Central Vigilance Commission witnesses a dramatic drop in complaints

‘Perceived fall in public trust in anti-corruption bodies needs study’

Updated - December 01, 2021 12:24 pm IST

Published - April 09, 2018 10:58 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Representational image.

Representational image.

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) saw a dramatic drop in the total number of complaints received by it in 2017, keeping in line with the drop in actions by various government departments in cracking down on corruption. The 23,609 complaints received in 2017 by the CVC was less than half of almost 50,000 complaints received in 2016, and the lowest in the previous five years.

Officials said some of this can be explained by the improved system for weeding out duplication of complaints and a few other streamlining exercises undertaken in recent years. However, others, including whistle blowers and civil servants, said a deeper study was required to assess if the public was losing its trust in anti-corruption bodies because of their perceived inefficiency, quality of investigations and possible manipulations at various levels. They also suggest that the government should notify the original Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011, appoint a Lokpal, and initiate other steps for strengthening anti-corruption mechanisms.

According to the CVC’s annual report submitted to Parliament last week, in the calender year 2017, the agency tackled a total of 26,052 complaints, which included 2,443 brought forward from 2016. Of this, 22,386 complaints were disposed off, and 3,666 complaints remained pending at the end of 2017. Out of them, 2,391 complaints were anonymous, and, the report says, “In majority of complaints the allegations were found to be either vague or unverifiable”.


Quality of investigation

The annual report itself highlights one possible reason why there is a general public disenchantment with anti-corruption mechanisms. When it receives a complaint, the CVC calls for inquiry reports from the appropriate agencies. “As per the laid down procedure, the inquiry/ investigation reports are required to be sent to the Commission within a period of three months. However, it is observed that in a majority of cases, there is considerable delay in finalising and submitting reports to the Commission,” the report says. A Central Bureau of Investigation source points out that there was a need to look at the quality of investigation done by agencies. “We have seen a consistent drop in the quality of investigation. While the early steps such as raids and PEs (Preliminary Enquiry) are well publicised, the follow-ups, including investigation and charge sheet are weak,” he pointed out. The officer cited the outcome of the 2G scam verdict, in which the court has severely indicted the CBI for poor investigations.

According to the CVC’s annual report, based on the CBI’s investigations, the CVC provided the first stage of advice in 171 investigation reports of CBI. Of them, only 30% resulted in criminal proceedings. A significant 22% of the CBI investigation reports resulted in closure of those cases, while another 33% resulted in only administrative actions such as warnings or caution.

In the case of investigations submitted by Chief Vigilance Officers of various government departments, almost half of them were closed without any action. Only 0.63% of those investigations led to criminal proceedings. Thus, of the total of 2,069 investigation reports examined by CVC in 2017, 45% were closed without any action, while only 3.09% led to criminal proceedings.

A similar drop in the number of punishments given out by the CVC, too, is visible. The total punishments awarded in 2017 was 2,589, against 3,296 in the previous year. In 2015, it was 3,592.

The CVC’s annual report has stated that it has “observed that during the year 2017, there were some significant deviations from the Commission’s advice” by various Ministries. The Ministry of Railways refused to follow its recommendation in six investigations against senior officials. The Ministry of Civil Aviation, too, has a similar track record, including not investigating a former Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Air India, who recruited his OSD’s (Officer on Special Duty) son as a trainee pilot in Air India, and allowed the top official to retire in 2016.

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