The Punjab government recently created the post of a deputy lokpal, giving an impression that the office of the lokpal was overburdened with work. However, statistics paint a different picture. It has emerged that over the last decade, the office entertained an averge of only four complaints a year, even as its annual budget rose from Rs 1.53 crore to Rs 20.34 crore.
Information gathered by Human Empowerment League of Punjab (HELP) general secretary Parvinder Singh Kitna under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has shown that the lokpal office did not receive any complaint from 2003 to 2005. Between 2006 and 2012, it received only 40 complaints. Sitting lokpal justice (retired) JS Sekhon has not received any complaint in nearly four months of his being in office. He had taken oath on November 17, 2012.
In the recently concluded assembly session, the government passed a bill to bring heads of municipal bodies and zila parishads under the purview of the lokpal which might bring some work to the nearly idle staff.
The lokpal secretariat already had 13 staff members on its rolls including a principal secretary, an inspector general of police, a registrar and a joint registrar. Shortly after assuming office, the new incumbent had expressed a need for more investigative staff. However, with the number of cases as slow as they are, it is yet to be seen what the staff will investigate?
Kitna said the government was paying crores every year on a 'toothless' body which had no more powers than recommending action in case a politician or bureaucrat was found corrupt.
"The institution, meant to bring transparency in political and bureaucratic circles, is kept under a veil of secrecy. One cannot access details of the complaints brought to the lokpal, the proceedings, or recommendations made by it to the legislature even under the RTI Act which is one of the reasons for failure of the lokpal," said Kitna.
"The small number of complaints reaching the lokpal suggests that either people do not have enough knowledge about this institution or have doubts about its credibility," he added.
"If the government really wants the lokpal to function independently anf give results, it must be given more teeth and independence," he suggested.