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Needed, someone to keep a vigil on the watchdogs

Saturday, 31 May 2014 - 6:25am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

CVC concerned over lack of vigilance at regulatory bodies

Corruption continues to be a big buzzword in India, but most of the powerful regulatory bodies that oversee transactions worth thousands of crores of rupees do not have appropriate vigilance structures in place.

Concerned about the regulators' lackadaisical approach in setting up vigilance departments, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has asked the department of personnel and training (DoPT), in a letter dated March 20, 2014, to take up the issue with the respective ministries.

The CVC wants all regulatory bodies to set up in-house vigilance regime to look into complaints of corruption against their staff.

It has also called for appointing a chief vigilance officer (CVO) in all statutory authorities.

The commission has raised concerns about almost every top regulator in the country.

The list includes Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), Competition Commission of India (CCI), Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP), among others.

J Vinod Kumar, officer on special duty (OSD) at CVC, has asked the DoPT in his letter to issue suitable guidelines for appropriate vigilance set-ups in regulatory bodies. He has also stated that the CVC does not have a list of all regulatory bodies in the country.

The commission has clarified that there is no uncertainty on the issue of its jurisdiction over the regulatory/quasi-judicial authorities as they are set up by the central government and the CVC's jurisdiction extends to all such bodies, under the CVC Act, 2003.

Sources told dna that despite raising the issue of misuse of authority and issues related to conflicts of interests since 2005, the CVC has failed to bring any change at most regulatory bodies.

"Appreciating the importance of fighting corruption, Parliament enacted the Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC) Act, 2003. Appropriate vigilance structures in ministries, departments and other public offices are essential in the fight against corruption. Without this, fairness and objectivity in the working of public offices cannot be ensured," said a Mumbai-based lawyer dealing in Sebi matters.

"It is shocking to know that the apex body mandated to fight corruption does not even have a complete list of all regulatory bodies," he said.

In several cases, the respective ministries have raised concerns about the lack of appropriate vigilance set-up in regulators reporting to them.

The finance ministry, for instance, has pointed out the conflict of interests at Sebi as the CVO also undertakes investigation, search and other probes on companies and institutions since the officer has dual charge.

The CVO happens to be executive director of the all-powerful department of investigation and he is also in charge of the Information Technology (IT) department, which has a substantial budget.

As ED (investigation), he reports to one whole-time member, and, as ED (Information Technology), he reports to another member.

In a letter dated March 4, RK Sinha, under-secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DoEA), has asked Sebi to "examine these allegations and furnish comments to the department for further examination".

Just a few days ago, Sebi appointed three juniormost officers in the vigilance department as assistant managers. "The top officers in Sebi's vigilance department continue to hold dual responsibilities, with most of them from the investigation team," said sources.

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