ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Changes needed to the Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB) website


This is the website where you can file a complaint with the anti-corruption bureau (ACB)
http://acbmaharashtra.gov.in/Complaints_assets.asp


There are 2 holes in the current complaint lodging process

While it is creditable that the ACB has offered a convenient complaint lodging system (it shows they are keen in battling corruption), there are a few ways the system can be misused.

  1. Lack of accountability : Currently there is no way for the complainant to know who viewed the information submitted and what he/she has done with the info. Is an officer working on the case or has he ignored it? Is he close to prosecution or did he approach the accused and strike a deal to close the case illegally? Was action taken according to the law and if so, what is the progress on the case?

  2. Lack of anonymity : The current website of the ACB allows you to register complaints anonymously (it's not mandatory to include your name or contact details while filling the form). This is good. But your anonymous complaint many not really be anonymous. You may not provide any personal information, but you still leave behind your IP address. Any website visitor's IP address can be collected without her knowledge or permission. For instance your IP address is ec2-54-166-107-51.compute-1.amazonaws.com With a little help from the employees of your internet service provider, your IP address can be used to pinpoint your precise physical location. If the accused (the person you complained against) wants it, he can get it and he can find out the exact address from which the complaint was made.

 

My suggestions to fix those holes

  1. Add accountability : I suggest having an automatic COMPLAINT NUMBER assigned to every complaint lodged. The complainant should be able to login any time using just her complaint number to check the progress on the case. Here are sample pages of the system I propose. www.fixindia.org/acb/screen1.html

    The advantages of accountability is that the ACB officer knows that if he does not act on the information or misuses it for personal profit, the complainant has the option of 'coming out' and confronting the ACB. This reduces the chances of the abuse happening in the first place.

  2. Make it truly anonymous : If the ACB intends to provide a truly anonymous complaint form then their web page code should be certified free of any IP address collecting code. I suggest their web page be audited by an independent third party like Ernst & Young, or a reputed NGO like Karmayog or Parivartan.

 

Possible objections from some officers of the ACB to the above suggestions

  1. "It will take too much of our time"   My response : Invalid objection. The officer has to anyway make notings on every complaint he receives from the website; either by marking it as baseless or documenting the progress on it. The system I'm suggesting will in fact make it easier, not more tedious, for him to document progress on the complaint.

  2. "It is too technical and will require too much programming"   My response : Invalid objection. The sytem I suggest is a simple matter of writing into and reading from a database. It can be easily implemented by the government's own IT department

  3. "Come on, you must at least have a little trust in us"   My response : Invalid objection. Only incompetent systems require its users to "trust". A truly transparent and robust system relies on nothing else except accountability. Besides, we know of many cases of unscrupulous officers in the ACB and the CBI (let alone in the rest of the administration) for us to blindly trust them. Here are just 2 examples of many out there.

    • The CBI public prosecutor himself trapped for taking a bribe from the accused CLICK HERE
    • The chief of the anti-corruption bureau suspected of aiding the accused CLICK HERE

 

Note : I know from personal experience that officers of the ACB are of a different breed, and of an unusually high level of integrity. The fact that the few bad apples in the ACB are arrested by the ACB officers themselves, proves the high standards at which the ACB operates. The suggestions on this page are to help the ACB become even more effective and not to undermine the excellent work they are already doing.

 

Click here to view screen-shots of the changes I propose

 

About the author : The author is Sandeep Shetty, a software developer based in Mumbai. He knows what he is talking about; he got the Deputy Commissioner of Customs trapped and arrested by the CBI (ACB) for demanding a bribe. He then attended every day of court until the officer was finally convicted. Sandeep believes that if every one of us decides that they will trap just one corrupt government servant in their lifetime (just one!) it will wipe out corruption overnight.

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