We adopt our own ideas better than another’s ideas. If people come up with their own methods, they are more likely to act on them. Plus, they are really the ones who know what will work best in their situation.
  • Some readers argued that corrupt leaders can sabotage such programmes or choose ineffective facilitators or buy out trainers, etc. I think several things about this:
  • We cannot stop initiating positive change because of possibilities that it won’t work. Then it is guaranteed not to work.
  • When employees see that space has been allocated for a certain purpose, they already get the message that effective or not, this is the direction desired of them. At least some of the impact is achieved even if we take the most pessimistic option and assume that the programme happened entirely on paper.
  • Having participants run their own programmes can be another way of getting around interference “from above”.
  • Media. I know I keep coming to media all the time, but it really is a powerful tool. The media can encourage whistle blowers by organizing programmes and rewards and solidly backing anyone whose job may be threatened by whistle blowing activities. Here are two cool ideas:
    • Whistle blower of the week kind of programme – where different people’s stories are told, and the one with the most interesting expose or the one that saves the most money for the government gets a prize.
    • “Amazing videos” style of programmes, where people can send in their videos or real life corruption scenarios.
  • If you pick up my idea from the other article on media about the debate channel, then discussions/debates around best ways to combat specific kinds of corruption, etc can be very interesting, particularly if they can engage the citizen’s responses – will sell hot – people are pissed with corruption, and everyone has a bright idea or five.
  • Running columns in newspapers for small time and all kinds of corruption. Bade bade akhbaro mein chota chota photu – for whistle blowers, or confirmed news of corruption happening.
  • This creates a condusive atmosphere.
    The other side is identifying specific posts that can be abused. Peons passing paperwork, accountants overlooking inappropriate expenses, whatever. Then:
    • Organize or insist on initiatives for them getting skills to hold their own and inculcate a sense of pride in the country as their employer.
    • Organize media initiatives that specifically target these roles among more general ones.
    • Simplify processes so that the common man doesn’t need middlemen to engage with the system and proceedings can also be easily monitored for discrepancies.
    For a long time, public image has ruled our personal choices in a dysfunctional manner, but it can also be a motivating and correcting thing, if we can engage people’s need to be “respectable” to include safeguarding the country’s resources. If we make misuse of public resources “trend” in society as unacceptable.
    Of course, these ideas can’t fix everything, and I know you are thinking of that one idea you found that I missed here. So add it in the comments. And read any comments that are there along with the article. I’ll edit in the main ones.
    Thank you.

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    About the Author

    Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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