Combating corruption through robust compliance procedures – the Vigilance Awareness Week

The business landscape in India has undergone a significant change in terms of increasing flow of foreign investments, contribution to the global economy, exponential growth of startups and technological advancements. As per the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report 2018, India jumped up by 30 points, securing a spot in the top 100 countries for conducting business. That said, the economy has also been grappling with issues related to bribery and corruption.

While the Government has been taking measures to combat corruption over the last few years through various initiatives such as a proposal to strengthen The Prevention of Corruption Act, demonetization, income declaration scheme, bankruptcy code etc., there is still much ground to cover. Vigilance and robust implementation of policies and procedures is the key for early detection and deterrence. The on-going Vigilance Awareness Week is a perfect time to accentuate the need and importance of awareness amongst employees and co-workers, and convey the repercussions in case of non-compliance. With fraud risks becoming complex and fraudsters becoming savvier, it has become crucial than ever before for organizations to have a mechanism in place that will promote transparency and sound governance.

Crackdown on corruption

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) observes Vigilance Awareness Week each year to bring awareness and reaffirm the commitment of the public at large in taking measures to eradicate corruption. Their approach over the last few years has been two pronged – recommending action against errant officers and implementation of policies and procedures. As per recent CVC reports, as of 30th June, 2017, 1,962 complaints alleging various misconducts were under enquiry, relating to public servants under the jurisdiction of the commission. The ambit for probes by CVC has also increased with the Reserve Bank of India providing assent to review allegations of corruption in private sector banks and their employees. Additionally, the commission has also been working toward establishing strong anti-bribery and anti-corruption mechanisms, which can mitigate corrupt practices.

There has also been increased onus on individuals in combating corruption. This is reflected in the theme adopted for the Vigilance Awareness Week this year – “My Vision – Corruption Free India” and the initiatives suggested as part of it. These include activities to be conducted within public sector organizations as well as larger outreach activities for the public or citizens such as voluntary Integrity Pledge by public servants, awareness workshops, grievance redressal camps and social media campaigns. The commission has also suggested conducting knowledge programs in schools, colleges and organizations to increase awareness around fighting corruption.

The road ahead
Some measures that organizations need implement in order to mitigate corrupt practices include –

  1. Strong tone at the top – Boards and the senior management need to propagate a strong tone at the top to create awareness around corrupt practices and its effects on employees in their organization. Furthermore, there is also a need for organizations to map internal and external risks, and take steps to mitigate them
  2. Robust due diligence – With increasing competition, organizations tend to outsource activities to third party vendors in order to drive efficiency and remain competitive. Thus, risks associated with third-party on-boarding need to evaluated and monitored at regular intervals to avoid third-party fraud.
  3. Training and awareness – Conduct training and awareness campaigns in a timely manner to make employees understand the importance of ethics while doing business. It is important to inculcate a sense of accountability amongst individuals while bringing about transparency in processes and operations.
  4. Deploying technology –The Government has brought certain technological changes such as introduction of e-governance and e-procurement platforms, which can mitigate manual intervention and deter bribery and corruption risks. Private sector organizations, in their growth aspirations also need to consider automation and leverage tools and technologies. This may be in the form of performing data analytics, online surveys or compliance tools that facilitate monitoring across geographical borders.

While corruption free India may be a long term vision, these efforts can be a step in the right direction to achieve it.

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