[Ethics] Complaints: sources, types, actions, case studies

[Ethics] Complaints: sources, types, actions, case studies

  1. Prologue
  2. Sources of Complaint
    1. From Anonymous/ pseudonymous
    2. From Whistleblowers
    3. Oral Complaints
    4. From Civil Society
    5. From Media Reports
  3. Classifying the complaint types
    1. #1: Vigilance Angle
    2. #2: Administrative Angle
    3. #3: Criminal Angle
  4. Case studies


  • In the previous article we checked conduct rules: meaning, examples, case studies
  • moving to the next topic: Complaints: sources and types

Sources of Complaint

An officer comes to know about any misconduct/ mischief of his subordinates via complaint. Here are the major sources of complaint:

  1. Direct complaint to Administrative authority (i.e. public/NGO/MP/MLA anyone- making complaint to the officer or his boss)
  2. Direct complaint to Vigilance Commission, Lokayukta, Police, CBI, ACB.
  3. Visit, inspection, raid, audit, surprise check, stock-verification (by the officer or some other officer)
  4. Scrutiny of annual property statements, Income tax returns of his subordinates
  5. Press/Media reports. And nowadays- even social networking sites.
  6. PIL, Writ petitions in the court
  7. Reports of legislative Committees like the Estimates / Public Accounts, Committee on Public Undertakings. Debates on the floor of parliament / state legislature.

From Anonymous/ pseudonymous

anonymous contains no name / address
pseudonymous Contains name and address but no person exists on that given address.

CVC has issued following directive:

  1. Anonymous/pseudonymous complaints have become a convenient loophole for blackmailing public officials. They’re are denied promotions/career benefits while investigation is pending.=breaks the staff morale.
  2. Therefore CVC has instructed all Departments, PSUs and nationalized banks not to take action on anonymous/pseudonymous complaints.
  3. However, if they want to look into any verifiable facts alleged in such complaints, they should refer the matter to Vigilance Commission.

From Whistleblowers

At the moment, Whistleblower bill is pending Rajya Sabha. but

  • Government of India has already authorized the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) as the ‘Designated Agency’ to receive written complaints from whistleblowers.
  • limitation: protection only for the Central Government / PSUs / bodies owned by Central government

if the employee wishes to unearth scam in his department without disclosing his own identity, he should

  1. Send complaint a closed/secured envelope.
  2. To Central Vigilance Commission
  3. Envelop must mention “Complaint under The Public Interest Disclosure”.
  4. He must his name and address in the beginning or end of complaint. (because CVC will not entertain anonymous/ pseudonymous complaints)
  5. The details of the complaint should be specific and verifiable.

If CVC receives such letter, it’ll be treated as whistleblower. CVC will order the inquiry against department/PSU- without disclosing identity of the whistleblower.

Oral Complaints

  • While normally a public servant should to address all the instruction, communications, order through proper official channel and writing.
  • However, there is no objection in entertaining a direct oral complaint about corruption or other kinds of malpractice.
  • All the genuine complainants should be given protection against harassment or victimization.
  • Whenever a public/staff member furnishes any information orally in confidence, the confidence should be respected.

From Civil Society

  • Administrative authorities should welcome the cooperation from NGOs, civil society, press and public to combat corruption and irregularities.
  • But should not make distinction between one organization/person from another. (e.g. Anna Hazzare makes complaint then officer quickly takes follow up action but when some less known activist/NGO comes, officer takes the matter casually.)
  • NGOs or private citizens should not be authorized to receive complaints on behalf of administrative authorities. (because they’re not covered under conduct rules. may use this privilege for blackmailing others employees.)
  • Whenever a public organization furnishes any information in confidence, the confidence should be respected.

From Media Reports

  1. Responsible newspapers do not usually publish wild allegations against individuals.
  2. Therefore, Prompt action is necessary to deal with such reports to instill confidence in the public.
  3. The editors and reporters of the more responsible newspapers may receive information about corruption through their numerous contacts, and should be able to help fight corruption.
  4. Administrative authorities should welcome their help and should deal with any information given to them in an appropriate manner.
  5. Although How far a particular reporter /NGO is trustworthy = a matter of judgment depending on a number of factors =difficult to lay down a general rule but Administrative authority should not put blind trust on anyone.

At the same time, an Administrative authority cannot shy away from responsibility just because nobody made a specific complaint for example:

  1. Newspaper interviews a noted environmentalist, who talks about declining population of sparrows in the state and apathy of forest department. Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) chooses to ignore thinking, “nobody made specific complaint to my office, besides these jholachhap NGO cum environmentalist always blame everything on our forest department.”
  2. Local MLA makes a statement in the assembly about how city is becoming unsafe place for working women, there is traffic congestion and nuisance of real estate mafias and so on. Police Commissioner chooses to ignore thinking, “these opposition MLAs always keep repeating the same tape in assembly. All is well in my city.”

Classifying the complaints

  • So far, we’ve learned about various source of complaints.
  • Suppose DevAnand is head of the office. (Revenue, police, forest, post, education, social welfare, irrigation ….whatever.) And He finds the name of his Office / subordinate / staff member in any such complaint/information. What should he do?
  • first –make sure it is not anonymous/pseudonymous complaint. Then Dev should further classify it according to the angle:

#1: Vigilance Angle

Vigilance hierarchy

Just a brief overview

@Union @State
  • CVC=>CBI
  • They look after vigilance/corruption matters in all ministries, departments, PSUs, Nationalized banks, sci-edu-culture etc. bodies, funded by the Union Government.
  • All such departments/PSUs/Bodies have a vigilance division– headed by Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO).
  • This CVO maintains liaison between department vs CVC (+CBI).
  • +/- Lokayukta
  • state vigilance commission=>Anti-corruption bureau (ACB)
  • Vigilance division in each department.

Whenever complaint has vigilance angle, boss (Administrative authority) should forward it to Vigilance division in the headquarter. Further action based their advice.

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