Sounding A Death Knell To Vigilance Management In Central Government/Central PSUs
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Sounding a death knell to Vigilance Management in Central Government/Central PSUs

 
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Retd Dy Chief Vig...
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Sounding a death knell to Vigilance Management in Central Government/Central PSUs – Suggestions for revival 

In this chapter, the author attempts to teach students of ethics management out of his own experience of serving the apex Anti-corruption body of India (Central Vigilance Commission) for 14 years and three leading Central Public Sector Undertakings for 22 years.  In this chapter, he does not intend to cast aspersions on any government functionary or any government/public sector institution but merely intends to share his knowledge with students.  This article has only academic value. The author believes that right knowledge or truth is key to any educational program.  He also believes that students aspiring to join All India services or services of Public Sector should have a glimpse of what is happening in the corridors of political power where awards of multi-million dollar Central Government or Central Public Sector contracts are decided through unethical or corrupt means owing to the ineffectiveness of anti-corruption agencies and laws so that these students after joining these elite government/public sector services may become change agents.  Those who aspire to join the Private Sector companies must emulate the good systems and procedures prevalent in the Government/Public Sector organizations and introduce the same in the Private Sector with adequate modifications suiting to the environment of the Private Sector for bringing about corporate governance. 

On the corruption in India, Wikileaks in its latest disclosure which was published in The Hindu dated 11th April, 2013 quoted an American cable sent to their State Department in Washington during 1976 as follows: 

“An Indian manufacturer paid a substantial bribe to the minister of civil aviation for a particular contract.” However, “the project became a source of controversy for reasons which had nothing to do with the bribe. The minister sought to return the bribe but the donor insisted on interest.” Finally, “a compromise was reached whereby an additional contract was awarded [to] the manufacturer.”

The above instance of 1976 is only a tip of the iceberg hidden in the government sector and the trend of corruption has since become worse and continues to touch an alarming level in the recent past.

In the Public Sector Undertakings /Nationalized Banks and autonomous bodies of Government of India and in the Central Government Ministries/Departments, Vigilance Departments headed by Chief Vigilance Officers (CVOs) are functioning since 1964 based on a resolution passed by the Govt. of India after accepting the report of the Santhanam Committee on corruption.  The functions of these Vigilance Departments are monitored by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) who has since become a statutory body under the CVC Act, 2003. 

In every state government, a Vigilance Department at the Secretariat level, an anti-corruption wing with police powers and in some states, ombudsman like Vigilance Commissioner or Lok Ayukta headed by a retired High Court or a retired Supreme Court judge function as anti-corruption agencies. Since the author does not have much exposure to the functioning of these state anti-corruption agencies, he confines himself only to the functioning of Central anti-corruption agencies. 

Appointment and tenure of CVOs 

A Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) is considered as Special Assistant to the C&MD of the organization and has to report to the latter only.  They mostly belong to All India Services like IAS, IPS, IRS, etc. and join the organizations for deputation tenure of 3 years to be extended by 2 more years.  Mostly, All India Service Officers like IAS, IPS, etc. find berths in Central PSUs of Schedule A and B, based in Delhi for deputation, just to get postings in Delhi or to have leisure in the environment of Public Sector Undertakings where there are fewer responsibilities.  Some honest IAS and IPS officers choose to join the post of CVO in Central PSUs as they find it difficult to dance to the tune of their political bosses in state administration. Many of these officers just spend their time in PSUs without any aptitude for vigilance work. 

According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, a panel of officers cleared by the Central Vigilance Commission will be suggested to the administrative Ministry/Department concerned with the approval of the Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel & Training. The administrative Ministry is required to select an officer out of the panel with the approval of its Minister-in-charge and communicate the same to the Department of Personnel and Training for obtaining the approval of the Competent Authority.  Once a Chief Vigilance Officer has worked in a   particular Organization, he should not be posted as CVO in the same Organization.  This aims  at ensuring  that an officer appointed as CVO in  an Organization  is able to inspire confidence  that   in  deciding  vigilance  cases, he will  not  be hampered  by  anyp ast   association  with   the   organization.  An officer who is appointed from outside as CVO in Central Public Undertaking shall not be permanently absorbed in the same organization on expiry or in continuation of his tenure as CVO in that organization. The Chief Vigilance Officers are extended hands of the CVC. The Chief Vigilance Officers are considerably higher level officers who are appointed in each and every Department/Organization to assist the Head of the Department/Organization in all vigilance matters. 

