Category Archives: Anti-corruption

Curbing illicit financial flows from Africa: Are existing initiatives achieving enough?

By Casey Sahadath (special to CDHR)

LogoIn the 2013-2014 Union Budget of India, the Government of India allocated 80,194 crore ($13.6bn USD) for rural development[1]. In the US, the President’s budget request for 2014 calls for $647 billion in national security spending[2]. The UK’s budget anticipates that the government will receive £167 billion ($280bn USD) in income tax revenue for the 2014-15 fiscal year[3]. Consider if that money were to disappear; India’s funds allocated for rural development, the entire defense budget of the United States, and all the tax revenue collected in the UK. These figures make an approximate total of $940 billion, a substantial amount of funds. In 2010, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) estimated that developing countries lost between $859 billion to $1.06 trillion annually to illicit financial flows (IFFs) between 2002 and 2006[4]. To put things into perspective consider what would happen if India, the US, and UK lost $940 billion annually for four consecutive years. What would be the effects on infrastructure, development, national security, and social services? Would these countries be able to meet debt obligations to their creditors, would they be able to reduce their deficits? What would be the effects of this asset loss on their citizens?

IFFs imageFor many in Africa, this has been a reality for decades. Despots, corrupt government officials and corrupt heads of state move billions of dollars from government coffers into lucrative, opaque bank accounts in jurisdictions which provide ironclad secrecy from nosy citizens and special rapporteurs tasked with monitoring corruption. Wealthy elites and corporations uninterested in paying tax on their incomes or revenue often incorporate themselves or their businesses in jurisdictions which provide a more favourable tax structure, stealing potential tax revenue away from countries that need it the most. As Mick Moore writes in the book Draining Development, IFFs diminish economic growth, reduce and stagnate state capacity, and ultimately exacerbate income inequality[5]. Instances of this theft in Africa, particularly among heads of state, have been well documented over the years; General Sani Abacha of Nigeria stole approximately $1.8 billion in cash from Nigeria’s central bank during his reign[6], 35 year incumbent President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, took personal control over the national treasury in 2003 to fight corruption from corrupt bureaucrats[7] and subsequently deposited $700 million into American banks[8], and deceased ruler of Libya Muammar Gaddafi has assets hidden globally at a conservative estimate of $200 billion[9][10].

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India’s Right to Information Act: Legitimate Exemptions or Conscious Secrecy?

Known Unknowns[1] of RTI Act in India: Legitimate Exemptions or Conscious Secrecy?

By Pankaj K P Shreyaskar[2]

[This article was previously published in the Economic and Political Weekly: Vol – XLIX No. 24, June 14, 2014]

LogoAfter almost more than eight years of RTI (Right to Information) Act’s coming to force in India, the process of accessing information is still up against impediments. The flow of information is restricted either on account of various public institutions not coming in the ambit of RTI Act or is argued that the information is exempt under various clauses of the Act. The paper, on the basis of select judgments/orders of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and the superior courts exhibits as to how the exemption clauses have been utilized to camouflage the disclosure norms including that of negating the applicability of RTI by several organizations. The paper also presents the contingency model for the Indian Right to Information Act, 2005.

  1. MILLIEU

“What’s wrong with open government? Why shouldn’t the public know more about what’s going on?”

“My dear boy, it’s a contradiction in terms. You can be open, or you can have government.”

“But surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know?”

“No. They have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity and guilt, ignorance has a certain dignity.” [3]

Sir Humphrey’s preachment about knowledge and ignorance provides me enough motivation to investigate into its veracity in the light of RTI Act. The RTI Act has been enacted “to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”[4].

Further the RTI Act, 2005 envisages “And whereas revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information; And whereas it is necessary to harmonize these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal”.[5]

It is in this name of preservation of the confidentiality of information and the paramountcy of the democratic ideals that the organizations have advocated for exemption clauses vociferously and strategically, in some cases.

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Citizens’ Charter in India: Delivering governance to people

By Neha Mahal (CDHR)

(From our Bulletin archives: originally published in June 2013)

LogoPetty corruption experienced by people in accessing basic and day-to-day public services from the government largely forms the basis of anti-corruption sentiments among people in India. A survey conducted jointly by Transparency International India and Centre for Media Studies in 2008 pointed out that below the poverty line households had paid a total of $ 177 million as bribe in 2007 alone to avail of basic public services such as public distribution system, education, water supply, electricity, health.

Despite making several public policies for bringing progress to people what fails them is inefficiency and corruption at the level of delivery. Lack of accountability and reliability in delivery of public goods and services poses problem for citizens who as a result fail to avail themselves of basic amenities and standard of life and hence lose out on development. Therefore, in response to tackle such widespread corruption and lethargy in public service delivery across India, the government had tabled ‘The Rights of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and redressal of their grievance bill 2011’ in parliament in 2012.

The bill is a step forward in the direction of removing the sluggishness which infests the public delivery system in India by introducing accountability and responsibility in governance. It will establish a mechanism in every department, organization or scheme having public interface under centre, state or Union Territory for timely delivery of public goods and services. In case of non-delivery and other malpractices, the bill allows the citizen to seek grievance redressal through making complaint at several levels thus creating the onus on public officers to assure provision of services and goods.

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