Govt seeks private hands to take on economic crime

Govt seeks private hands to take on economic crime

New Delhi: The government may allow intelligence agencies to take help from private consultants and academic institutions for dealing with economic crime.

The idea has been mooted by a panel appointed to recommend changes in the role of the central economic intelligence bureau (CEIB), a nodal body in the finance ministry for the collection and dissemination of information to various intelligence agencies.

The report, which is being examined by the finance ministry, also suggests raising a permanent cadre of officers as a resource pool for the enforcement directorate, financial intelligence unit and CEIB to address the skill shortage in dealing with economic crimes.

Mint has reviewed a copy of the report.

“CEIB should have a separate unit to undertake (macroeconomic) studies on its own or through consultants or professional consultancy firms. It may also enter into MoUs (memorandums of understanding) with selected academic and research institutions and sponsor studies relating to macroeconomic factors and policies that enable specific type of economic offences and tax evasion possible or profitable," said the report.

It said the CEIB should hire industry experts, especially with knowledge of data analytics and other branches of information technology, on a contractual basis. Students of law, economics and accountancy should also be taken in as short-term trainees on specific projects, it added.

CEIB receives sensitive intelligence inputs from all enforcement and intelligence agencies, and is assigned to produce in-depth analytical and trend reports on economic crimes.

Experts are divided on the proposal.

“Professionals will bring cutting edge to analysis," said S.D. Pradhan, a former deputy national security adviser. “Let us face it. Indian intelligence apparatus faces a serious challenge. We have enough intelligence inputs but lack good analysis." Pradhan added that private consultants should not be entrusted with sensitive information.

“As long as it is not sensitive, any outsourcing is welcome," said a senior intelligence officer, requesting anonymity. “But if we engage private firms and professionals to deal with sensitive data, there is a good chance that the privileged information will be misused once the contractual commitments are over. Also, we are dealing with national security, we can’t take chances."

An officer with another intelligence agency said the government should instead invest in developing skills of officers. This officer also declined to be identified.

Narayanan Ramaswamy, partner at KPMG, disagreed.

“This was long overdue," he said. “If nuclear research and software for defence equipment can be developed in private laboratories, the fear is unwarranted. The move will encourage the development of skill in areas of forensic accounting and related investigation. It sends a positive message."