CVOs are mandated to screen all complaints of graft and criminal conspiracy before referring them to the CBI, to monitor on corruption, malpractices and misconduct on the part of employees and to take remedial action. Besides, they are tasked to closely monitor cases related to criminal misconduct of employees being investigated by CBI and to coordinate with the latter for expeditious disposal of such cases.  

The duties and functions of CVOs as laid down by CVC are given below:

The role and functions of CVOs has been broadly divided in to two parts, which are (I) Preventive and (II) Punitive.

On the preventive side:

The CVOs undertake various measures, which include:

(a) To examine in detail the existing Rules and procedures of the Organization with a view to eliminating or minimizing the scope for corruption or malpractices;

(b) To identify the sensitive/corruption prone spots in the Organization and keep an eye on personnel posted in such areas;

(c) To plan and enforce surprise inspections and regular inspections to detect the system failures and existence of corruption or malpractices;

(d) To maintain proper surveillance on officers of doubtful integrity; and

(e) To ensure prompt observance of Conduct Rules relating to integrity of the Officers, like

(I) the Annual Property Returns;

(ii) Gifts accepted by the officials

(iii) Benami transactions

(iv) Regarding relatives employed in private firms or doing private business etc.

On the punitive side: 

(I) To ensure speedy processing of vigilance cases at all stages. In regard to cases requiring consultation with the Central Vigilance Commission, a decision as to whether the case had a vigilance angle shall in every case be taken by the CVO who, when in doubt, may refer the matter to his administrative head, i.e. Secretary in the case of Ministries/Departments and Chief Executive in the case of public sector organizations;

(ii) To ensure that charge-sheet, statement of imputations, lists of witness and documents etc. are carefully prepared and copies of all the documents relied upon and the statements of witnesses cited on behalf of the disciplinary authority are supplied wherever possible to the accused officer along with the charge-sheet;

(iii) To ensure that all documents required to be forwarded to the Inquiring Officer are carefully sorted out and sent promptly;

(iv) To ensure that there is no delay in the appointment of the Inquiring Officer, and that no dilatory tactics are adopted by the accused officer or the Presenting Officer;

(v) To ensure that the processing of the Inquiry Officer's Reports for final orders of the Disciplinary Authority is done properly and quickly;

(vi) To scrutinize final orders passed by the Disciplinary Authorities subordinate to the Ministry/Department, with a view to see whether a case for review is made out or not;

(vii) To see that proper assistance is given to the C.B.I. in the investigation of cases entrusted to them or started by them on their own source of information;

(viii) To take proper and adequate action with regard to writ petitions filed by accused officers;

(ix) To ensure that the Central Vigilance Commission is consulted at all stages where it is to be consulted and that as far as possible, the time limits prescribed in the Vigilance Manual for various stages are adhered to;

(x) To ensure prompt submission of returns to the Commission;

(xi) To review from time to time the existing arrangements for vigilance work in the Ministry/Department for vigilance work subordinate officers to see if they are adequate to ensure expeditious and effective disposal of vigilance work;

(xii) To ensure that the competent disciplinary authorities do not adopt a dilatory or lax attitude in processing vigilance cases, thus knowingly otherwise helping the subject public servants, particularly in cases of officers due to retire;

(xiii) To ensure that cases against the public servants on the verge of retirement do not lapse due to time-limit for reasons such as misplacement of files etc. and that the orders passed in the cases of retiring officers are implemented in time; and

(xiv) To ensure that the period from the date of serving a charge-sheet in a disciplinary case to the submission of the report of the Inquiry Officer, does, ordinarily, not exceed six months.  

Functioning of CVOs and Vigilance Officers (VOs) 

Though CVOs are required to function independently, practically speaking, they are not doing so. Since the CVO has to report to the C&MD, the former has, at times, to toe the line of the latter. It is very difficult for him to maintain a balance between his reporting to the C&MD and his reporting to the CVC in the event of disagreement by the CVO with the C&MD. In technical organizations, many CVOs from IPS or other police services, without technical background, find it rather difficult to understand the nature of corruption cases involving technicalities when there is a blurring line of demarcation between cases of corruption and bribery and cases of irregularities where procedures are bypassed for commissioning of projects on time.  They find it difficult to judge cases wherein malafides are not shown by suspect officers.  

