EDITORIAL: Loopholes galore

All the faces of corruption should be unmasked and corrupt people must be mercilessly punished, and they should be socially despised too

The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) nabs some people from time to time and files legal cases of corruption against them in the Special Court.

Some of the accused are convicted; others are cleared of the charges. Right now, the anti-graft agency has just filed cases against eight officials of Transport Management Office, Itahari, including three under-secretaries, on charges of revenue embezzlement. They faced action after a CIAA probe committee found that they had embezzled more than Rs.612 million in the past three years.

The accused had deposited just Rs.618 million as revenue collected in 2014-15, whereas the actual collection stood at Rs.657 million. The misappropriated amount rose sharply in the following year (2015-16) to Rs.256 million. The transport office collects vehicle tax and road maintenance tax and has to deposit all the revenue in the government’s bank accounts.

One also wonders at the actual scale and spread of corruption which can take innumerable forms when government servants do not hesitate to pocket even collected government revenue which is already in the record books.

Corruption is committed in purchases, in delivery of numerous kinds of services to the public, in awarding contracts and in certifying completion of contracted work, in giving privilege, incentives or tax waivers to businessmen and others, in under-invoicing and over-invoicing, in favouring people in appointments, lucrative postings, as well as promotion, in reducing tax or other liability, in clearing goods through the customs checkpoints, and in innumerable other areas of government jurisdiction.

Despite sporadic examples of CIAA action, corruption has not abated. Ever-growing corruption is shown in the annual reports of the Auditor’s General, among other things, as unsettled accounts amounting to many billions of rupees.

The country is still in the tight grip of the unholy alliance of business, politicians and bureaucrats. We can also find an indication of this in the fact that unless the autonomous CIAA acts, as in the recent case of tax waivers, including VAT, amounting to Rs.21 billion, government bosses hardly ever act against their erring subordinates.

Failure to take action against offenders or do one’s prescribed duty should also be punishable, which is not so in many cases in the country. Through that loophole, corrupt leaders and employees harass service seekers till they are driven to desperation to be ready to pay under the table.

The branches of the CIAA should be expanded together with the human and other resources, equipment and technology through which it can do its duty better. In the selection of most commissioners and the employees of the CIAA too, enough attention and rigour are not shown by the political leaders, leading to a perennially less effective CIAA.

There is no system by which the spending, bank accounts, other properties, and lifestyles of the holders of public office may be deeply investigated and action initiated against those who cannot prove their honesty. There is thus much virgin territory in corruption monitoring and prosecuting in the country which should be fully explored.

All the faces of corruption should be unmasked and corrupt people must be mercilessly punished, and they should be socially despised too.

Anti-drug drive

Youngsters are easily lured to take narcotic drugs due to peer group influence, and it is very difficult to be free from drug abuse once they indulge in such practice.

In order to raise awareness among youths about the consequences of taking narcotic drugs in society and family, the Ministry of Home Affairs has launched a week long campaign urging the students and youth to avoid the use of illicit drugs that may be detrimental to their life if no cure is taken on time.

It is the family members who have to bear a huge burden to take care of their children.

Young people can be prevented from taking illicit drugs if the government agencies, drug dealers, society and parents keep vigil on the narcotic and illicit drugs being circulated in the market through a network. Home Ministry says that over 90,000 are addicted to illicit drugs across the country and, it is on the rise.

It cannot be controlled unless all come together to fight the illicit trade and trafficking of life threatening drugs. Awareness campaigns must be launched in schools and colleges where a large number of youth study.