We are committed to making progress in our fight against graft

Admitting that there is “slackness” in implementing laws pertaining to corruption and a lack of coordination between investigating agencies, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday asked the civil society and private players to shoulder some responsibility in achieving “zero tolerance” in this regard.

In his valedictory address at the concluding session of three-day conference of the ‘Seventh Regional Conference of the ADB-OECD Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia and the Pacific Region' here, Mr. Mukherjee said: “There are issues of slackness in implementation of existing laws, ineffectiveness of some laws, lack of coordination between different agencies that have overlapping mandates, policy gaps such as in the area of election funding and governance failure in several areas of public services delivery, that have contributed to the pervasiveness of this phenomenon.”

In a way lauding the agitation launched by civil society activist Anna Hazare in the recent past over the Lokpal Bill aimed at tackling corruption at all levels, Mr. Mukherjee said: “We are committed to making progress in our fight against corruption. It is also important that other stakeholders, including the private actors and the civil society, come forward in shouldering some responsibilities and contribute to the efforts of public agencies in this endeavour.”

Even as he listed the government departments that are engaged in checking corruption, he pointed out that it did not mean that the country was free from corruption. “Indeed, corruption is widespread and deep-rooted in our society…At the same time, we are one with the global community in sharing the responsibilities in our collective efforts to address this issue in its international dimension,” he said.

Mr. Mukherjee stressed that effective international cooperation had now become an essential part of any framework against corruption in the context of the current globalised environment. “We need to engage with each other at different levels to effectively block all physical escape routes for those blatantly propagating corrupt practices ... It is a war that has to be fought on all fronts and in a concerted and coordinated manner by all stakeholders,” he said.

Symptomatic solutions would provide only temporary results while the need was for having a comprehensive framework against corruption. “We are committed to the goal of achieving zero tolerance against corruption.” He referred to the amended tax treaty with Switzerland — among others which have been inked with other countries — which has been accorded approval by the Swiss Parliament recently. “As soon as Switzerland completes its internal process, the treaty shall come into force and will allow India to obtain banking information from Switzerland in specific cases.”

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