Toothless anti-graft committee fails to punish corrupt government officials
That an anti-corruption body with no powers to prosecute is almost certainly bound to fail has been borne true again. The Mumbai arm of the district-level corruption eradication committee set up by the state government in 2003 has not been able to penalise any government official it has received complaints against in the past four years.
Of the 55 complaints registered against government officials between January 2007 and October 2011, the committee has disposed of 42 without recommending any action.
"We cannot recommend departmental inquiry without strong proof. A charge sheet has to be framed to initiate the inquiry, for which specific charges need to be made," said CV Oak, committee chairman and district collector of Mumbai island city.
The collector said the committee does not have the authority to initiate suo motu action or inquiry. "If there is substantial proof, we can forward the committee's recommendation to the disciplinary authority," Oak said.
Jeetendra Ghadge, the RTI activist who accessed the information, said: "This data indicates that none of the officials against whom complaints were made have been found guilty. The committee is not committed to curbing corruption since it has not recommended any disciplinary action. What, then, is its use?"
Members of the committee blame lack of prosecuting powers. "We have the authority to point out the irregularity, but the action is taken by the department. We submit our report to the committee chairman - the district collector - who directs it to the concerned authority or department, which should investigate and take necessary action," said Bhavesh Patel, the civil society member of the committee.
The committee has been ineffective despite having representatives from the civic body, police, the urban planning authority and the anti-corruption bureau on its panel. "If a complaint against a civic official is received, the concerned department head is called for the next meeting, and issue is resolved in presence of the complainant," said SB Gaikwad, a committee member and account officer from the civic body's vigilance department.