Financial Integrity


For serious folks devoted to fighting corruption in this country, it has been a tough time.

I am referring to Anna Hazare’s Core team, which has gotten into a series of problems while there are no hot issues to tackle. Anna Hazare campaigned against the Congress Party in the Hissar Bye-Election, and the Congress Party candidate was defeated recently (earlier this month). That was a purposeful attack by the Anna Hazare team against the Congress Party to teach a lesson, and it succeeded, though their campaign could not have been the sole factor which affected Congress Party’s chances in the election. There has been a series of negative news coverage regarding the Anna Hazare team after the Hissar Bye-Election, affecting the public perception.

One of the key news which emerged was the manner in which Ms Kiran Bedi, a key player in the Anna Hazare campaign and a core committee member, has funded her NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) via the travel expenses she has claimed from organizations or institutions which had invited her for a speech. That is not a clean way of funding one’s own organization. She claimed full air fare from the invitee organizations, while she received discounted fares from her NGO’s travel agent. This is a rather unique way of creating additional funds for her NGO, which surfaced recently and is evidently the handiwork of a mischievous investigator.

But, the main point here is financial integrity. You are charging a rather “poor” organization a full fare amount and they willingly pay that amount to you, while you actually receive a much lower discounted fare because you happen to be an ex-IPS (Indian Police Service)) Officer and an Indian Government award winner. In what manner can one justify such inflated expense claims ? Had it happened in a corporate organization, the claimant would have been instantaneously terminated from employment.

I wonder what else could be wrong when one of the most predominantly vocal anti-corruption crusader herself commits such improprieties in public behaviour. I believe she did a wrong thing despite assertions to the contrary. I am not against the Anna Hazare movement (though I think it disrupts government and governance), but I cannot condone a core team member committing such grievous errors in judgement though she may not have personally benefited.

Well, India is complex and full of complexities as I had alluded to in several of my blog posts. It is not appropriate to conclude one way or the other quickly, it is better to wait for sometime, digest matters and happenings patiently, and then come to a considered conclusion. So, my conclusion is not yet arrived at and will take some time. In the meanwhile, let us understand one thing – lack of financial integrity / propriety is the last thing we expect from anti-corruption crusaders. It is absolutely essential that the victims of corruption do not join the victimizers.

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan
29th October 2011
Mumbai

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