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Dangerous times

KP Shashidharan | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on September 08, 2015

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The law gives little protection to those who expose wrongdoing

Being a whistle-blower is a high-risk enterprise. Recent events like the Vyapam scam and the rising body count being associated with it in the media demonstrate starkly the risk that those who expose wrongdoing can face.

The Whistle Blowers’ Protection Act, 2011, was meant to complement the Right to Information Act, empowering whistle-blowers to be emboldened to go against corruption.

An ideal whistle-blower legislation should not only protect the individual from possible threats but also establish easy procedures for disclosure in a secured and confidential way. The Act is expected to ensure that the red flags shown are investigated, proper action is taken in a fair and transparent way, and justice is provided to the aggrieved.

Deficiencies in the Act

However, the Act we have has many deficiencies. For instance, it does not include maladministration as recommended by the Law Commission. The Act has limited the power of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to public servants only, leaving politicians outside its grasp. The Act fails to limit the timeframe for the CVC to complete the inquiry. In the meantime the whistle-blower may get victimised. In fact, the Act does not define victimisation. Neither does it specify any punishment for it.

There is little safeguard for the whistle-blower. It is hard to keep the identity undisclosed during investigation or trial. The Act allows the CVC to reveal the identity of the whistle-blower, if it is necessary to do so.

There is also no provision for anonymous complaints. Even if the complaints contain verifiable facts supported by key documents, the corrupt can file papers for closure of the case stating that the complaint is anonymous. This omission discourages responsible public servants from flagging gross abuse and misuse of authority.

Best practices

Whistle-blowing is to be encouraged as it is an efficient and effective way of curbing unlawful practices. Whistle-blowers can also report misconduct to outside entities such as media and courts, and watchdogs such as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), Central Investigation Bureau (CBI), CVC, and local, State and Central government authorities.

To ensure transparency in project execution, procurement of goods and services, contract management, e-auctioning and public bidding, it is important to adopt updated technological software analytics and risk management, compliance, governance, and internal audit control tools and solutions.

Technological solutions like data analytics will help fraud detection. Information security cannot be compromised at any stage. Transparency and accountability should be ensured for preventing corruption in public procurement. Adoption of best practices in the procurement process combined with goal congruence among policy formulators, experts, civil society activists and government functionaries will go a long way to create a protective environment for whistle-blowers to come forward to fight against corruption.

The writer was the director-general, CAG of India. The views are personal

Published on September 08, 2015
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