Moving beyond the concept of punitive vigilance that dominates vigilance administration, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) will next week put the focus back on preventive vigilance that could help cut through red tape and promote good governance.
The CVC has asked vigilance officers to identify rules, procedures and discretionary powers with civil servants that leave scope for corruption in their departments and companies.
The initiative is a fall out of the CVC’s decision to stress on overhauling rules and procedures to reduce opportunities for corruption rather than just worry about penalising corrupt officials. Central Vigilance commissioner KV Chowdary told HT that suggestions had been received from 150 CVOs and would be examined.
The emphasis on preventive vigilance — also the theme for the Vigilance Awareness Week beginning Monday — would ensure systemic improvements that would deliver long-term benefits and raise governance standards.
The concept of preventive vigilance is hardly new. It was the Santhanam Committee in the mid-1960s — an anti-corruption panel set up in 1962 that also recommended setting up the CVC and the Lokpal — that first highlighted the need to simplify rules, cut administrative delays and reduce scope for personal discretion.
This meant the department or company concerned had to play an important role in vigilance matters.
So it was no surprise that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an interaction with secretary-rank officers last year, asked top civil servants to identify rules and laws that prevent improving efficiency.
Modi recently made a similar point when he called for an analysis of RTI applications to ascertain if there was a problem in the rules or its execution. But CBI special director RK Dutta lamented how departments increasingly considered vigilance to be the job of only anti-corruption sleuths.
Citing a case from Karnataka, Dutta wondered why civil servants did not use graft complaints to identify and rectify problem areas.