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Hounding bureaucrats will lead to policy paralysis

india Updated: Nov 07, 2013 01:04 IST
Comptroller and Auditor General

Starting with the Comptroller and Auditor General's bombshell about the 2G scam, which had been blown out of proportion by the media by its refusal to accept that the so-called losses to the exchequer were presumed and not actual losses, to the latest one by the CBI about the allotment of coal blocks involving no less than the prime minister, has raised a number of basic issues.

At the core is the accountability of the vast government bureaucracy in decisions taken by them over their long career and whether at any stage any malafide intent or corruption was involved. Post retirement jobs have also come under the scanner of the CBI and the CVC, while the CAG has mostly stuck to cases involving decisions taken that resulted in a loss to the exchequer.

Usually a bureaucrat or a technocrat demitting office is likely to be offered a job by the private sector for his deep knowledge and expertise gained in a specific area that could help the company avoid costly mistakes. Or simply as a reward for favours rendered or likely to be rendered by his proximity to those still in power.

He may also be invited to adorn the company board as a status symbol, which is highly useful when dealing with foreign organisations. The litmus test would be if such a job is the result of his having been in any way compromised in the past from making an honest, transparent and fair decision involving in any way the said company.

Even decisions arrived at after due deliberation, taking all factors into account, observing extant rules, and in good faith, which may seem excellent at that point of time, can turn out be unwise at a later date. Indulging in witch-hunting in such a case is uncalled for, as long as no criminal or malafide intent can be established.

Invariably a party losing a valuable contract finds solace in making complaints in order to harass those involved in the adverse decision-making process, thereby often putting the whole contract in jeopardy.

Decisions - good or bad - need to be taken all the time based on information available on record, or else there would be policy paralysis. Unfortunately, agencies such as the CBI, the CAG, and the CVC of late seem to be discovering malafide intent and corruption in almost every act of decision-making by government servants, a case of over reach by a set of zealots.

In spite of this, some brave souls in public service still do carry on the good work, putting all their faith in the fact that truth will ultimately be out, even if they have to run through the gauntlet of public scrutiny, and the connected unfortunate media glare, initiated by various investigating agencies.

We must salute them!

RC Acharya, is a former member),Railway Board.
The views expressed by the author are personal