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Manmohan favours bringing Prime Minister under Lok Pal

By Our Staff Correspondent



The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, with the Uttaranchal Chief Minister, N.D. Tiwari, at a conference of Lok Ayuktas in Dehra Dun on Wednesday. — PTI

DEHRA DUN, SEPT. 29. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today favoured bringing all elected representatives, including the Prime Minister, under the purview of the Lok Pal.

Delivering the valedictory address at the eighth All-India Lok Ayukts/ Lok Pals conference at the Forest Research Institute here, Dr. Singh said the very existence of a Lok Ayukt helped generate a feeling of assurance among the public at large that they had a mechanism to fall back upon when faced with corrupt public servants.

He conceded that the absence of an institution such as the Lok Pal at the Centre was, to some extent, adversely affecting the working of Lok Ayukt institutions at the State level. The Common Minimum Programme of the United Progressive Alliance had made a commitment to enacting the Lok Pal Bill at the Centre, he said and promised to take effective action in this regard at the earliest.

Transparency

"We are also committed to the people to give a stable, honest, transparent and efficient Government capable of accomplishing all-round development. It is commonly accepted that one of the major causes of corruption is lack of transparency in public life. We are, therefore, committed to the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. We will also accelerate measures to improve the quality of public service through introduction of Citizens' Charters, facilitation counters in Central Ministries and Departments and simplification of rules and procedures of doing business,'' the Prime Minister added.

Constitutional status

On the demand for Constitutional status to Lok Ayukts, Dr. Singh said: "I see great merit in this proposal. However, before granting such status, there is a need to objectively assess the performance of these institutions. The selection process of Lok Ayukts has to be made sufficiently robust and impartial to inspire confidence among the people. Lok Ayukts also need to evolve procedures for carrying on business, which should be systematic, speedy and effective.''

Turning to the issue of corruption in public life, the Prime Minister said excessive bureaucratisation of economic and social processes led to delays in taking decisions and implementation thereafter. "It also increases the scope for corruption in our public administration. Therefore, we have to address this issue of over-regulation and that is what economic reforms introduced in the 1990s are about. It has been said that as a country we are over-regulated and under-governed.''

Holistic view

He also felt there was need to go beyond the simplification of administrative procedures and to take a holistic view of the processes which generate corruption in public life.

"In this context, the relations between Government as owner of public enterprises and the management of these enterprises deserves careful consideration. The effort should be to establish a truly arms length relation between the Government as owner and management of public enterprise,'' Dr. Singh said. There was also the need for an objective analysis of the Government procurement policies, he said and suggested a review of the procedures and programmes to ensure that the procedures did not leave any scope for corruption.

On administrative reforms, he said the Government was taking necessary steps to make the bureaucracy sensitive to the needs of the common man.

Dr. Singh touched on the issue of financing of political parties and financing of elections in the country. "There is a wealth of data ... which merits public debate to create public opinion where reforms can be introduced in the financing of political parties and election processes in our governance,'' he said.

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