New Delhi: As organizers of the Golden Peacock Awards review nominations for India’s top companies for this year on 16-17 January, several jury members in the long list of eminent persons said to be associated with the awards claim they are no longer active, and yet, their names find mention on the official website.
A few were surprised that they were still being associated with the awards, one claimed he was never part of the process, and at least one former government official, who was a jury member at least eight years ago and whose name still appears on the website (www.goldenpeacockawards.com), maintained that his name had not been removed despite making a request.
The Golden Peacock Awards were in the news recently when its organizers announced they had withdrawn the 2008 award for corporate governance to Satyam Computer Services Ltd after its former chairman B. Ramalinga Raju confessed to the biggest accounting fraud in Indian history. Satyam had also received a Golden Peacock Award for corporate excellence in 2002.
Pleading ignorance: Railway officer-turned-management guru Madhav Mehra.
In fact, in 2007 and 2008, Satyam was the recipient of at least 17 awards from consultancy firms, software vendors and a business school. “Companies do have an interest in winning awards and its associate publicity, but ultimately their real worth will be judged by their share prices in the capital market,” said T.T. Ram Mohan, finance and accounting professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
The annual Golden Peacock Awards are organized by the New Delhi-based Institute of Directors (IOD), which also conducts corporate training programmes for managers across the country. Its official website lists 40 jury members, including four former chief justices, at least 15 senior officers belonging to the Indian Administrative Service, apart from two former prime ministers, Joe Clark of Canada and Ola Ullsten of Sweden.
The country’s leading businessmen and politicians, including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former home minister L.K. Advani, have routinely attended the events. Pictures of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a galaxy of politicians and business leaders hang on the walls of their south Delhi office.
The founder of the awards and institute, Madhav Mehra, a former Indian Railways officer turned management guru, also figures in the panel of judges. The 70-year-old Mehra, however, said he was not aware of the content of the website and does not oversee the awards’ process.
After leaving the railways, Mehra moved to London, where he said he worked as a management consultant and went on to set up half a dozen organizations, including the World Council for Corporate Governance, the Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, as well as the World Environment Foundation.
The selection of candidates as well as the judges’ panel are the responsibilities of the Golden Peacock’s London office, said Mehra, which is located in Trafalgar Square. When Mint called the office, the official spokesperson was not available for comment.
Manoj Raut, who is the spokesperson of the India office of the secretariat, said the website carries names of panellists “who have attended over the years”. “Those details (the updated names) are not on the website and we should correct it,” he added.
The shortlisted companies for this weekend’s review include JSW Ltd, Life Insurance Corp. of India, Multi Commodity of Exchange of India Ltd, Housing and Urban Development Corp. Ltd, Hewlett-Packard India Pvt. Ltd and Steel Authority of India Ltd, who will make presentations to the jury, said Raut.
The new jury, he added, will be chaired by P.N. Bhagwati, and co-chaired by M.N. Venkatchaliah.
Raut said jury members who reviewed presentations on Friday included Ullsten, Kalpana Morparia, head of JPMorgan’s India operations, R.N. Makhija, president of Larsen and Toubro, and U.S. Jha, chairman and managing director of Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers Ltd.
Jury members Rahul Asthana, chairman and MD of Mumbai Port Trust, B. Chakravarty, MD of New India Assurance Co. Ltd and Raghu Menon, chairman and MD of government-run aviation company Nacil Ltd did not attend the review on Friday.
The Golden Peacock Awards recognize excellence in several categories such as social responsibility, innovation and environment in India’s corporate world. With growing popularity, about 250-300 companies pay Rs24,500 as evaluation fees for their cases to be considered. Founded in 1992 with a single award, it has risen in prominence and expanded its wing to include global awards a few years ago.
According to the website, past winners in its global category include Reliance Industries Ltd, Infosys Technologies Ltd, UK’s Vedanta Resources Plc. as well as Jubilant Organosys Ltd.
The promoters of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, and promoters of Jubilant Organosys are closely related. The companies have no promoter cross-holdings.
Calling itself “the holy grail of corporate excellence”, Golden Peacock authorities said they take pride in defining a transparent criteria for the awards selection. Panel members agree that the process of selection is laborious; each company report is verified by an internal committee before it is presented to the jury.
“There is a independent panel of judges and a panel of assessors. Jury members are not part of the Institute of Directors and are independently involved for the selection of the winners of the award,” Mehra said.
However, several former jury members maintain that the organization should have removed their names now that they are no longer associated with it. At least one person anonymously claimed that the names had been retained to establish a “powerful” image for the award.
R.V. Shahi, former secretary in the power ministry, said he was part of the jury when he was the chairman of BSES Ltd. In 2001, he personally approached IOD to remove his name from the panel jury when he took over his new assignment in the government. “It’s a matter of history and it would have been fair on their part to take my name out from the panel of judges.”
Manmohan Shetty, MD of Adlabs Films Ltd, said he does not remember ever being a part of the jury. “I was never part of the Golden Peacock Awards,” said Shetty, but recalls attending an awards function in Mumbai with Govind Swarup, former principal secretary in the Maharashtra government.
Swarup, in turn said, he was part of a jury panel “seven- eight years ago”. “Mine was related to the film industry,” he said, adding that he has not received official communication from the organizers for several years. Both Shetty and Swarup still figure in the list.
Ravi Kant, former chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, said he has ceased to attend meetings since he moved home to Gurgaon two years ago. “There was nothing official about it. I have not informed them for my name to be deleted nor do I receive any official communication. They should, however, have deleted it (his name from the website).”
Mehra maintained that panel members are regularly informed about the activities of the award secretariat, but panel members say they do not receive regular intimation. “I have not attended or received invitation for several years, but the awards does have a proper system of grading system,” said Vinod Dhall, former chairman of the Competition Commission of India. While film director Govind Nihalani only remembers having sat in a jury only once. “It was a long time ago and I can’t recollect the whole episode.”
At least one other member, P.L. Sanjeev Reddy, former director of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, who is now based in Hyderabad, said he receives an invitation to attend the awards function every year. “We do get a formal invitation to attend, but few do because we do not get sitting allowance.”
Also, another international organization has challenged Mehra’s claim of association. According to him, he has been the secretary general of the World Quality Council since 1996 and it was created by the American Society for Quality (ASQ), which is a large body of experts who are dedicated to improving workplaces.
The society, however, discloses that it was just an administrator for the council and severed ties more than nine years ago. “Around 1999, we removed ourselves from it (World Quality Council),” said Natalie Lemke, media relations administrator for the society in an email. “... We are not sure if it is active, but it was not created by ASQ.”
Tarun Shukla and Baiju Kalesh contributed to this story.