“Corruption affects the growth of a nation, reduces the Government’s income and creates inequalities in distribution of income and wealth. It is a major factor hindering development”, was the Indian Prime Minister’s stance on the ongoing ‘Vigilance Awareness Week’. He further went on to elaborate that corruption needs to be treated like a ‘disease’ and the focus should be on prevention. These may seem like strong words to use, however given India’s tryst with corruption, these statements are aptly framed.
It has been observed that there has been a strong thrust on good governance, with the Government strongly promoting this ideology through most of their endeavours. The note issued by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) commemorating this week coinciding with the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has effectively captured the dire need for preventive measures to take precedence in this journey versus a punitive approach.
Supply and demand – two sides of the corrupt coin
With corruption being the cause of two forces – demand and supply – there has been more effort placed in dealing with the demand side of the coin. It is however, necessary to factor in the contribution coming in from the supply side as well, to effectively eliminate this ‘disease’.
In sync with this effort, it would be an ideal time to emphasise the need for preventive vigilance to transcend through the corporate space as well. It has only been looked at more seriously in recent times. Companies have been grappling with a variety of norms in regard to anti-bribery and anti-corruption, and seem to be stifling with addressing issues around these areas.
The concept of vigilance has been floating around since ages. However, many have ignored the necessity to implement concrete measures to enforce its morals. For instance, there are a number of tools that, in principle, help to boost transparency and promote a culture of good governance. These range from effective whistle-blowing mechanisms (as mandated by the Companies Act 2013 and the SEBI listing guidelines) to appropriate redressal of complaints and endorsement through training undertaken to drive transparency and integrity within organizational ranks. On a broad level, the following aspects play a critical role in safeguarding a company against such challenges:
If we hypothetically consider ‘Government’ to be the nation’s organization, there is much to learn from the path they are currently treading. Public opinion backing anti-bribery and anti-corruption is essential in dealing with this issue at a macro level and similarly mass organizational awareness too is what will ensure effective corporate governance. One needs to now realize, even at an individual level, that good governance is no longer just an ideology but a practice that sustains itself on tactics and tools. While we are yet to witness a sea change in the outcome of such awareness initiatives, these efforts are a welcome change on our path to progress.