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Ease of doing business? RTI reveals World Bank's omission of corrupt practices may have hyped India's ranking

By Our Representative
Right to Information (RTI) replies from the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), which is responsible for issuing import licenses, as also Central Vigilance Commission (CVC, which exercises jurisdiction over DGFT) have revealed that the anti-graft system of both the organizations have failed to establish culpability of any official in any of the 180+ complaints of corruption and vigilance received by them between April 2013-February 2017.
Revealing this, Venkatesh Nayak, senior RTI activist, said, "Either the internal investigation methodology is not robust or the corrupt are so proficient in their actions that they leave behind very little prosecutable evidence."
Nayak, who is with the well known advocacy group, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said, the vigilance section of DGFT did send some statistics about vigilance and corruption complaints received and transferred the RTI application to the regional offices of the vigilance section, Department of Commerce, it's parent department, in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
However, surprisingly, between April 2013 and February 2017, regional offices of DGFT, of "received 181 vigilance and corruption complaints", yet, " none of them have yet resulted in the launch of criminal proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988", said Nayak in an email alert to Counterview.
"None of the cases have yet resulted in the initiation of disciplinary proceedings under the conduct rules applicable to these officers/employees. In only one case, initiated in 2009, major penalty was imposed on the officer but details of the case were not provided. The regional office of the DGFT in Kolkata did not even bother to send a reply to the RTI application", Nayak complained.
As for the CVC, said Nayak, it replied that "it received only three vigilance complaints during the years 2013-15, all of which were referred to the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO), Ministry of Commerce for action. The CVC did not disclose the ultimate fate of these cases."
The activist added, "CVC also received two whistleblower complaints during this period which were forwarded for necessary action to the CVO, Department of Commerce. The CVC also admitted that it does not expect any report from the CVO about action taken on these whistleblower complaints."
Nayak decided to file RTI queries because he found that the recent World Bank report on Ease of Doing Business, even as "upgrading" India's ranking from 130th to 100th, has not included corruption as a factor hindering setting up a business.
The 10 parameters it focused on are: starting a business; dealing with construction permits; getting electricity; registering property; getting credit; protecting minority investors; paying taxes; trading across borders; enforcing contracts; and resolving insolvency.
Referring to another World Bank report of 2014, Enterprise Survey, based on an interview of 9,281 small, medium and large businesses across 27 states, Nayak said, it had found, 43.4% said they expected to give gifts for obtaining an import license; 51.5% said they expected to give gifts to get a power supply connection; and 52.5% said they expected to give gifts to get a water supply connection.
"Given these startling figures, the Ease of Doing Business studies and any ranking of a country will remain incomplete unless the parameter of 'corruption' is also included", insisted Nayak, adding, this became the basis of his RTI plea to DGFT, along with the authorities which provide water and power connection to those seeking import licenses.

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