No doubt, CVOs in many Central PSUs have done tremendous work, bringing about transparency in their organizations and introducing preventive measures for curbing corruption by plugging loopholes in systems and procedures.  However, on the whole, there are many negative factors which need to be addressed urgently. 

At times, Vigilance Officers working under CVOs are not ethical in their investigations.  Once they take up cases for investigation, they are reluctant to close the same when materials surface to show that the actions of suspect officers are not malafide.  

Vigilance Officers consider themselves to be more intelligent than the highly qualified technical or engineering staff.  Being arrogant, they are not humble in learning from the technical officers when they do not understand the intricacies of technical cases. 

Many CVOs simply go by the reports of their Vigilance Officers without taking pains to cross verify the investigation reports by taking independent technical opinion with the result that innocent executives get charge-sheeted.  Once an executive is charge-sheeted for a major penalty, then his career is doomed and he loses his promotion.  By the time, the executive is exonerated of the charges framed against him, he loses his reputation, promotion and social status.   

Vigilance Clearance 

“Vigilance Clearance” is the hurdle for getting promotions in Govt. Services during pendency of trial in courts or during pendency of departmental proceedings.  This rule is applied even to those employees who apply for passports or for foreign training programs.  According to a procedure called “sealed cover procedure”, if a charge-sheeted officer is due for promotion, he would be considered for promotion and the result of the Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC) has to be kept in a sealed cover which would be opened after the finalization of the departmental proceedings or after the close of the criminal case in the court of law, as the case may be.  If the officer is exonerated, he would be given promotion with retrospective effect after opening the sealed cover. If he is convicted, then the recommendations of the Departmental Promotion Committee would not be acted upon. Though the sealed cover procedure has to be followed, in many PSUs, this is not followed just to deny promotion to these charge-sheeted executives as the management prefers to promote other executives whose records are clean and who are their favorites.  In this regard, the PSU management uses this procedure just to deny promotion to an efficient and hard working officer against whom some charge-sheet is pending but to promote against that particular vacancy some non-performing officer who is close to the top management. 

C&MD versus CVO 

The C&MD of the organization has to spend more of his time in the corridors of the Ministry to please the Minister and the bureaucrats there.  He obliges the Minister in awarding contracts to the favorite contractors of the minister.  The favorite contractor gets his business from the organization after following the prescribed procedure and becoming the “lowest evaluated bidder”. 

Wikileaks, the whistleblower website, reveals through one of the cables sent by the American Embassy to their State Department in Washington during 1976 as published by The Hindu dated 11th April 2013, the magnitude of corruption in India prevalent in the system of award of contracts. It says, “The ‘innovative’ Indian method of awarding contracts to the favored bidder is explained in the words of a World Bank official “with extensive experience in India.” He “had never seen a case where an original low bidder ever received a contract” since “repeated tenderings combined with specification changes are instituted by the Government of India until the appropriate bidder becomes low bidder as well.” 

The Vigilance Department hardly gets into this area at all. If at all this case goes to the CBI, ultimately the officials who have recommended award of contracts would be in the CBI net.  Normally, the approving authority i.e. the C&MD or the Board would go scot free on the pretext that they were misguided by the lower level managerial officers.   There is no surveillance by the CBI or by the CVO of the Ministry in the corridors of power where the contractors meet the Ministers for getting their work done.  When the contractor concerned executes his contract, if the Vigilance pokes its nose, then the contractor informs the C&MD and the C&MD gives his tacit disapproval to the CVO.   Some bold CVOs would go ahead and would initiate action against the erring executives concerned.  However, the defaulting contractor would agree with the officers/engineers in charge of the work at site for making necessary recoveries from him for the sub-standard work executed by him and would agree to do some rectification work.  The contractor would never get blacklisted.  In a recent case (March 2013) , the World Bank blacklisted M/s L &T, considered as the most ethical company in the world for a particular period just because one of the L&T officers submitted forged certificates for getting a contract from a public sector undertaking of the Govt. of Tamil Nadu. 

