Adding to the mechanisms to fight corruption already in place, the state government has amended the Goa Government Employees (Redressal of Grievances Forum) Scheme, 2001 to grant more powers to the ombudsman to inquire into any allegation of corruption or misconduct against any government employee under the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964. The 2001 scheme had made provision for appointment of an ombudsman who could be a retired judicial officer in the rank of district judge, a retired officer of the Indian Administrative Service, or a serving or retired member of the Goa general service with a degree in law who has worked in level 13 of the Central Civil Services Revised Pay Rules, 2016 at least for a period of two years. Though the office of ombudsman existed since the 2001 scheme came into effect, it failed to bring down corruption cases among government servants. The latest amendment of the scheme is done with the purpose of empowering the ombudsman to make a probe into any allegation of corruption or misconduct against any government servant.
Another step to curb corruption taken by the government is to make government servants in groups A and B more accountable by linking vigilance clearance to their promotion. Every official will now have to submit immovable property returns by January 31 every year; else their promotion will be withheld for the following year. They will have to give details regarding the immovable properties inherited by him/her or owned or acquired by him/her or held by him/her on lease or mortgage either in his or her own name or in the name of any member of family or in the name of any other person.
These are measures that, if enforced strictly, could reduce the scope of corruption among government servants. With filing of property returns made mandatory, an official would have to take the risk being caught for not telling the truth in the returns if he/she conceals a property bought with money earned through bribery. However, corrupt officials have been known to find hundreds of ways to conceal their ill-gotten wealth. The government must therefore make monitoring and cross-checking very strict in this regard. The returns submitted by officials should not just be filed away by some clerk without anyone checking what the submissions are. The government should also at the same time create space for cross-verification by providing for anyone to file objections and complaints of illegal property acquisitions by an official. Such a complaint might be submitted to the government which can refer it to the ombudsman who will investigate the officer’s annual submission to check its truthfulness.
The anti-corruption record of the government is very poor. As of now, about 1500 government officials, one-third of them gazetted officers, have faced allegations of corruption. Some of the cases have been pending for two decades despite the fact that the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules clearly specify that complaints against government officials should be investigated and disposed within six months from the time they are received. Though over 470 complaints were lodged against government officials between 2001 and 2010, not a single case was concluded. The maximum number of cases, about six per cent of the complaints received, was taken to conclusion in 2012. That corruption is prevalent in every government department is well known, but some are notorious. In the non-gazetted officers’ category the list is topped by the panchayat department followed by police. In the gazetted officers’ category, the directorate of municipal administration tops the list, closely followed by the North Goa collectorate.
It is highly unlikely that the latest two measures – linking of officer promotion to annual submission of immovable property returns and giving powers to ombudsman to inquire into any allegation of corruption or misconduct against any government employee – are going to make government servants less corrupt in a perceptible manner. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has to take some strong and ruthless measures to reduce corruption in the real sense. First, corruption begins from the top. He has to stop his ministers and high officers taking a handsome commission every time they take a decision that ostensibly favours a business. Second, he has to speed up the disposal of cases of corruption against officials. Third, he should not allow officials facing allegations of corruption to rise higher in their service. Fourth, he must make the right to service really effective for citizens to get services, such as certificates, within a given period. Fifth, he should make as many services as possible available online. Sixth, he should make all recruitments in government through competitive examinations.