Corruption and the Lokayukta


In Barnes Mawrie’s article “Why corruption thrives in Meghalaya” (ST July 14, 2016), he had written, “What I mean to say here is that in many cases where RTIs are filed or cases against corruption have been taken up either by individuals, groups or NGOs; all of them lack persistence. They are like red hot iron which grows cold in no time. Even our NGOs who initially display good will in exposing the corruption of Government or Institutions, sooner or later lose their stamina and the issue is put in cold storage”

Mr Mawrie is  either ignorant of our arguments made many times through the media on why we need a strong Lokayukta Act in our State or he is deliberately trying to put us down for reasons best known to him.  But may I repeat on behalf of all the NGOs. involved in campaigning for the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act  passed by the State Assembly in 2014 and also remind the general public on why we need a strong and an independent Lokayukta in our state.

The RTI as the name implies is only the right to get information. It has no executive powers to take action on the information provided/received through the RTI. Therefore after the RTI Act was passed by Parliament in 2005  the RTI movement of Meghalaya had taken up a few cases  notably the CGI sheet  housing scheme where we used the RTI to uncover the financial irregularities  while implementing the scheme.  In fact we had spent nearly one year using the RTI  to bring out these irregularities which were then placed before the State Vigilance Commission (SVC) headed by the Chief Secretary to take action on the RTI  findings.

However when the Chief Secretary who is also the Chairman of SVC failed to take any action because, as a bureaucrat he acts according to the directions/orders of the Govt., we took up the case directly with the State Govt. However, it is most unfortunate that the Govt too literally ‘swept the findings under the carpet’. That was when we realized that when the Government does not take action against malfeasance exposed through RTI findings, corruption will thrive as rightly headlined by Barnes Mawrie and therefore the importance to have another independent Institution to act and prosecute in a time bound framework, on the RTI findings when financial irregularities are uncovered.

Hence we started our campaign for a strong and independent Lokayukta Act in our State and after engaging with the State Government for many years, the State Assembly finally passed the Meghalaya Lokayukta Act in 2014. And for the information of Mawrie, the Institution of Lokayukta will be an independent body having its own investigation and prosecution wing with a special court and will act within a time frame of 2 years.

The recent announcement by the State Government that all Government employees from the Chief Minister downwards will have to declare their and their family members assets together with their source of income, is one of the important provisions of the Lokayukta Act. The Lokayukta can also seize unaccounted assets. When the institution of the Lokayukta is finally in place in our State, it will strengthen and  give more teeth to the  RTI Act and further empower citizens to bring in transparency and accountability in governance.

The RTI movement of Meghalaya continue to engage with the State Govt to appoint the Chairperson and other members of the Lokayukta at the earliest and get it functioning, failing which we seek the support of the general public to put pressure on the Govt to act on what they have always propagated – accountability and transparency in governance.

Yours etc.,

Michael N.Syiem,

Via email

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