Since transparency involves sharing of information –meaning most decisions of officials, and important rules and regulations are in the public domain- it thoroughly reduces chances of corruption, nepotism, favoritism, and the like. Lack of information about the functioning of government agencies can make it easy for corrupt officials to cover their tracks. On the other hand, when officials know that their decisions will be out in the open, then they will be less inclined to act randomly or with self-interest. It would be appropriate to say that the least transparent Governments exist in the most corrupt countries.
Once an official decision is out in the open, people will also know the grounds and material facts on which the decision was based, and any discrepancy will be questioned in appropriate forums. For example, suppose there are 100 seats to be filled up in an engineering college, and there are more applicants than the number of seats. If there is lack of transparency, the management may fill up the seats with those who are willing to pay bribes. But when the process is transparent, people will come to know of the marks obtained by them in the qualifying exams. In this case, if students with lower marks have been selected, the decision taken by the management can be contested in courts.
Transparency in governance also has a positive impact on the efficiency of Government functioning. Since most rules and regulations are already in public domain, most people approaching the Government for its services will already know about the basic requirements, and officials will not waste precious minutes explaining their position to people. For example, after the rules and regulations governing the issue of passport have been put up on the website of the Government, people approaching the passport office already have the required documents like address proof and identity proof. Applicants know which are not, and it has become a lot less painstaking task to obtain a passport.
Similarly, transparency improves accountability of the Government staff. As the power of all officers and arms of the Government are out in the open, and proper records of all actions of officials are available, it becomes easy to fix responsibility in case of any misdemeanor. On the other hand, if decision-making process is shrouded in secrecy, officers involved will take the onus of an incorrect decision.
But the most important effect of transparency is on people themselves, especially the disadvantaged lot. Transparency in governance is truly empowering this section: People know whom to approach for which work, they can easily find out if they are eligible for special schemes of the needy like jawahar Rojgar Yojana, the targeted public distribution system, etc. In such a situation, people will not be forced to beg officials for what is their legitimate right.It is clearly evident that transparency in governance improves the quality of governance and leads to lowering of governance and leads to lowering of corruption. However, transparency in itself is not enough to root out corruption. This is because, while transparency implies availability of information, it also requires an educated and intelligent population to find out the true meaning of the available information and act on it. Rooting out corruption also requires a prompt and effective criminal justice system, which can swiftly punish the guilty. So, we can say that transparency is a necessary but not sufficient condition to root out corruption.
Further, in a country like India with a large popular of uneducated and poor people, information has not only to be made available, but he availability of information itself has to be advertised. This means that we need activists who can inform and educate the public about the kind of information available to tem and how to use that information. While, some government departments have been performing this role, there is a lot of gap remaining which has to be bridged by social activists and the media.
Secondly, information that is available has to be presented in a manner that is usable by the general populace. For this we need people who can seek information from required sources, collate it and make it comprehensible to the people who may be affected by such information. The news media is one arm of society which can effectively do this. Non-governmental organizations, especially those working in the field of RTI or people’s empowerment can be another. For example, the document for the award of tender for a multi-billion dollar project would be difficult to understand for most people, but newspapers and news channels have people who can understand the nitty-gritty of the complex documents and can present the main points to its readers/viewers. The media can also approach experts and inform the public about their conclusion.
Take another example of a politician opposing certain project on the behalf of his people. But later on after having talks with the management, or on certain conditions having been met, he gives his nod to the project. Six months down the line, the company executing the project files its results with the stock exchanges, in which it is stated that a part of the tender has been allotted to a privately held company. Much later, we come to know that the politician’s son holds a substantial chunk of this company. Now, although all this information is publicly available, the general public might not be able to access all information, or even deduce the inference of corruption from it. So intermediaries like activists and social workers are needed who can sift through the vast mass of information and collate it into meaningful chunks.