Event ReportsPublished on Dec 12, 2007
Mr. Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow in Stanford University, US, spoke on 'Horizontal Accountability: The Quest for Effective Democratic Governance, at an Interaction of the ORF Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, on 12 December.
Horizontal Accountability: The Quest for Effective Democratic Governance

Mr. Larry Diamond, Senior Fellow in Stanford University, US, spoke on ’Horizontal Accountability: The Quest for Effective Democratic Governance, at an Interaction of the ORF Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation, on 12 December. His talk broadly discussed the topic of corruption and democracy, and he observed that governments the world over faced a difficult situation with respect to curbing corruption, whether they were in the developed world or in the developing world.   "It is a global problem and may have to be declared as an ’international crime’, no matter where it occurred and whom it involved, if it has to to be effectively dealt with," he observed.
Mr. Diamond said that the horizontal accountability is important to checking corruption, which is rampant. He illustrated it by citing an instance in which sizable cash was found in the freezer of an American politician, and the money could not be accounted for. He also pointed out that corruption in the developing countries does not stopping with illegal gratification. It also hampers growth. Most of the funds, if not all, that are given as aid to the developing world, does not go to meet their stated purposes. This money is systematically taken by corrupt officials. This has led to a vicious cycle of poverty and under-development, which just refuse to go away, thus ruining many countries. Even where corruption does not inhibit growth, it does impact on income distribution, and consequently affects the social structures.

The only way to tackle corruption is by having an independent body that looks into financial irregularities. Such a body or agency does exist in many countries, but they face a lot of difficulties in their functioning. The primary reason for these hurdles lie in the fact that many acts of corruption/financial irregularities are not discovered. There is corruption even in the judiciary in many countries. This cannot be dismissed as an internal problem of that country alone. It has global ramifications in this age of globalisation. It has to be mandatory that public officials and bodies are made accountable and answerable, whenever questioned or monitored by any member of the public or of the regulatory authority.

Mr Diamond is through the following: mentioned a few mechanisms for strengthening the regulatory authority in this regard: 

  1. The anti-corruption agency is to be free from political intervention. 
  2. It has to be given protection by law and under the Constitution. 
  3. It has to be given adequate staff and funds to operate. 
  4. The staff and officers are to be given a prolonged and secure tenure. 
  5. The agency has to be given freedom to operate. 
  6. It has to be given the right to prosecute offenders, and has to be institutionalised.

Apart from these regulatory agencies, the three main actors who can act as watchdogs to aid these agencies are the individuals and constituents within the State mechanism, those outside the mechanism, namely, the conscious civil society and the international community.

Furthermore, Mr Diamond observed that developed countries are not serious about the issue of corruption to the extent that they should be. Even when the law is stringent and prosecution even more severe, the process of detection and proof is not only tedious and long drawn, but such instances are also too few and far in between to make an impact, which alone would radically change the attitude towards such an offence.   

While the world is entering a new phase of global interaction, with the emergence of a whole new generation of international business cooperation, there is a greater and more imperative need for combative laws with respect to corruption, which would also effectively counter the constraints that certain inherent situations would warrant. This includes the use of public office for private gains.  

Much of the corruption among the politicians and political parties in democracies arise out of the scheme of campaign-funding, by whatever name called. Definitive measures need to be taken to streamline and systemise the processes. Corruption in this context can be countered by introducing a uniform system that is realistic, transparent and open. Such a scheme should facilitate campaign and political funding that will cover both the party and the candidate through all the campaigns.   

Mr. N Vittal, former Chief Vigilance Commissioner, chairing the session, observed that corruption is both a national and international issue. Everywhere, there is a lack of sensitivity and seriousness in tackling the problem. The damage that corruption causes are manifold, many-layered and far-reaching. Hence, concrete steps have to be taken systematically and objectively to arrest and curb this, Mr Vittal said.
Points made during the discussion:

  • Transparency can reduce corruption.
  • A system of local self-governance helps the scope of curbing corruption because of increased public awareness about the utilisation of resources meant for development. Empowering the people at the grassroots-level enhances the powers of governance.
  • While corruption is present in every country, irrespective of the type of government (democracy, dictatorship, etc), corporate kick-backs is the most common form of financial irregularities.
  • The problem is not as much about transparency and detection but is about a nexus between bribe-giving and the quid pro quo that emerges thereby.

List of Participants
1)      N Vittal, IAS (retd)
2)      B S Raghavan, IAS (retd)
3)      Mr S P Ambrose, IAS (retd)
4)      Mr P K Doraiswamy, IAS (retd)
5)      G Venkatesh, Deputy Director, Ministry of Finance
6)      Ms Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Social Activist
7)      Dr Lawrence Prabhakar, Madras Christian College, ORF Chennai
8)      Dr Jaya Sreedhar Rajan, Social Activist, Healthcare
9)      Dr Krishan Ananth, Asian College of Journalism
10)  Dr E K Shantha, Social Activist
11)  Dr A Sivaramakrishnan, Asian College of Journalism
12)  Dr Nirmala Chandrahasan, Academic, Law
13)  Dr Kalpana Chittaranjan, Academic
14)  D Nedunchezhiyan, Educationist-Researcher
15)  Dr Elizabeth Negi
16)  Dr (Major) M Jailani, Academic
17)  Dr B V Mudgal, Academic, Water Resources
18)  N G Anuthaman, Academic, Water Resources
19)  L V Krishnan, Nuclear Scientist
20)  M Krishna, Bureaucrat
21)  S Ramesan, Journalist
22)  N Arun Kumar, Deccan Chronicle
23)  B M Dhabbaader, Journalist
24)  Col J Francis (retd)
25)  S Balagurunathan
26)  Alfred, Corporate Executive
27)  Winfred Chelliah, Corporate Executive
28)  Mohammed Rafiq, Corporate Executive
29)  S Nandakumar, Corporate Executive
30)  P Ganesan, Social Activist
31)  S C C Elankovan
32)  S Baldwin Raju
33)  M Santhanakrishnan
34)  Muthiah Stapathi, Sculptor
35)  D M Belgamwala
36)  Piroja D Belgamvala
37)  A Mani
38)  P Arokiavelu
39)  T M Mahendran, Student, Govt Law College, ORF Chennai
40)  Sripathi Narayanan, Student, Madras University,
41)  Ashik Bonofer, Researcher
42)  Ms Ragini Gupta, US CG, ORF Chennai
43)  Ms Ratna Mukherjee, US CG, ORF Chennai
44)  Ms L R Gowri, US CG
45)  Dhanalakshmi Ayyer, ORF
46)  Commodore R S Vasan, ORF
47)  N Sathiya Moorthy, ORF


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