New Delhi: The Competition Commission of India, or CCI, may have a problem as it seeks talent from outside the government to do its job of promoting efficient markets and protecting consumers. The pay it’s offering is simply not competitive enough.
Equivalent bodies in the West pay top dollar to attract the best professionals, but the CCI’s chairperson and five members would end up earning a mere Rs26,000 excluding allowances—a salary most fresh university graduates these days would scoff at—to handle complicated cases of cartelization, big mergers and acquisitions, hostile takeovers and other practices.
Would that tempt top-calibre technocrats?
Anil Sachdev, chairman of human resources firm Right Grow Talent, says that in a global economy where complicated mergers and acquisitions are the norm and where transparency and fair play are rules rather than exceptions, the CCI would need people with imagination and perspective at the top to perform its job.
“Europe has had such talented people in the area of competition whom most eminent lawyers have feared,” said Sachdev. “The very purpose of having such an expert body will be defeated if we don’t have eminent people at the top,” he added.
The CCI has posted an advertisement inviting applications for chairman and five members on its website and that of the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA), starting its recruitment drive to become fully operational almost a year after Parliament approved the Competition Bill.
Advisory role: Competition Commission acting chairman Vinod Dhall. (Ramesh Pathania / Mint)
Currently it only has an advisory role—to the government and the private sector—and comprises a dozen officials including acting chairman Vinod Dhall.
The advertisement makes it look like the posts would suit government bureaucrats better than private-sector professionals, seeking 15 years’ experience in fields ranging from international trade and economics to business and commerce, law and finance, accountancy and management, industry and public affairs, and competition matters—tailor-made for civil servants used to moving from post to post.
A study by the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, or IIM-B, recommended that the CCI comprise professionals from three categories—40% economists, 40% lawyers and the rest financial analysts.
It recommended hiring 240 people in the first year, to be scaled up to 480 by the end of the fifth year.
“Competition bodies equivalent to CCI in Western economies as also Australia and South Africa have specialists at top positions and it will be desirable to have a same kind of calibre in India as things like cartelization are not easy to detect and sophisticated methods such as leniency tools are to be used,” said a CCI official who did not want to identified.
In the US, William E. Kovacic, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, has had a long stint with the commission and in teaching law.
The commission looks into competition issues and protecting American consumers. Again, Mario Monti, former member of the European Commission in charge of competition (between 1999 and 2005), was a professor of economics at Bocconi University, Italy.
The CCI job advertisement, which specifies 16 June as the last day for applications, also seems to ignore many of the suggestions made by the Sixth Pay Commission, which recently submitted its report to the government. The commission recommended opening the door to private-sector employees into the upper tier of government, especially regulators overseeing economic and pricing functions such as the capital markets regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, and CCI.
The Pay Commission recommended that while members of such agencies be paid a consolidated salary of Rs1.5 lakh per month, the chairperson may be paid Rs2 lakh per month in case the job comes with a car and house. If no such frills are offered, the chairperson should be paid a consolidated salary of Rs3 lakh and members Rs2.5 lakh per month.
“The proposed salary is considered adequate for attracting experts in the field, who, in the commission’s view, are not looking just at the monetary compensation, but also at the prestige involved in and the contribution which can be made by a regulator in the development of the sector and the economy as a whole,” says the Pay Commission report.
An MCA official defended the government: “We don’t really know what will happen to the Pay Commissions report which itself is currently being reviewed. And we didn’t really feel the need for putting a rider saying the salary structure is subject to change following the Pay Commission’s recommendations.” The advertisement also ignores the Pay Commission’s suggestion that the practice of considering retired and retiring bureaucrats for such posts be discouraged. It prescribes a tenure of five years with the upper age limit going up to 65 years, five years more than the retirement age in the Central government.
Dhall, the acting chairman of CCI, may not qualify as he would turn 65 in October this year.