Chasing the elusive

The self-declaration of one’s property, as dictated by the country’s law, has been in vogue for quite some years for obvious reasons, that is, theoretically, keep track of those who might amass wealth through financial irregularities when holding a government post. The relevant details, presented to the National Vigilance Centre (NVC), going by the trends so far, invite no follow-up action as concerns the actual verification of what has been submitted. It has become more of a formality than some concrete basis to take action if the submitted details are false or not commensurate with the actual property holdings, lavish lifestyle or bank deposits and so on. This is the reason why the newly elected MPs, even when some of them have become ministers, do not bother to submit particulars of their property. It is a form of mockery exhibited by those who have to be more responsible and fulfil their duty as law-abiding citizens. The catch lies in the fact that no action is taken against those failing to provide their property details to the concerned agency, and that also within sixty days of the start of the fiscal year.

The fact that those holding public posts do not follow the property declaration directive is evident from the recent decision of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to pursue the defaulters. Though it is not clear as to the modus operandi of the CIAA but the law stipulates that those submitting their property particulars after the deadline would be fined Rs. 5,000 while those making false declarations would have to pay the said amount and further investigation would be carried out whether the said person has indulged in corrupt

activities while holding a government post. For the moment, together with the Prime Minister, the legislators and the civil servants who have not met the deadline will come under the purview of the CIAA. For this, the CIAA had directed the National Vigilence Centre, though belatedly, to provide it with the list of those who skipped the cut-off date for submitting property details, and now the process of action has been initiated against them. In this connection, the CIAA has sought clarification as to why the identified public post-holders have not submitted their property details.

All this has attracted public attention just because of the fact that the holders of government posts seem to have considered themselves to be above the investigation mechanism of the country. How effective the CIAA initiative will be against them is yet to be seen, though it has a track record that many of its initiatives have not borne fruit, espcially in the case of high-ranking holders of position. The body to look into the affairs of the abuse of authority has its own limitations in the form of the lack of manpower mainly those versed in legal matters and the lukewarm support from the administration. What it has done so far is only the tip of the iceberg. It is worthwhile waiting now to see how it moves through the crowd of the high profile figures in the government, the legislature and the bureaucracy. It calls for more leverage than that the CIAA is accustomed to using.