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Swraj Paul's mantra to fight corruption in India

Last updated on: October 03, 2013 12:39 IST

CorruptionCorruption in India will never be stamped out unless both giver and the taker are equally exposed to public scrutiny and the rule of law, leading NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul has said.

"I have seen how corruption in certain countries has destroyed the fabric of society for ordinary people and lowered the prestige of those countries internationally.

“In India I have been actively fighting corruption since 1982," Lord Paul said at the Indian Institute of Directors Global Conference at the Tower Hotel in London on Wednesday.

"As we have all read, India's recent rapid economic development has been plagued by increasing corruption in both the private and the public sector and between the two.

"Perhaps what gets less comment is that all parties to an act of corruption are responsible.

“In a society where corruption is endemic and you want to get something done then it is all too tempting to offer a bribe.

"But corruption will never be stamped out unless it is acknowledged that the giver is as much to blame as the taker. Both must be equally exposed to public scrutiny and the rule of law," Paul said.

Lord Paul, Chancellor of two British Universities -- Wolverhampton and Westminster -- however, is optimistic that the recent passage in the Lok Sabha of the Companies Bill 2012, the biggest change to Indian company law since the 1950s, "are expected to improve transparency and attract international investment to India".

While applauding the intent of the new legislation, he said "these legislative changes will only work if leaders of business embrace not only the letter of the law but also its spirit."

In his speech, Lord Paul, Chairman of the Caparo Group of industries, said, "Unfortunately, it has become so fashionable to talk about corporate governance, whether in the financial press or the Chairman's statement, and to write new rules and regulations, that we have almost forgotten about implementing it."

He noted "the list of corporate scandals at Board level over the last few years has been disappointingly long: Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom in the US; BAE in the UK, Parmalat in Italy, VW in Germany.

“Closer to home for some of us would include Satyam, and the Indian telecoms sector and 2G licenses."

"Even here in Britain, we have had our difficulties," Paul said and referred to the recent Leveson inquiry into relationships between the media, politicians and the law enforcement agencies which brought fresh revelations on a daily basis.

Last month, it emerged that over 100 companies have been making questionable use of private investigators.

Recalling his own recent speech in the House of Lords, he said "despite the passing of the Bribery Act, and measures to improve transparency in government, the perception of experts is that the UK continues to be more vulnerable to corruption than the political establishment is willing to admit.

"The UK is struggling to remain in the top 20, let alone achieve a place in the top 10."

Recalling a report in the Financial Times this week, he said at a recent conference of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment, "nearly half the delegates voted against the motion that the UK's wealth management industry is "open, honest, transparent and fair".

"Perhaps the worst sector has been banking where we have seen product misspelling followed by rate fixing and yet more product misspelling.

And these are not 'victimless crimes'.

The actions of the banks have affected rich and poor and young and old alike; and we are still suffering the consequences," he said.

"So, if you want to do business in today's world, you cannot ignore governance.

“Setting up structures, committees and rule books is not enough. “You have to mean what you say, and be seen to act in accordance with your governance regime. You need leadership, accountability, transparency and honesty."

"And the owners, the chairman, the chief executive, and the board all need to lead by example.

“You set the tone.

“Those below you, at whatever level, will know what you do and will follow your example."

H S Rao in London
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