Thursday, 29 March, 2007

Can We Take a Few Lessons From The Koreans?

Forget about the “World Cup Debacle”! It was only a game of cricket played by 11 players. Let’s talk about the performance of our country. There is some good news for us Indians here. According to the latest survey by Transparency International (TI), India is no longer seen to be a “highly corrupt” country. India ranks 70 out of 163 nations this year against 88 out of 159 nations last year (The lower down the list, the more the country is seen as being corrupt). India scored 3.3 out of 10, with 10 being the least corrupt. Last year our score was 2.8/10. Countries with 3 and less than 3 are considered to be “Highly Corrupt”. We have climbed 0.5 points away from corruption. That’s the good news. Though many of us are subjectively aware that there is extensive corruption in our country, I am sure that many of us will be disappointed with the revelation of such a low numerical score. I was myself very disappointed. But the good thing what one sees, is that the score is moving towards the better scale, and this is a positive pointer. We have to accelerate from here to bring it closer to 10 as fast as possible.Corruption is not only a worm in our country but in every country. The Koreans have in the last few years addressed this issue with full zeal and might. It will surprise everyone that their efforts are paying and setting benchmarks for other countries to follow including India. It is estimated that they have saved a whopping $4.5 billion from going into the bellies of bribe seekers in the last one year. That’s a huge-huge amount.

How have they achieved this?


It was a beginning in 1999, an Act on Preventing Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions was enacted. That was the first small step. Later in 2001 another small step was taken when the Anti-Corruption Act and the Money Laundering Prevention Act were enacted. A bigger step was taken in 2002, when the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) was established. This body consists of nine commissioners including the minister-level Chairman, three of whom are recommended by the National Assembly, three by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and three by the President. Each member serves a three-year term and can be reappointed for an additional term. It must be borne in mind that the Commissioners cannot be dismissed or removed, which assures that KICAC members have the independence to perform their duties appropriately. KICAC is a comprehensive anti-corruption body which systematically connects activities such as handling corruption reports, improving institutions, formulating and assessing policies, and carrying out education and promotion. Now this was the Government’s sheer will to eradicate corruption. Parallely, there was a movement by the citizens of Korea that gelled well with the Government’s policies. In fact the citizens movement started much earlier in the early 90s and it is this movement by the citizens that the policies for eradication of corruption were formulated by the Government.


October 2003 saw the introduction of KONEPS or the Korean Online E-Procurement System in Korea. KONEPS is a cyber market where public organizations and supplying companies conduct transactions. It serves as a single procurement window for private enterprises to conduct transactions with public organizations. All bidding information can be accessed at KONEPS. All procurement procedures including bidding, contract, delivery inspection, payment of proceeds and others are processed electronically via KONEPS, and related documents are exchanged online. The best thing is that and you only have to register once through that portal to participate in all biddings of any organisation. Truly a one stop counter for complete business in Korea.

KONEPS has delivered. It has brought transparency, public confidence, and efficiency in procurement and administration. All paper based forms, frequent visits of business people to government offices, sealing/ stamping of contracts, and repeated registration are the things of the past.

KONEPS has become the world's largest cyber market reaching an annual trade volume of $43 billion in 2005. Due to innovations such as the real time information provision and expanded discloser of contract details, procurement administration has become transparent. In addition, not only our closest neighbors such as Malaysia, Japan and China but also foreign countries including the US and Canada have benchmarked the electronic procurement innovation.


According to the Times of India, the Indian Government is seeking help from Korea on formulating our strategy to fight corruption in India. My view is that it requires a full throttle will by the Government of India. Does our Government have the will????

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