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Monday, 19 September 2011

Corporates should be brought under proposed Lokpal

The Central Vigilance Commissioner has reopened the debate on the mandate of the proposed Lokpal by suggesting that corporates should be brought under the purview of the proposed anti-corruption bill to check graft effectively.

He also said that corruption in higher levels of bureaucracy, as also among political executives, should be dealt with by Lokpal, provided there was a proper demarcation of work to avoid overlapping of powers with the CVC.

"Lokpal should cover corruption in higher bureaucracy and among political executives. There may also be a provision, as in UK bribery law, where a bribe giver is punished. We are also not against bringing corporates under the purview of Lokpal,'' Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar told in an interview to PTI.

CVC's views are certain to lend weight to the campaign launched by a section to widen the proposed ombudsman's amibit by including corporates and NGOs. In their perception, corporates too had played a crucial role in abetting corruption, citing the 2G spectrum allocation scam to drive home the point.

The present scheme of things is such that the CVC has no power to check corruption in private firms. It can, however, refer cases of criminal conspiracy and corruption by government officials and private persons to CBI.

The Central Vigilance Commissioner's remarks, however, did not find favour with the business and corporate houses. Sajjan Jindal, Vice-Chairman of JSW Group maintained that too much of policing will kill entrepreneurship. "Business should be allowed to function in a liberated environment. Lokpal looks at corruption in public life. It should not cover business as it will stifle decision making,'' he said.

Ergo Chairman and business historian Gita Piramal said, "First of all, the bill is not an answer to corruption. In terms of corporates there are enough laws in the system, what we lack is the political will to enforce them. Corporate-centric Lokpal is counter-intuitive. You need to create a vibrant business atmosphere."

Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava said, "Companies are not government institutions and function independently. Hence, the relevance of Lokpal bill for companies needs to be seen."

BDO Consulting Chairman Shailesh Haribhakti said, "corporates are under the scrutiny of the Corporate Affairs Ministry and regulators like Sebi. So long as there is a single authority abjudicating, it does not matter. Multiple agencies will certainly create confusion."

The head of a large public sector company, who did not wish to be named, echoed similar sentiments. "The move will restrict autonomy for public sector undertakings. I cannot take an independent decision if there are too many regulators. Already we are answerable to many agencies. What is the need to add another? It will be difficult to operate as business environment is also getting competitive,'' he said. The CVC also came out in favour of empowering the Lokpal to probe the role of ministers in cases of corruption. "Lokpal may investigate cases of corruption involving political executives (ministers). In case they are found involved in wrong doings then action against them should be taken as per the law,'' Kumar said.

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