Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blocking Corruption at the Seams

This was crying out to be taken notice of. According to a news item in The News, Nepal's authorities have come up with an innovative way of curbing corruption by airport officials. Here's what it said:

Nepal airport workers to wear pocket-less pants

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s anti-corruption authority has come up with a novel solution to rampant bribe-taking at the country’s only international airport: the pocketless trouser.

The authority said it was issuing the new, bribe-proof garment to all airport officials after uncovering widespread corruption at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.

“We sent a team to observe the growing complaints about the behaviour of airport authorities and workers towards travellers and we discovered that the reports were true,” said Ishwori Prasad Paudyal, spokesman for the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

“So we decided that airport officials should be given trousers with no pockets. We have directed the ministry of civil aviation to implement our order as soon as possible,” he told AFP.” We believe this will help curb the irregularities.”

Paudyal said CIAA investigators had observed theft as well as bribe-taking by airport officials, who would lose their jobs if the situation did not improve.

His comments came a day after Nepal’s new Prime Minister Madhav Mumar Nepal expressed fears that corruption was tarnishing the airport’s reputation.

Nepal’s tourism industry employs around 300,000 people in one of the world’s poorest countries. The landlocked Himalayan nation attracted a record 550,000 foreign visitors in 2008, two years after a peace deal that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency. It has set an ambitious goal of attracting one million tourists a year by 2011.

I think Pakistani authorities should also take a leaf out of Nepal's book and institute these trousers not just at airports but in all bureaucracy and particularly the police. Of course, I have a few suggstions of my own for further streamlining:

Make the trousers zipless as well: Not only would this prevent our much more resourceful bribe-takers from stuffing notes inside, it will have the added benefit of making their wearers much more jumpy about getting to the toilet to relieve themselves, leading to greater efficiency. No more long waits while the guy at the counter chats away.

Tank tops on top of pocketless / zipless trousers for all field officials: It may cause some visual discomfort for ordinary citizens in the short term, but the embarrassment of plainly visible pot-bellies will surely lead their wearers to do something about them. (I was going to suggest transparent shirts - adding a whole new dimension to Transparency International - but I think that it would be too much to take for our long-suffering countrymen and women.)

Full-body x-rays at the end of the shift, using the Green Channel scanner: for the even more industrious of our people.

Provision of tea and water at stands near any officials: So the usual line about needing money for "chai pani" can become ineffective.

That's all I can think of right now. Any more?

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