The original plan was to call this column, ‘The Joke is on You, Mr Moily.’ But Veerappa Moily’s bosses saved him the trouble. Since he is no longer the minister of corporate affairs and the new incumbent is just a couple of days old, I prefer to keep it anonymous.
But Moily still has to take a part of the blame. Every time the media picked up some unusual numbers from the filings in the ministry, accessible to the public on payment of Rs 50, Moily said, “We will look for Companies Act violations”, “We will investigate”, “Everything is fine”, etc.
Keeping aside the politics of these statements, was Moily’s ministry doing its job in an efficient and desirable manner? Does it comprehend the sheer magnitude of data at its disposal? Does it collect, aggregate and analyse data in a scientific manner to enable nation building? Most important, does it have the wherewithal to conduct due diligence on the tonnes of data dumped on it every day?
I am not able to answer any of these questions in the affirmative with any conviction. Maybe some ministry official would be able to defend, quoting some G.O here or some circular there.
But I am sure they cannot defend the lack of due diligence at the registrar level which has been established in the highest court of law. Further proof came with the revelations on Purti Power and Sugar. Some of the investor companies could not be found at their addresses. This does call for an investigation. Not BY the ROC, Mumbai, and the MCA, but ON the ROC Mumbai, and the MCA.
What sort of identification documents have they relied on? What checks did they do before registering these companies and putting these details in the public domain? A few weeks earlier, when I had gone to Nizamuddin station to send off my father, the train got delayed. In between, I had to send an important mail. The cyber café operator did not give me access to a computer with my PAN card. He said he wanted an address proof. When I presented by Press card, he rejected it saying it was handwritten and then I had to produce an access card, which had the office address. He took a copy of all these and made me sign on them before giving access to the computer.
This is the due diligence a cyber café undertakes, to earn Rs 15. Does the registrar, who charges Rs 50 from the public for each view of his register, conduct even half of this due diligence? Had he done so, would Purti Power’s fake addresses have passed through his register?
The MCA 21 website, which allows people to view the registrar documents, should have an easier mode of payment, if not made free. The data should be put in the format it is available on stock exchange websites.
It should not be so incomprehensible that journalists who figure it out can pass it off as “investigation”. Sachin Pilot has his task cut out. All the best Mr MCA.