Anti corruption measures are not always about enacting new laws or setting up new institutions. Small and simple measures work equally well.
The measures taken by Sanjay Bhatia, Commissioner of Sales Tax, Maharashtra, are a very good example of how existing laws can be better implemented by the existing institutions through small and simple changes.
Sales Tax officials had discretionary powers to reduce a penalty imposed on a trader for late payment of tax from Rs 10,000 to Rs. 100. The discretionary powers were scrapped and mandatory penalty of Rs 5000 imposed for late payment. Immediately, the percentage of timely payment rose from 35 per cent to 90 per cent.
At least 2,000 traders queued up daily for the mandatory C form for tax declaration, which could not be easily obtained without paying a bribe. The Commissioner got the C form uploaded on the the department's website and also made arrangements to have the forms delivered at the trader's doorstep.
Besides, decisions on transfers are now being taken by a committee so that even a clerk gets to have a say in an Additional Commissioner's transfer.
The extent of corruption that these and other simple measures have been able to control can be measured by the fact that in just one year, the Sales Tax revenue increased by nearly 30 per cent!
For those of us who wish to make a meaningful contribution to the ongoing people's anti corruption movement, here is an excellent opportunity. Please get in touch with your IAC city coordinator, and as a group, request the local Sales Tax department to introduce similar changes. If their response is lukewarm, lets talk about it through the media, the IAC platform, social media such as Facebook etc ------ and create enough momentum to overcome inertia!