The former Secretary calls for senior functionaries at SEBI and RBI to make public disclosure of their salaries and an annual declaration of their assets, in accordance with the spirit of Article 19 of the constitution which confers on the citizen the right to know about various public authorities
EAS Sarma, a highly respected former Secretary, Government of India (Expenditure and Power) has written the Finance Ministry calling for greater transparency and public accountability in the finance sector to enhance the credibility of the statutory institutions that have a bearing on the day-to-day lives of the people.
In a letter to Arvind Mayaram, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry (who deals with these regulatory institutions), Mr Sarma has said, "As the first step towards this, it is imperative that the senior functionaries in these institutions not only make a public disclosure of their salaries etc., but also an annual declaration of their assets. This will be consistent with the spirit of Article 19 of the Constitution that confers on the citizen the right to know about the various public authorities. It will be in conformity with the public disclosure requirement under Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
In particular, SEBI's primary function is to protect the interests of the investors by promoting transparency and public accountability of the various entities that form part of the capital market. It is therefore necessary that the Chairman and the members of SEBI set an example by making annual public disclosure of their assets for the investors to see. I am afraid that they have not complied with this.
It is ironic that the Prime Minister of this country along with his colleagues in the Cabinet, including the Finance Minister, should annually disclose their assets, whereas the public functionaries like Chairman, SEBI who are there to enhance transparency should refrain from following such a healthy practice. In fact, the Prime Minister was gracious enough to have personally telephoned me to confirm this fact that he and his colleagues have resolved to disclose their assets annually and have adopted it as mandatory practice!
I request you, as the Secretary in charge of Economic Affairs, to ensure that SEBI adopts this convention with immediate effect."
It may be recalled that Mr Sarma's repeated attempt to draw SEBI's attention to the issue of disclosures of oil reserves by Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has drawn a blank and his letters were mechanically forwarded to SEBI's mindlessly automated SCORES
system of grievance redressal.