CVO in Ministry versus CBI 

There is a CVO in every Ministry, mostly belonging to IAS cadre.  He is of the status of Joint Secretary to the Govt. of India.  He acts only on complaints against the senior bureaucrats in the Ministry.  He and his department possess all the knacks to close the complaints against the Minister or the Secretary when a report is called for by the CVC.   He does not suo motu scrutinize the files in the Ministry wherein the Minister or the Secretary has taken questionable decisions.   CBI has hardly any role in the corridor of the Ministry until and unless it is directed by the High Court or the Supreme Court to investigate a scam like 2G spectrum, etc.  CBI is prompt in trapping an income tax officer accepting bribe but keeps itself at a distance from the corridors of the Ministry.  It does not generate “intelligence” to trap a Minister or his conduit accepting bribes from a businessman but gets intelligence report to trap a police officer accepting bribes. 

Recently (in May 2013), for the first time in the history of CBI, to the best of my knowledge, CBI trapped a close relative of an Union Minister red-handed while accepting bribe for a top government post. 

CVOs versus CVC 

CVOs are very particular about sending their monthly statistical returns to CVC, whether their Departments really work or not to the extent desired by CVC. The CVC have no means to conduct an audit of the work done by the CVOs.  The CVC have no adequate staff and machinery to monitor the work of the CVOs in about 200 Central Public Sector Undertakings and 27 Public Sector Banks, apart from CVOs in Ministries/Attached and Subordinate offices of Ministries.  With its limited resources, the CVC takes cognizance of scams and irregularities reported by the media.  There has been no accountability on the CVO of the organization concerned when a scam has broken out as reported by the media. 

Negative Role of Vigilance and CBI in PSUs 

In some cases, innocent officers are falsely implicated by CBI after joining hands with the CVO who acts at the behest of the CMD.  These innocent officers are being persecuted in the court of law.  By the time these officers are exonerated by the trial courts, they would lose their promotions, peace of mind, social status.  They find it very difficult to get their daughters married during the pendency of trial.  If any honest officer falls into the CBI net, it would be very difficult for him to get a clearance from the CBI for getting his promotion.  The investigation would be a time consuming affair even if the CBI has to close the case after filing a closure report before the CBI Special Court. Normally, the CBI before closing its prosecution case recommends departmental action against the officer concerned on some other ground or the other. 

Instead of playing the role of an ally of management (the term coined by the CVC during 1980s), the Vigilance Department at times functions as an enemy of the management by questioning the decisions taken by managers on merit.  The time has now come in the PSUs that no lower level manager proposes or takes decision as per the powers delegated to him.  He simply sends the file to the Regional Head of the organization who in turn refers the matter to the Corporate Headquarters. 

In an interesting case, an honest officer was charge-sheeted for performing his normal functions for recommending procurement of spare parts from the contractor to whom the contract was awarded. The Vigilance Department attributed a motive to him saying that he could have recommended procurement of these spare parts from other available contractors whose prices were very low.  In the charge-sheet, they cited the name of a contractor whose prices were low.  According to the contract provisions, the officer was supposed to propose placing of orders on the same contractor only for procurement of spare parts.  Further, the name of the contractor mentioned in the charge-sheet was not a full-fledged contractor but was a budding contractor who was being developed as a vendor and this budding contractor was given a small work on economic rates.  Nobody in the hierarchy of the organization ever took pains to read the provisions of the contract which were being brought to their notice by the suspect officer.  All of them simply appended their signatures on the investigation report of the Vigilance Department to charge the innocent officer known for his integrity for a major penalty involving lack of integrity, on the presumption that the officer had shown favors to the party on whom spare parts were sought to be procured. 

In another case, on the recommendations of CBI, an honest officer was charged for a major penalty just for failing to report a transaction of buying a car from his colleague.  CBI alleged that he took a loan from his colleague and did not report this fact to the management.  Absolutely, there was no iota of evidence to prove that the suspect officer took a personal loan from his colleague. This case was foisted on this officer by CBI at the best of the C&MD.  This simple case dragged on for three years during which the officer lost his promotion. 

Agreed List prepared by Vigilance and CBI 

There is a provision of preparing a list of officers who are corrupt but against whom there is no prima facie evidence for initiating action.  This is called Agreed List.  It contains names of officers of Gazetted status in Central Govt. service or officers of Central PSUs/Nationalized Banks, etc. against whose honesty or integrity there are complaints, doubts or suspicious after consultations between the vigilance officers of the Departments/PSUs concerned and of CBI.  As per the guidelines issued by the Central Govt. in this regard, closer and more frequent scrutiny and inspection of their work and performance by the Departments concerned, particularly in spheres there is scope for discretion or for showing favors.  Quite check about their reputation both by the Vigilance Department and the C.B.I, unobtrusive watch of their contracts style of living etc. by the C.B.I, secret enquiry by the C.B.I. about their assets and financial resources will be undertaken by the CBI.  The CBI will have to collect information of specific instances of bribery and corruption practices against these officers of doubtful integrity and to register FIRs against them if there is prima facie evidence against them. 

