The central government’s bid to check senior bureaucrats’ conflict of interest by increasing the cooling period to join a private company to five years after retirement has left the Indian Administrative Service officers in a tizzy.
Many senior IAS officers, who are either on the verge of retiring or have got extension from the government, have opposed the move calling it “unfair”.
In the recent past, some secretary level officials took plump post-retirement jobs with companies dealing in the sector, whose in-charge they were in the government. Many other were appointed to regulatory bodies or committees dealing with the sectors they headed in their previous assignment.
A former telecom secretary had joined as a consultant with a group lobbying for telecom companies, now accused in the 2G scam. Another had joined a broadcasters federation after retiring as Information and Broadcasting secretary. Some retired Indian Forest Service officials have joined companies whose forest clearances are held up in the environment ministry.
To clean the muck, the UPA government has drafted a Civil Services Bill, where it plans to have a separate section on “integrity and avoidance of conflict of interest” of the bureaucrats.
What has troubled the bureaucrats the most is the clause that debars them from joining for five years, a private sector or a public sector company, where they have a direct conflict of interest.
“It violates one's freedom to work," said a secretary level IAS officer. According to the officer, if such a provision has to be there, the government should provide an option of re-employment for bureacrats in a public sector company, a board or a commission for a bureaucrat once they retire.
“No where such a restriction has been imposed on retirement of civil servants,” the secretary-level officer said.
Along with serving officers, the government also wants to impose ethical governance on those in regulatory bodies and statutory commissions, which have become parking lot for senior-most retired bureaucrats.
In absence of a “substantial” and “enforceable” code of ethics, the regulatory bodies are also being questioned for corruption. The second Administrative Reforms Commission had recommended a code of ethics for regulators, which the government accepted.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has conducted a study on ambit of the code but its final framework is still under discussion as some regulatory bodies has opposing it in the present form.
This resistance has delayed the government's response to increasing concern over conflict of interest of bureaucrats, especially after the 2G scam.