By Sher Ali
LAHORE: Haji Muhammad Ayaz is a small farmer in district Bahawalnagar. He owns a part in a jointly inherited land measuring 18 kanal and 9 marla in Mauza/Chak Mehro Baloch in the same district. Since it is a joint piece of land, each owner gets his or her share of land through demarcation which is done by the local patwari (land record keeper) Masood Ahmad–an official of Board of Revenue (BoR).
The government official, the patwari, knowing that the farmer, Ayaz, was at his mercy for identification and demarcation of his piece of land demanded a bribe of Rs 100,000 for the task. Realizing the complex task involved in the process Ayaz agreed and paid him half of the amount, Rs 50,000. Meanwhile he learnt that the patwari had also entered a similar deal, with more money, with other owners of the land. Realizing the wrong he did for paying the bribe and fearing the award of better piece of land to the other party as they paid more money to the patwari, Ayaz approached the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Punjab to get justice.
The ACE Punjab, after listening to the farmer and seeing the evidence registered an FIR against the patwari under section PCA 5/2/47,161/PPC and arrested him. This happened on April 25, 2018. A further investigation is underway against Masood Ahmad.
This is just one example of deep rooted corruption in the government departments. There is prevailing perception among the masses that in order to get something done at a government department, one has to grease palms of the officials. The huge number of complaints the ACE Punjab receives on daily basis and subsequent arrests of government officials also explain how rampant the corruption is in the public organizations.
Talking to Data Stories, Sadia Ijaz, Director ACE Punjab, said this was one of the over 33,800 complaints the ACE Punjab received against the government departments in Punjab from July 2016 to January 2018. She added and so far 33,198 of these complaints have been disposed off.
As many as 16,840 were initiated over these complaints and 16,499 had been decided during this period, she added.
Sadia Ijaz further said 2,869 accused officials from various departments were arrested during the same period and their cases were sent to the concerned courts. “So far over 1,919 challans have been submitted in accountability courts across the province,” she added.
“Corruption breeds crimes in society as this is betrayal of trust,” says a lawyer Nisar Safdar. He adds corruption can be controlled by making everyone accountable. “There should be no discrimination while holding people accountable as the same leads to flaws in the system,” he further said.
Abdullah Malik, a human rights activist who is also President Civil Society Network sees no political will to control corruption.
Malik also suggests substantial increase in the salaries of the government employees saying low salary was also one of the major reasons behind growing corruption in the government departments.
To a question about the shortage of staff at ACE Punjab, Sadia said they had taken up the case pertaining with the Punjab government. “We have submitted a proposal to create at least 302 new posts,” she said and added the same had been approved by the Chief Minister. Of these 136 new posts would be created during the current fiscal year while the remaining would be created in the next year.
Sadia further said the Chief Minister had also sanctioned purchase of 38 new operational vehicles for ACE Punjab for investigation purposes. These vehicles will be used for operational purposes i.e enquiry and cases at the alleged site, arrest of the accused, transportation of accused from jail to court and vice versa etc., she added.
She further said manual operating system was one of the hurdles in bringing transparency in the public sector. Earlier there was no system to keep record of FIRs/Enquires in a manner which was readily available for ACE officials and all information and data was handled manually. “We have started to move from paper-based system to an online system, where everyone is connected,” she added.
For an effective mechanism in place, the ACE Punjab has now developed software “Anti Corruption Case Management System (ACCMS)” with the support of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB). This system will definitely help in an efficient and fast accountability process to benefit all, she concludes.