HYDERABAD: Will the bureaucrats caught taking bribes from the liquor mafia in recent weeks have the last laugh after all? That seems unlikely if one examines the record of what the Andhra government has done on cases of corruption involving bureaucrats referred to it for prosecution by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) over the years, particularly since 2003.
Two phrases reflect the government’s most likely response to such referrals: ‘drop action’ or ‘departmental enquiry’. Decoded, they mean: Let ’em go with a rap on the knuckles. In the past eight years, the ACB has recommended prosecution of about 1,800 bureaucrats of all levels for a variety of graft activities: possessing disproportionate assets running into crores of rupees, bribe taking and criminal misconduct. Surprisingly, the government has not given its nod for prosecution in 99 per cent of the cases, defeating the very purpose of setting up the ACB.
An ACB file listing all the graft cases referred to the government for prosecution between 2003 and 2011—a copy of which is with The Sunday Standard—shows that the powers that be let off the black sheep despite there being irrefutable evidence against the officials. The watchdog agency, after making arrests and gathering evidence, sends a report to the vigilance commissioner who in turn recommends action. In almost all the cases sent on by ACB, the vigilance commissioner agreed with the ACB. Yet the government denied permission for prosecution, with the recommendation: ‘drop action’ or ‘departmental enquiry’. Moreover, the government inordinately delayed rendering its two pearls of wisdom after the receipt of the vigilance commissioner’s advice. In many cases, the delay extended to several years. The long hiatus allows the accused officers (AOs) time to ‘manage’ their cases, using their ‘contacts’ and knocking the recommendation down to something innocuous like ‘departmental action’.