Sunday, June 16, 2024

Corporate corruption


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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has recently advocated criminalisation of bribes paid by the private sector. Such action has been taken in other countries. Last year the UK passed the Bribery Act to whittle away at corporate graft. The US has its Foreign Corruption Act to penalise US companies which pay bribes overseas. At present India has the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988. It makes public functionaries receiving bribes just as culpable as those paying them. If bribes flow in one direction from the private sector to the Central, State and local governments, existing laws and the Lokpal bill should meet the challenge. But it does not cover political funding. All parties, especially the ruling Congress, receive money from vested interests, especially business houses. Political parties need huge amounts of money to pay workers, transport costs, and travel plus organisational expenses. Elections occur in this country with unusual frequency-general elections, state elections and municipal elections. Campaigns need money and the private sector coughs up much of it. That is corruption.

Parties do not reveal the sources from which they receive the sinews of their political battle. Money passes hands in devious ways. And that impacts adversely on society. Cases of political bosses stooping to venal folly are numerous. The Election Commission professes to be proactive. It declared that donations to parties made by corporate houses exceeding Rs 20,000 would get tax benefit. But it had no response. No corporate body was willing to disclose how much it donated to political parties. The corporate sector and the government need to come clean. Singh’s proposed legislation will not be adequate to reform the existing sleaze.

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