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Forget conflict of interest, can Ramadorai really do justice to three roles?

The triple role of S Ramadorai, as vice-cahirman, TCS; non-executive chairman, National Skill Development Corporation; and Chairman, AirAsia, has created considerable heat among corporate and policy making circles over the last few days.

An article in the Business Standard today seeks to lay threadbare the issue that is core to the conflict of interest debate that Ramadorai's various roles have given rise to.

Prodipto Ghosh, a former Union secretary and at present Distinguidhed Fellow of The Energy and Resources Institute, has taken a bottoms up approach to see whether Ramadorai's appointments are indeed a conflict of interest situation.

According to him, one needs to see whether Ramadorai's role on NSDC is fiduciary in nature or is it that of a service provider.

 Forget conflict of interest, can Ramadorai really do justice to three roles?

Is Ramadorai superman, or are these jobs so easy? Reuters

If it is fiduciary, the rules are already in place. People holding such positions "may have no association with potential outside influences on their decision-making - political parties, corporations or foreign governments".

"Even those advisors (with or without defined tenure), including those who are expected to work strictly pro bono, who assist in decision-making (such as members of statutory state environmental appraisal committees) are public servants under the law, subject to prescribed tests of conflict of interest...", the article says.

When it comes to providers of services, including giving inputs to decision making (but not part of decision making process), they need not divest all their non-governmental obligations "since the services required by the government are of sporadic and contingent nature".

Coming back to Ramadorai, it doesn't really matter whether he is working with the NSDC pro bono, or for the public good.

The bottom-line, according to the article, is as chairman of the NSDC, he is part of the formal decision-making process of an executive agency of the government. "His position is thus of fiduciary character. He cannot, therefore, in good faith, continue concurrently with his corporate positions," it says.

Apart from the much debated conflict of interest, the issue also brings to the fore the question as to how many important positions can a person hold.

This is not to doubt the integrity and professional credentials of Ramadorai. But it is difficult to believe that he is a superman who can easily carry himself through all these important responsibilities.

Especially, if the government is serious about its intention behind setting up the NSDC, which is to launch "a world class skill development programme in Mission mode that will address the challenge of imparting the skills required by a growing economy".

Read the entire BS article here.

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Updated Date: Dec 20, 2014 22:23:12 IST