In spite of the above guidelines issued by the Central Govt., the CBI has no time or adequate staff to carry out this surveillance work and the internal Vigilance Department also does not keep real surveillance over such officials, relegating to the background such an important function, mostly due to lack of adequate staff.  This list just remains on paper for years together if the management or the government wants to keep some corrupt officials on this list for the sake of maintaining this list as a routine exercise.  No real exercise is being made sincerely to verify the allegations for which the officials are kept in this “watch” list. 

The Vigilance Department does it job perfectly if a case of false personal claim is to be investigated.  It does not put under its scanner award of contracts worth crores of rupees when it comes to the Board level.  The Vigilance Department in a PSU does close its eyes when the bureaucrats or the Ministers of the Ministry misuse the company’s properties but it takes cognizance of such misuse by the company’s executives at construction sites or at project sites.  The Chairman of the PSU deputes his company executives for helping “technically” the Ministers and the bureaucrats in their offices. The PSU has become a milking cow for the Ministry. 

When the Vigilance Department in the Central Ministries and their attached and subordinate offices, are playing a limited role of investigation, the Vigilance Departments in the Central PSUs are very active but are mostly doing the police functions because many of executives are from the CBI or police background.  They investigate complaints and do not take steps to prevent corruption and fraud. Employees are scared of visiting the offices of Vigilance Officers because they think if they visit such offices, they would be looked down upon by their colleagues in the same manner people are not hesitant to visit police stations for lodging complaints.  No whistle blower employee would like to visit a vigilance officer in his office for giving information.  The whistle blower does not trust the vigilance officer for giving information.  The term “Vigilance” has created a bad image about vigilance officers working in the PSUs.  

Appointment of Independent Monitors and its effectiveness 

As per the guidelines issued by the CVC for overseeing implementation and effectiveness of the Integrity Pact Programs in Central PSUs, Independent Monitors are being appointed in consultation with Transparency International India, an international NGO which fights corruption globally, and such appointments are finally approved by the CVC.  This is a very good wonderful system in the Central PSU for combating corruption through a third party monitoring. 

The major goal of the Independent Monitor will be to oversee implementation of Integrity Pact Program to prevent corruption, bribes and any other unethical practices in the company. If the Independent Monitor observes or suspects an irregularity, he will inform the C&MD of the company and Chairman of the Audit Committee of its Board of Directors. Once the Independent Monitor is satisfied that any irregularity has taken place, he may also inform CVC and Transparency International-India. He can also avail himself of the services of private audit or law firms at the cost of the company. 

The system of independent third party monitoring in Central PSU is the best tool for combating corruption.  But there is a genuine doubt whether this system is implemented in its spirit. Everything remains on paper and the CVC is periodically apprised of the work undertaken by the Independent Monitor. 

In most of the companies, retired bureaucrats who are close to the Chairmen or the Minister or the Secretary of the Ministry are appointed to these positions.  Such retired bureaucrats at one point of time might have favored the Chairman of the company who is the sole authority who initiatives this appointment.  

The Independent Monitor does not have enough staff and expertise to work in a highly commercial and technical organization.  He has to completely depend upon the management to provide him the infrastructure.  He simply goes by the reports given by the committee of officials who are part of the management.  

The retired bureaucrat, being the Independent Monitor, who enjoys the confidence of the C&MD cannot be expected to be impartial in his judgment and cannot be having a thorough knowledge of the company’s functioning, especially the procedure of award of contracts and execution of projects. We do not know whether the Independent Monitor has ever engaged services of outside agencies such as accounting firms, law firms, etc at company’s expense to discharge his duties.  No public sector management would like to outsource the work of monitoring their work to third party law/audit firms like KPMG, etc. 

