Even before launching its domestic operations in the country, low-cost carrier AirAsia seems to have kicked up a fresh storm. This time, it's over the appointment of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Vice-Chairman S Ramadorai, also the chairman of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), on the board of the company's India venture as non-executive chairman.
Amid questions being raised on the issue of conflict of interest, Planning Commission Member Arun Maira has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to clear the air on the rules governing appointment of people from the private sector to public positions.
Maira, among the first from the private sector to be brought into government service - he was the chairman of Boston Consulting Group before joining the Planning Commission - wrote to the prime minister and met him over the past few days. He is understood to have sought transparency and consistency in the rules governing employment of people from the private sector in government services. (PUBLIC-PRIVATE SHIFT)
"The government must clarify the rules of engagement of persons from the private sector in government services to avoid any controversy," Maira told Business Standard.
Ramadorai's appointment as the head of NSDC and his earlier position as advisor to the PM on skill development have been questioned by many because he has continued to be on the boards of several companies and educational institutions.
Among other eminent people from similar backgrounds to have joined public services are Natgrid chief Raghu Raman and Unique Identification Authority of India Chairman Nandan Nilekani. Both are believed to have relinquished their earlier positions before joining the government. Ramadorai's appointment on the board of AirAsia has raised many an eyebrow because he continues to hold his government post.
When contacted by Business Standard, Ramadorai said he had always kept the government informed about all his non-executive roles in the private sector. "The role of advisor to the PM on skill development was taken up by me after full disclosure of my roles in the private sector, as well as educational institutions. It was agreed that these associations would continue," Ramadorai said.
Appointment of experts from the private sector in government services has been a matter of intense debate for the past few years, mainly because of the absence of clear guidelines on this. It started in 2004, when the Planning Commission invited several people from international consulting companies to join its working groups in advisory capacities.
The government, however, had to retreat after the Left parties, which were supporting the United Progressive Alliance government from outside then, opposed the involvement of people from outside in the planning process.
Several consultants from reputed global firms quit Planning Commission panels and working groups following the furore.