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India's Anti-corruption Deficit Shines at World Stage

MAY 31, 2017

By Naresh Minocha, Consulting Editor

"INDIA is now rising on the world stage: PM Modi", claims the headline to PM's speech posted on narendramodi.in. Well, world-stage is multi-dimensional. And one dimension in which India has missed the stage is the one about which Mr. Modi is most vocal! Yes, you guessed it right- fighting corruption.

Modi Government has preferred to keep India as a super-laggard when it comes to implementing United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and making disclosures about its compliance. UNCAC is the only globally accepted framework for battle against corruption.

Missing from website of UNCAC's secretariat, United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), are three essential components of India's anti-corruption profile. The three components are: Country's self-assessment report/checklist (SAR), country review report (CRR) prepared by two UNODC-nominated countries and executive summary (ES) of each CRR.

India is one of the very few ratifying countries whose all three vital elements are missing from their respective anti-corruption profiles.

The unfortunate significance of this black-out can be gauged from the fact that the website has 71 CRRs, 155 ES and 15 SARs. Before discussing the status of India's SAR & CRR, it will be apt to put the significance of UNCAC implementation in perspective. (https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/treaties/CAC/country-profile/index.html).

Even countries, which ratified UNCAC a few years after India become its active member, have either one or two elements on their respective profile pages. Take the case of Ireland, which ratified UNCAC in November 2011. It has allowed UNODC to upload 260-page CRR, apart from CRR's executive summary (ES).

Oman, which ratified the Convention in January 2014, has also followed it. Its profile page has both CRR and ES. Saudi Arabia, which ratified UNCAC in April 2013, has ES on its profile page. Germany, which ratified UNCAC during November 2014, has 269-page SAR on its profile page.

UNCAC's Implementation Review Mechanism (IRM) is a peer review process that assists all consenting countries to effectively implement the Convention. Each country's performance is reviewed by two peers/countries.

UNODC started IRM's first cycle in 2010. This cycle (2010-2015) covers countries' compliance with UNCAC's chapter III relating to 'Criminalization and Law Enforcement' and Chapter IV pertaining to 'International Cooperation'. IRM country review starts with the submission of SAR by the country to be reviewed.

According to UNODC's briefing note prepared in September 2015, CRR is "Confidential process, leading to the publishing of only the Executive Summary. However, States are encouraged to also publish their full report".

It adds: "UNODC has noted an increasing desire from States to make public the full report, which is an encouraging trend in favour of transparency. To date, 34 States parties have agreed to publish their full report on the IRG web page. Some States publish the full reports on their own websites, so the actual number of reports posted online exceeds 34".

Each CRR identifies reviewed country's achievements, good practices and challenges. It also makes observations to strengthen the country's implementation of the Convention.

UNCAC secretariat has prepared a discussion paper on 'Developing a set of non-binding recommendations and conclusions based on lessons learned regarding the implementation of chapters III and IV. The Paper would be discussed by UNCAC Implementation Review Group at its meet during 19th-23rd June 2017.

Modi Government should muster political courage to pick ideas from this paper to inject credibility in its anti-corruption rhetoric.

UNODC started second cycle in November 2015. It covers countries' adherence to provisions contained in chapter II relating to Preventive measures and Chapter V pertaining to Asset recovery.

India ratified UNCAC in May 2011 with a caveat – "The Government of the Republic of India does not consider itself bound by paragraph 2 of Article 66 of the Convention".

This paragraph relating to settlement of disputes reads as: "Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention that cannot be settled through negotiation within a reasonable time shall, at the request of one of those States Parties, be submitted to arbitration. If, six months after the date of the request for arbitration, those States Parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those States Parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by request in accordance with the Statute of the Court".

Modi Government has not withdrawn this reservation to demonstrate its full faith in UN's anti-corruption battle. It is pertinent here to note that Vajpayee Government did not sign the Convention that was adopted by UN General Assembly in October 2003. The job was done by UPA. India signed UNCAC in December 2005 under UPA-I regime & ratified it during UPA-II's tenure.

And it was UPA that started the exercise for preparation of SAR in 2012. It was written in 2013 by Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), which serves as the nodal agency for Indian operations under UNCAC.

Three-and-half years have passed and yet SAR is not available in public domain.

According to Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions' annual report for 2016-17, based on SAR, India is being reviewed for compliance status of domestic laws with the provisions contained in Chapters III & Chapter IV.

The Ministry says DOPT has received "updated country report in respect of Chapter III of UNCAC from UNODC Secretariat which is under examination" in consultation with different ministries.

DOPT is expecting an updated country report in respect of Chapter IV from UNODC. The annual report has not disclosed the reasons for slow speed in preparation of CRR.

Turn now the unodc.com's link titled 'Thematic Compilation of Prevention-related Information'. It says the thematic pages are a compilation of the information and material submitted by States parties ahead of the meetings of the Working Group on Prevention, excerpts from background reports or publications by the Secretariat, and presentations given during the Working Group sessions. They include relevant policies, practices and legislation as well as further resource material.

The pages contain reports/notes submitted by different countries on implementation of Article 5th-14 th of UNCAC, in addition to separate disclosure on 'Integrity in Sports'. Many countries thus don't shy in sharing information on corruption.

India again scores a big zero in making disclosures under any of these 15 categories. There is not a single note from India under any category. Does Modi regime believe that zero disclosures and secrecy means zero corruption? It is high time Government accepts the fact zero gimmick that does not even work in the world's least corrupted nations. This claim will vanish into thin air, if Government adopts credible transparency at least as provided for by RTI Act.

Indian Government also hardly makes any written suggestion to seminars/meetings on anti-corruption initiatives organized periodically at UNCAC, G20 and other such global platforms.

Modi Government's failure or delay to enact/amend different laws to comply with UNCAC is monumental as was pointed out recently in this column during January. (Modiji, Please walk the talk on Corruption)

It is here pertinent to remind the Government about its commitment to G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan 2017-2018.

The Action Plan says: "We reaffirm our support for UNCAC's Implementation Review Mechanism. To enhance transparency and inclusivity we will continue to make use, on a voluntary basis, of the options in its terms of reference, including: involving the private sector and civil society, inviting site visits, and publishing the full reports of reviews. We also reaffirm our commitment to implement and build on UNCAC's provisions and those of other international, regional and bilateral anti-corruption instruments to which our countries may be party".

India is also a party to resolutions adopted by the Conference of the States Parties to UNCAC at its 6th session held in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation during November 2015.

One resolution focused on "the importance of sustained and enhanced political will and the commitment of all States parties, consistent with the Convention against Corruption, to criminalize and prosecute corruption offences and effectively cooperate to recover the proceeds derived from corruption offences".

The world is watching when Mr. Modi would transform his war of words against corruption into action. Can there be a better way other than setting up Lokpal, which India has already talked about at international forums?


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