If the Independent Monitor has to be effective in his functioning, he must be, preferably, a retired senior level executive of the Public Sector Undertaking who had served the PSU in the Vigilance Department for a long time.   It would be ideal to engage the services of a retired senior level public sector executive who has put in a service of about 15 years in vigilance functions and who is well aware of the systems and procedures of the PSU.  The background check of a retired public sector executive can be easily made either with the CBI or with the CVC. 

The Independent Monitor should be able to function at least on 10 working days in a month with adequate supporting staff from the Vigilance Department/Audit Department. 

Appointment of the Independent Monitor in the PSU has to be made by independent and competent recruiters through open advertisements.  The recruiter concerned has to forward a panel of selected candidates to the Chairman of the PSU for appointment. A person of proven integrity has to be appointed to this position after verification of antecedents. 

VOs spending precious time on preparing statistical returns 

A vigilance officer is supposed to be vigilant over the officials committing frauds.  But in many offices, vigilance officers spend more time in preparing statistical reports to be sent to their CVOs/CVC/Nodal Ministry.  In the first week of every month, he is busy preparing such reports and has no time to keep vigilance or surveillance over the corrupt officials. One of the vigilance officials working under a senior vigilance functionary was very hard working, having a very good knowledge of what was happening in the organization but he was neither liked by the top management nor was his work recognized in his own department.  There are a few vigilance officials who are working hard, round the clock, gathering information.  In my opinion, 90% vigilance officials just work in a routine manner without developing sources for getting information or without taking any steps to know what is happening in the organization.  They are prompt in taking up investigations when they receive complaints. 

VOs spending precious time on scrutiny of property returns 

Another time consuming job of a Vigilance Officer is to verify the immovable property returns submitted by executives once in two years.  He has to verify such returns of thousands of executives in a routine manner.  The purpose of Government introducing submission of immovable property returns which has been made a mandatory requirement in the Conduct Rules is to ascertain whether the executive who submits this return has acquired assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.  Frankly speaking, no corrupt officer would reflect the properties acquired by him through corrupt means in this return.  The Vigilance Officer scrutinizing such returns cannot verify the genuineness of transactions shown in property returns by visiting the places where properties have been acquired by the executive. Further, the Vigilance Officer has no sanction of law for accessing the government records in Registration Departments or Municipal offices. At times, honest executives fail to report some transactions or report such transactions belatedly for which charge-sheets are issued to them on the advice of the Vigilance Department.  CVC expects CVOs to ensure 100% scrutiny of these property returns. 

In an interesting case investigated by CBI, an IPS probationer while submitting his first property return at the time of joining service had shown acquisition of a large amount of gold as marriage gift.  This young police officer had decided to turn the bribe amounts to be received by him during the course of his long career into white money in the form of marriage gift. In fact, this provision came in handy for him to accumulate wealth through corrupt means. 

Lacking powers of investigation under law and procuring attendance of witnesses during quasi judicial departmental inquiries 

In cases involving scrutiny of records in possession of private persons or vendors/contractors, the Vigilance Officer investigating the complaint has to collect evidences for which the law does not allow him to do so.  Only police officers working in the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the state government or CBI have the lawful powers to investigate such complaints.  Despite this handicap, many Vigilance Officers carry on investigations interacting with private persons and recording their statements.  But, ultimately, during subsequent quasi-judicial departmental inquiries, these private persons are reluctant to appear as witnesses against the charge-sheeted executives, probably under the influence of the charged executives.  Even if they appear as witnesses before the Inquiry Officers, they retract their earlier statements given to investigating Vigilance Officer during investigation. To procure their attendance during inquiries is the Herculean job of the Vigilance Department. 

Prosecutor becoming judge in disciplinary proceedings 

Another area of grave concern is regarding the role of Vigilance Department in disciplinary proceedings.  If an officer is charge-sheeted for a major penalty, then his career would be doomed for a long period and during this period, he becomes a dead leaf in the tree.  He cannot show devotion to duty as he is suspected to be under a cloud.  The Vigilance Department conducts investigations and submits its report to the designated Disciplinary Authority concerned.  As per the directions of CVC, a cell called Disciplinary Proceedings Cell has been created in every organization.  In many organizations, this cell functions under the CVO.  The prosecutor is not supposed to sit in the judgment seat because it would violate the principles of natural justice.  Though the Vigilance Department has to function in an advisory role for the Disciplinary Authority concerned, the latter goes by the advice of the former because the CVO of the organization is considered “powerful” in the hierarchy of the organization. In some PSUs, this cell functions under the Director (Personnel). Disciplinary Authorities do not apply their minds to the facts mentioned in investigation reports or the recommendations made by the Vigilance Department proposing disciplinary action.  Disciplinary Authorities are supposed to examine the reports of Inquiry Officers and to apply their minds.  As the Disciplinary Authority concerned does not assert himself, the advice of the CVO becomes final in the ultimate analysis.  The Disciplinary Authority simply signs the charge-sheet even if there is no prima facie case against the delinquent employee concerned just because he does not want to rub his shoulders with the powerful CVO in the organization.  

