Mumbai: Employees of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) want management to create an independent internal oversight system and adopt a policy of continuous job rotation, said two persons familiar with the development.
The demands were voiced in a letter to Sebi chairman U.K. Sinha on Tuesday by the 700-strong Sebi Employees Association (SEA). Mint has reviewed a copy of the letter.
Sebi employees say an internal oversight system will ensure that the regulator performs the job assigned to it and forestall probes and harassment of Sebi officials by agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
On 20 September, CBI searched the homes of four Sebi officials, among others, in a case relating to the grant of recognition to the MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX) in 2008. The agency also arrested Jignesh Shah, former chairman of Financial Technologies of India Ltd (FTIL), which set up MCX-SX, alleging discrepancies in grant of licence to the exchange.
On 4 October, the Sebi association sent a letter to the chairman, demanding that the in-house vigilance department handle any inquiries by CBI or any other external agency—a practice followed at other regulators such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
On 7 October Mint reported that Sebi employees have been refusing to sign on files pertaining to sensitive matters lest they face external agency queries later.
“An internal oversight mechanism will improve the performance of Sebi officials, prevent uncomfortable situations due to external probes and enhance the quality of orders and regulatory investigations,” one of the two persons cited above said.
“So many Sebi orders are delayed, opposed and remanded back to Sebi by other courts. On top of that such CBI probes are hurting the reputation of Sebi as a serious regulator. It is an absolute need of the hour,” the person said.
Sebi staff said the internal oversight mechanism they want should work proactively to preserve the institutional integrity of Sebi and prevent need for external probes as well as unfavourable pronouncements by the Securities Appellate Tribunal and the courts.
To be sure, in 2005, Sebi had drawn up a plan for regular internal reviews and audits of Sebi through a dedicated division called System Inspection and Management Audit (SIMA). The division never became operational.
“SIMA division should be operationalized and be brought under the supervision of a committee of executive directors so that the functioning of such a division remains impartial,” said the second person.
In the past three years, around 80 Sebi officials have been probed by external agencies in various cases.
In another key proposal, the Sebi staff has demanded a policy of regular transfers and rotation the jobs of Sebi officials.
“…Sebi has expanded to open several local offices. Departments in Sebi have been restructured so that sensitivity of posts would have changed….however, transfer policy has not been suitably updated to incorporate the growth and changes in Sebi,” the employees said in the letter.
The second person said that at present several Sebi officials were either abruptly promoted or transferred to other locations, without considering the sensitivity of their responsibilities.
The present policy does not require Sebi officials to receive exposure to a variety of functional areas before they are considered for promotion, the person said.
“…due to lack of clear policy for outstation transfers to local offices, a negative connotation has crept into such transfers as some of the transfers have been abrupt, without adequate consideration to personal exigencies and without a clear idea about length of tenure,” the letter said.