The government has accepted the recommendations of the group of ministers (GoM) that seeks to fast-track cases against public servants accused of corruption.
The GoM, headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was constituted on 6 January 2011 to consider measures to tackle corruption among public servants. The panel submitted its first report in April, which has now been accepted by government.
The first report of the GoM has been duly considered by the department of personnel and training, cabinet secretariat and the PMO and the government on Tuesday accepted the recommendations with minor changes.
In all cases where the investigating agency has requested sanction for prosecution, the competent authority has to mandatorily take a decision within a period of 3 months from receipt of request, and pass a speaking order, giving reasons for the decision.
In the event of refusal of sanction to prosecute, the competent authority will have to submit its order, including reasons for refusal, to the next higher authority for information within 7 days.
Wherever the minister-in-charge of the department is the competent authority and he decides to deny the permission, it would be incumbent on the minister to submit, within 7 days of passing such order denying the permission, to the prime minister for information.
The secretary of each department/ministry should monitor all cases where a request has been made for permission to prosecute. Secretaries should submit a certificate every month to the cabinet secretary to the effect that no case is pending for more than 3 months and, in case any such request is pending, the reasons for such pendency and the level where it is pending may also be explained.
The GoM has recommended dispensing with the second stage advice of the Central Vigilance Commission. However, in cases where consultation with UPSC is not required under the extant rules, the second stage consultation with CVC should continue, it said.
Also, departments/ ministries should primarily use serving officers as inquiry officers (IDs) and presenting officers (POs) and in important cases, they may request CVC to appoint their commissioners for departmental inquiries (GDIs) as lOs.
CVC should maintain a panel of lOs/POs from amongst retired government officers after due process of screening and empanelment. These officers could be engaged on advice of the CVC.
Speeding up CBI probes
The centre has already proceeded with the process of expediting the setting up of special CBI courts and is actively pursuing the matter with state governments, according to a government release.
The GoM has suggested the setting up of a committee headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court and having a retired CVC, retired director of CBI and another person of impeccable reputation drawn from the civil society as members, to look into CBI cases that are pending for more than 10 years, particularly those under the Prevention of Corruption Act and suggest ways for their speedy disposal, including withdrawal, if need be.
The GoM has sought the strengthening of vigilance administration at the central ministries/departments and, in particular, the strengthening of vigilance wing of the department of personnel and training, with requisite manpower to ensure effective monitoring of vigilance matters.
The GoM recommendations provide for continuation of minor penalty proceedings against public servants even after retirement with provision for a ceiling of 10 per cent cut in pension for a period not exceeding five years. However, such reduction in pension is "non-mandatory" in minor penalty proceedings.
Also, instead of the present penalty of 'compulsory retirement with full pension', it would be 'compulsory retirement with a cut in pension up to 20 per cent".
The government proposes to take necessary follow-up action for implementing these decisions, by way of amendment of rules, etc.
The GoM has recommended framing of clear guidelines in the exercise of central ministers' discretionary powers such as nomination of members/experts to various boards etc. However, it said these were generally found to be governed by guidelines as per the information furnished by various ministries/departments.
Public procurement policy
The GoM, at its meeting held on 6 September, considered the recommendations made by a committee of secretaries on public procurement and the government plans to come out with an all-encompassing `Public Procurement Bill' in Parliament by the end of the current year.
The GoM also suggested broader law that contains the principles governing public procurements, like ensuring transparency and accountability but at same time providing for due independence and flexibility for the procuring agencies.
The GoM further suggested that the rule making exercise might be undertaken in parallel with the drafting of the proposed legislation covering different aspects of procurement of goods, services, pharmaceuticals and drugs and works.
The GoM also suggested that the exercise of framing of rules and standardisation of documents for PPP projects may also be undertaken concurrently, so that the system is in readiness and is prepared for implementation of the new legislation without any loss of time.
The GoM has been asked to consider all measures, including legislative and administrative, to tackle corruption and improve transparency. In particular, the GoM has been asked to consider and advise the government on:
- State funding of elections;
- Fast-tracking of all cases of public servants accused of corruption;
- Ensuring full transparency in public procurement and contracts, including enunciation of public procurement standards and a public procurement policy;
- Relinquishing discretionary powers enjoyed by ministers at the centre;
- Introduction of an open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources;
- Amendment to Article 311 of the Constitution to provide for summary proceedings in cases of grave misdemeanor or blatant corruption by public servants: and
- Consideration of relevance/need for section 6(A) of the Delhi Special Establishment Act, 1946.