A tale of two bureaucrats

Last Updated: Tue, Oct 02, 2012 04:18 hrs

Almost a year earlier, Business Standard reported that salary zoomed 66 times for the top boss at UTI Mutual Fund between 2004 and 2011 (See here: bit.ly/PlHgmH). This steep increase has now become the subject of a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of the current Sebi chairman. This is not the first time the appointment has been questioned. But this is the first time it is being linked with his earlier commercial employment as UTI chief.

In fact, appointment of serving bureaucrats to lucrative commercial employment and salaries received by them in state-owned or state-controlled firms are emerging as pet issues for people with axes to grind.

Former bureaucrat Atul Rai who also took voluntary retirement to take up commercial employment as chief executive of IFCI has also faced charges.

The privileges committee of the Rajya Sabha pointed out these issues in the appointment of Rai:

  • Rai applied for permission for post-retirement commercial employment on April 30, 2007 i.e. while in government service. Under Rule 10 of the CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972, only a ‘pensioner’ can seek government permission for taking up post-retirement commercial employment. 
  • Rai had given personal and family grounds to seek voluntary retirement. He sought permission to take up a commercial employment when he was still not relieved/retired. 
  • His request for seeking voluntary retirement on personal and family grounds should have been reviewed and the veracity of facts examined by senior officers in the department, in the light of his subsequent request for taking up the job of CEO/MD of IFCI. 
  • To seek voluntary retirement from service and to take up the lucrative offer of CEO/MD, IFCI was a calculated move of Rai, which got ample support from his superiors in the Department of Financial Services. 
  • Form 25, inter alia, contains a provision that the officer has not been privy to sensitive or strategic information in the last three years of service, which is directly related to areas of interest or work of the organisation, which he proposes to join or the areas in which he proposes to practice or consult. Rai did not give the said declaration as part of his application in Form 25 while applying for permission.

The committee concluded that there were irregularities in the appointment process and recommended a CBI enquiry. The Street is interpreting this as a proxy war against the Comptroller and Auditor General, who has given the government a lot of mathematics homework to do.

If that interpretation is true, then now the government seems to be having a taste of its own medicine with the UTI appointment also being questioned on almost identical grounds. It will be interesting to see the government response to the SC.

Are these rule transgressions routine in government appointments? If so, are these cases being picked only because of vested interests? Do these draconian rules make any sense when there is an acute shortage of skilled personnel within and outside government?

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