Daily Answer Writing
06 January 2021

Q) You are a newly appointed Junior Engineer(JE) posted in the Public works department of Muradnagar, in U.P.’s Ghaziabad district. You are assigned a new project to build a concrete shelter in a local crematorium, for which a contractor is already hired through a tendering process. As the construction begin, you realize that there is no provision of any mandatory lab testing of the material used in the construction. Your seniors, including the Assistant engineer(AE) who is the supervisor of the site, too don’t show any interest in the inspection of the site. 

One day the Assistant engineer(AE), brings a set of papers to you to sign on. After taking a look, you find that these are the bills of the contractor that must be cleared on time after the inspection of the site. However, since you haven't inspected the site yourself, you refuse to sign the bill. The AE then, being senior warns you to comply as he is the one who would review your performance. You know that a good performance review would help you in getting a promotion. The AE further offers you an amount worth two percent of the project cost in cash and tells you that this amount is a norm in the department for the hard work that you and your seniors do to complete the project on time. After analysing the various options available to you, what would you do in a such a situation? Can you identify the number of stakeholders involved in the project? (300 Words)

Source: The Hindu Editorial: Moribund governance

Approach Answer:

Introduction: This is an example of corrupt practices, which is difficult to identify as the system which is in charge of identifying the malpractice is itself involved in it. This situation is based on a recent case in which at least 24 people have died after a concrete shed fell on an assembly.

To analyse the impact and the extent of the situation, we must first identify the stakeholders involved.

Stakeholders and their stakes:

  1. The Public: In any public construction project, public is the most important stakeholder for two reasons. For one, it pays taxes and thus every expenditure done by the government should be publically accountable. Secondly, it is the final user, for whose purpose the public construction takes place.
  2. Me, the Junior Engineer: I have two things at stake. One my morality, if I take that two per cent of the total cost as a bribe. On the other hand, my career prospects are at stake as not complying with the directives of my senior can lead to a poor performance review. Further I am the engineer in-charge. If due to bad construction the structure fails, then too my career is at stake.
  3. My Seniors: They too have two kinds of stakes here. One, they might have already taken bribe from the contractor. This as the case study hints is taken as an income by the AE, even though it is illegal. Thus this illegal income of theirs is at stake. On the other hand, their moral and professional responsibility is at stake too.
  4. The contractor: He is in the business for the profit. He is over the years made compliant to the system in which he would not get contract if he does not pay bribe. Further if he gets the contract, none of his bills would be passed if he does not pay the engineers. In any case, his business is on stake. He has to put low quality construction material in order to recover the cost of bribes.
                                                 Further, if the construction fails, he would be responsible, where his professional carrier is at stake too.
  5. The Public works department: Any construction work is the professional responsibility of the department. In any department there are effective mechanisms such as internal audits or third party audits to ensure that the quality is not compromised. If still corruption takes place, it points towards a greater nexus involved in it.
  6. The Government: It is finally accountable to public in a democracy. Thus, the final responsibility lies here. This makes the government, the one of the most important stakeholder in this situation.                

Various options available to me as a Junior Engineer(JE):

  1. To convey to the Assistant Engineer that I would not comply and complaint to the higher ups if forced to take the bribe.
                   • Effect on the department:
    Since the department is embroiled in the corruption, it is highly unlikely that it would have an impact in routing out the corruption from the system.
                   • My fate: the system would try to find a way such as transfers to find someone new who would comply with the system.
  2. To complain to the higher ups:
                   • Effect on the department:
    Here again it is highly unlikely that it would have an impact. However, since a formal complaint is made(say online), it would be difficult to ignore. There might be an internal enquiry which may or may not be successful.
                   • Fate of the Contractor: This might also lead to permanent black listing of the contractor.
                   • My fate: I might get a poor performance review and might also be transferred to an insignificant project where I might never again be an inconvenience to the other officials. However, since I am new to the system with no tainted history to exploit, the department cannot take away my job.
  3. To complain to the Vigilance Department, becoming a whistle blower:
                   • Effect on the department
    : This would lead to a larger enquiry. However still there can be no surety  of success .
                   • Fate of the contractor:
    Being the weakest link, he might be blacklisted in this case too.
                   • My fate: It is a possibility of me getting a protection from the vigilance department from any action. However, the future prospects in terms of promotion are still in the hand of Public Works Department.
  4. To do nothing, neither accept the bribe, nor complain about the situation.
                   • Effect on the project and the department
    would be null.
                   • The contractor would do business as usual.

                              • My fate: I would become a part of the tainted system and lose my ability to raise my voice within the department ever again. However, if the structure fails, I would be the one responsible for its failure as I am the engineer in-charge. Not accepting the bribe would not make take away my professional responsibility of ensuring a safe construction of the project.                                      

Accepting bribe is not an option as it is morally, legally and professionally wrong. Further, It would mean playing with the lives of the people.

Conclusion: My response to the situation: Complaining to the Vigilance Department is the only way by which there can be any impact on the system as well as provide a certain degree of protection to me. Thus this would be my response to the present situation.

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