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CII working closely with govt to improve corporate governance: Adi Godrej

CII working closely with govt to improve corporate governance: Adi Godrej

Institutional capacities to combat corruption have lagged behind as India embraced liberalisation, globalisation and technological advances at a rapid pace, says CII President and Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej.

CII President and Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej CII President and Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej
India's economic reforms era since 1991 has encompassed de-licensing of industry, deregulation, and facilitative administrative procedures, sparking a new growth cycle. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth has averaged well over eight per cent over the last eight years, alleviating poverty and fostering development. However, institutional capacities to combat corruption have lagged behind as India embraced liberalisation, globalisation and technological advances at a rapid pace.

The issue of corruption, which currently dominates airwaves, highlights the gap between India's legislative framework and the requirements of development in a new world. Recently, several high profile cases as well as civil activism have brought a welcome focus on efforts to check the scourge.

Corruption typically involves misuse of power or position for unlawful gains. It acts as a major obstacle to economic and social development, and undermines efforts to reduce poverty, deliver social goods, and build infrastructure.

In May 2011
India ratified the UN Convention against corruption, a global agreement for transparency and accountability.

Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index 2011 awards India a score of 3.1 on a scale of zero to 10, a decline from 3.4 in 2008. Global Integrity, a non-profit organisation, rates India as 'weak' in governance and implementation.

Over the years, the Indian government has proactively taken a number of anticorruption steps. The Right to Information Act, 2005, granting citizens access to government information, was a transformational and wide-reaching initiative with high impact. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, includes public officials under its ambit.

CII President and Godrej Group Chairman Adi Godrej
Various bodies exist for implementing anti-corruption policies, such as the Central Vigilance Commission, the Chief Information Commission, the Office of the Comptroller & Auditor General, the Central Bureau of Investigation, and so on. State governments too have their own bodies, while the Supreme Court and other courts are also active in taking cognizance of corruption issues.

In May 2011, India ratified the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), a legally binding global agreement for transparency and accountability. A wide range of acts of corruption are covered in the UNCAC, such as bribery, embezzlement, influence peddling, and money laundering. Under its terms, a peer review is slated for India in 2014, and the Indian government has been working towards meeting the mandated requirements.

Our agenda
against corruption focuses on electoral reform, judicial reform, corporate governance, and management of natural resources.

To begin with, an evaluation is being undertaken to determine the gaps in anticorruption measures.

Two, a number of new laws have been proposed to align the Indian system as per the UNCAC, including the Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods & Services & Redressal of Grievances Bill, the Public Procurement Bill, the Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Officials Act, the Whistleblower Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill, the Companies Bill etc, which are in response to present day needs.

Three, with the aid of technology, India is putting in place e-governance systems that are making delivery of public goods and services more efficient and transparent. The Unique Identification Authority of India project for direct delivery of subsidies promises to be a gamechanger in governance.

From the standpoint of industry, a system which is fair, equitable, accountable and transparent as well as rooted in predictable and stable institutions encourages maximal entrepreneurial activity, which is vital to sustain a rapid pace of growth. Towards this end, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) set up a Committee on Integrity and Transparency in Governance' which I chaired last year.

CONCERTED EFFORT

VOLUNTARY CODE
CII set up a committee on Integrity and Transperancy in Governance, which has formulated a voluntary code of business ethics

COOPERATION WITH GOVT
The secretariat of The National Foundation for Corporate Governance, promoted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, is located at CII's Delhi headquarters

WHISTLEBLOWING
Many companies have instituted whistleblower mechanisms

INDEPENDENT MECHANISM
Industry has sought a transparent and efficient independent mechanism for commercialising of natural resources such as land, minerals, water, spectrum, etc.
We developed a 'Code of Business Ethics', a voluntary code to inculcate greater ethics, probity, and transparency in business dealings. The code provides guidelines to employees on ethical conduct. The principles of conduct and behaviour in the Code are national interest, ethics and integrity in all activities, adherence to values, transparency and openness, avoiding of corrupt practices, and encouraging competition. It also includes a clause on whistleblowers.

Our agenda against corruption focuses on electoral reform, judicial reform, corporate governance, and management of natural resources. The National Foundation for Corporate Governance was set up by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, with the CII as Secretariat, to promote good governance. We have also worked with the ministry to draft and disseminate the National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business and the Voluntary Guidelines for Corporate Governance.

CII members have accepted this set of guidelines wholeheartedly. Various large public undertakings and private corporate houses are taking steps at their individual levels to prevent corruption and encourage transparency in their business dealings. Many companies have instituted whistleblower mechanisms to address concerns relating to questionable accounting and auditing matters.

Industry has strongly articulated the need for a transparent and efficient independent mechanism for use of common resources for commercialisation. Such resources include land, minerals, water, spectrum, forests, etc. It is in these areas where no proper mechanism exists for apportioning and regulating the use of resources that the current troubles are arising by and large. An overarching national policy on demarcating resources for development taking into account sustainability is required.

In the final analysis, as the government sets up physical and electronic infrastructure to make its systems more transparent and rules-based, tackling corruption will be an endeavour of all sections of society.

The author is President, CII, and Chairman of the Godrej Group