Training needs to be given to Disciplinary Authorities so that they may be aware of their disciplinary powers. There should be separation of disciplinary functions from vigilance functions. 

Ethics for Vigilance Officers 

Ethics programs should be conducted for vigilance officials, apart from completely overhauling the system of recruitments and functions of Vigilance Officers and Chief Vigilance Officer. Vigilance Department in a PSU conducts vigilance awareness workshop/seminar to sensitize the non-vigilance officials.  But there is no ethics program tailor made for vigilance officials.  

Need for CVC to plug loopholes in Vigilance Management/Vigilance Administration 

CVC does not have any proper feedback system except through the statistical reports being submitted by CVOs to evaluate the vigilance work in PSUs.  They do not know about the public perception of vigilance work in any PSU.  It is time for CVC to introduce a feedback system, preferably, anonymous from employees in a PSU on a random sample basis to know about their perception and problems in matters relating to the functioning of the Vigilance Department. 

To induct professionalism into Vigilance Management in PSUs, Vigilance Officers of one PSU should be deputed to another organization for a period of 5 years.  There are instructions from CVC that 30% of vacancies in the Vigilance Department should be on deputation basis. But such instructions remain on paper only. 

The present system of bringing officers of All India Services to the PSUs should be reviewed and dispensed with in due course. Of course, the system of appointment of senior vigilance executives on deputation to other PSUs as CVOs may be ideal. This system is perhaps applied by the Ministry of Personnel only to those Central PSUs located in places other than Delhi and that too in PSUs classified as Schedule C or D.  If no IAS or IPS officer is willing to join such a public sector undertaking located in a remote place, then the same is filled up with some senior vigilance functionary from another PSU. 

Young MBA/Law/CA graduates should be inducted and adequately trained by CBI and other professional forensic training institutes at international level. 

Need for strengthening existing institutions of CBI and CVC 

It sounds a death knell to Vigilance Management in Central PSUs and the Central Govt. Departments.  The Government of India has to take drastic measures to regulate the functions of the Vigilance Departments through the CVC.  

There is a need for revamping the vigilance machinery in the PSUs and the Ministries and for overhauling the functions of the Anti-Corruption Wing of CBI. There is absolutely no need for creation of a new anti-corruption institution like Lok Pal when the existing anti-corruption agency i.e. CBI has adequate powers to investigate the Ministers and  top bureaucrats.  In the 2G spectrum case, they have done their job. 

The CVC can be given the jurisdiction that the Govt. of India proposes to give to the Lok Pal, to inquire into the allegations against the Ministers and the senior bureaucrats.  The CVC can have its own investigation cell and prosecution wing which the proposed Lok Pal Bill wants to give to the new institution of Lok Pal. The CVC has been known for its integrity since its inception and no scandal has been reported on its performance.  The existing CVC can be made a multi-member Lok Pal institution after amending the CVC Act, 2003.  There is no absolutely no need for creating another “powerful” anti-corruption body.  The latest exposure of Wiki leaks about corruption in India has stated, “there is a direct and positive relationship between laws against corruption and the extent of corruption itself, i.e., each such law only means that there are more people to bribe.” 

When the author joined the CVC in 1973, there was a talk about the CVC becoming the Lok Pal.  But the Govt. of India was sitting over this proposal for 3 decades and opened its eyes only when the social activists took to the street and introduced their own version of the “Jan Lok Pal Bill” which sought to create a very big monstrous central institution even overriding the state government’s powers for bringing 80 lakh state government officials and 40 lakh central government officials in the country under its purview.  Instead of succumbing to the pressure of the social activists, Government of India could have strengthened the existing institution of CVC by widening its scope and powers.


 

(The author can be contacted on his email id: jobanbalagan@gmail.com

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