The Prime Ministers Office (PMO) today sought to clear Anna Hazare's doubts over the legitimacy of the allocation of coal mining blocks to private companies at random, saying the UPA government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has done a transparent job on coal mine allocation, purely on the basis of the country's growth requirements.
The government, the PMO letter stated, ''has tabled a strong Lokpal Bill in Parliament,'' which has features that are more progressive than in any bill tabled before in the House. The bill has been prepared after considering suggestions by the Hazare team and others and ''those that were considered feasible have been incorporated.''
He said the bill could be finalised only after hearing all stakeholders in the government. An all-party meeting has also been held in a bid to build a consensus. Since there was no consensus, the bill has now been referred to a select committee, which will be open to receive and examine all relevant suggestions, he added.
The government, he said, is open to suggestions from all parties.
In addition to the Lokpal Bill, the government has taken a slew of measures, both legislative and executive, to curb and reduce corruption, according to the PMO.
The letter cited the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Persons Making the Disclosure Bill, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of International Organisations Bill, the Citizens' Right to Grievance Redress Bill and the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill that have been brought forward.
India, the letter added, has also ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. A comprehensive public procurement law has also been approved by the cabinet.
Besides, the letter stated that the National Mission for Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms has been set up.
A group of ministers set up by the government to consider measures to tackle corruption has approved a number of measures. Some of the measures are:
- Fast-tracking of all cases of public servants accused of corruption;
- Competent authority to take decision within 3 months on requests from investigating agencies for sanction of prosecution (orders issued since); and
- Competent authority to decide within 3 months all requests for granting/denying permission under section 6(a) of DSPE Act, 1946. The competent authority for officers of the level of JS and above in GoI will be the minister-in-charge. (orders issued since).
- Ministry of law and justice directed to come up with specific proposals for initiating reforms expeditiously. (These are awaiting political consensus);
- Relinquishing discretionary powers enjoyed by Ministers at the Centre;
- DoPT directed to issue a general advisory to all ministries/depts to carry out an exercise for putting in place regulatory parameters for exercise of discretionary powers and putting them in public domain. (instructions since issued by DoPT);
- Introduction of an open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources; and
- Accepted most recommendations of the Ashok Chawla committee; DEA directed to monitor the implementation of the same by the respective ministries/depts.
These are being implemented by the various ministries and a monitoring mechanism has been set up to track progress, the release said.
To fight the menace of black money, the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act and amendment to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have been passed. A special committee has been set up to examine measures to strengthen laws to curb black money generation, the PMO wrote.
Independent agencies have been commissioned to assess the quantum of black money and make recommendations. New income tax overseas units have been set up and new tax information exchange agreements and double taxation avoidance agreements have been signed to contain generation and outflow of illicit funds.
The PMO letter avers that agencies like CBI, ED, CAG and CBDT are functioning independently as per their mandates and there is no government interference in the functioning of these agencies.
It cited the CAG, which has functioned in an unfettered way in conducting audit of various departments.
''The government continues to welcome suggestions from all segments of civil society, including the one represented by you, on measures to bring greater probity in governance and public life. The government is committed to make all efforts to reduce corruption and bring in greater transparency, '' the letter said
Yet, the PMO added, ''The government is also determined to ensure that baseless and uninformed allegations made against public servants are not allowed to create fear that can lead to paralysis in decision-making and slow down growth and development.''
As regards the allegations made against the prime minister, the letter said, they seem to be based on a leaked draft of the CAG on coal block allocations and on media stories.
''You have provided no evidence to back up these allegations and you have yourself said that you are not making these allegations. All details of the policy and procedures followed for coal block allocations have been placed in the public domain by the coal ministry and can be seen by all by going to the link - http://coal.nic.in/welcome.html' it said
''All decisions were taken in public interest on the basis of legal provisions and relevant policy in force,'' it added.
The final report of the CAG has not yet been tabled in Parliament. When it is tabled, the government will submit detailed responses before the Public Accounts Committee as per constitutional procedure.