Understanding Corruption: C=M+D-A

Kamal Sangra

Behind every great fortune there is a crime. – Balzac

And there passed yet another Vigilance Awareness Week! Pledge to eradicate corruption, banners, discussions, debates, pamphlets, messages, slogans etc in all the local newspapers educating the Aam Admi of the bad effects of corruption were few of the activities that we witnessed in our State in the week-long annual ritual that started on 30th Oct 2017 and culminated on the 4th November 2017. I sincerely hope we celebrate Vigilance Awareness Week 2018 with some reduction in corruption as some reputed surveys still rank J&K as one of the most corrupt states in India and this ranking has not changed for the last many years irrespective of different governments in power.
Corruption has become such a norm in our society, a few millions here and a few million there make no difference to the established nexus. The pertinent question one needs to ask is, what is it that’s lacking in us that over the years we could not improve the tag of being one of the most corrupt states in India? The answer is simple. The fight against corruption has been going in a mechanical manner whereas it needs radical changes in its implementation. The menace needs introspection and problem has to be addressed in the right perspective with an indomitable will. The crusade against corruption has to be ruthless and must go across the board. Otherwise, it will be like treating brain tumor with an amoxicillin tablet or with some balm.
Let us take the state of affair in the public sector units (PSUs) in our state as a test case to understand the corruption. There is no denying the fact that most of the public sector units in our state have turned white elephant and running in regular losses. Well, there can be some genuine reason for these losses, however, it is interesting to note that the losses of these PSUs/Corporations are directly related to the unprecedented growth of their merciless marauders managing the affairs of these PSUs and Corporations. Such proportional loss vis-à-vis unprecedented economic growth of their officials is a classic example proving that the tag of being one of the most corrupt states of India is pretty logical. Sadly, nouveau riches having emerged and risen as a result of lack of stringent and well developed state policy to tackle corruption are present in every second mohalla in our state today is nothing but an indication of the fact that the source of their ill gotten wealth has never seriously and professionally been questioned by any anti graft body. This also has a sociological impact as one corrupt, when goes scot free, encourages dozen other on the one hand and discourages hundreds of honest and dedicated workers on the other.
Investigating agencies must realize that corruption never takes place in isolation. It’s always a joint venture in which every stakeholder gets its due share. To stop this, we need immediate reforms in the institutions which must begin with an understanding of the corruption formula C=M+D-A given by Professor Robert Klitgaard, the Ford Distinguished Professor of International Development and Security who is widely known as ‘the world’s leading expert on corruption’. The said formula originally appeared in Klitgaard’s book, ‘Controlling Corruption’ in the year 1975. Robert Klitgaard has developed models, methods, and examples that have helped countries and international institutions control corruption. He has served on the faculty of the World Economic Forum, the editorial boards of Theoria and the Journal of Economic Literature, and the Board of the International Development Evaluation Association. In addition to authoring many articles, Klitgaard is the author of 10 books, including Addressing Corruption Together and Tropical Gangsters. In the formula C=M+D-A, ‘C’ stands for corruption, ‘M’ is for monopoly, ‘D’ is for discretion and ‘A’ stands for accountability which means “Corruption equals monopoly plus discretion minus accountability”. As per Prof. Robert Klitgaard, corruption is a matter of degree and extent which varies over time and space. He furthers says that the most corrupt acts are not crimes of passion but crimes of calculation. Officials are not corrupt all the time, at every opportunity; and so it is reasonable to assume that an official undertakes a corrupt action when, in his judgement, its likely benefits outweigh its likely costs. And last, corruption certainly can be reduced if never eliminated.
However, critics while disagreeing with Prof. Klitgaard argue that too much discretion can be abused by the higher officers but government officials who have too little discretion may be more inclined to bend or ignore rules that are seen foolish, inefficient, and contrary to prevailing social norms. In other words, while some forms of corruption involve wrongfully exercising lawful discretion, other forms of corruption involves violating formal constraints on discretion. Making those constraints tighter may reduce the former kind of corruption but exacerbate the latter kind.
It’s right time for the radical changes in our fight against corruption. It’s time to make every public servant accountable of every acts of commission or omission even if it doesn’t involve money. A message must go down the line that new dispensation means business and time is over when looting the State exchequer with impunity was a routine affair. Those who have plundered the Districts, Range, Zone, Province, PSUs, Cooperatives or ruined the institutions, flora and fauna, water bodies or pastures of our state and think will retire gracefully must realize that the anti corruption laws are equally applicable to them and their ill gotten wealth, golf course buddies, big and expensive counsels or charted accountants cannot save them anymore. The system still exists and we are in a democratic and not anarchical setup where the sane voices can be silenced…we have to trust the system and those who put the interests of the society first.