Parliamentary panel flags staff shortage at SFIO, Competition Commission

New Delhi, Dec 10 () A parliamentary panel has taken note of "multi-year pattern of high vacancies and lack of human resources" at various entities under the corporate affairs ministry and has called for addressing the issues at the structural level.

The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) are among the institutions under the ministry that are well short of their respective sanctioned strength.

In a report tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Finance noted that the ministry's various regulatory entities are critically important for a smooth-functioning economy.

The "multi-year pattern of high vacancies and lack of human resources should be addressed at a structural level so that these gaps are closed as soon as possible... They should be suitably equipped in terms of human capital and systems so that they can provide necessary support to the economy", the panel said. Advertisement

Out of the 195 sanctioned posts at the CCI, the panel said 123 positions have been filed and the rest are vacant. The ministry should in all urgency endeavour to fulfil the human resource requirements at the Commission in order to expedite the process of disposing of the huge backlog of cases, it added.

As on September 30, the fair trade regulator received 1,037 cases related to anti-competitive conduct and that 162 cases were pending with the Commission, as per the report.

Regarding SFIO, a white-collar crime probe agency, the committee noted that out of 133 sanctioned posts, only 66 posts are filled up by regular incumbents and 6 officers have been posted on a loan basis.

The report said the ministry has informed that efforts are being made to improve the vacancy situation by expediting the selection process, incentivising posting of officials by special grant of 20 per cent of basic pay and engagement of technical consultants.

"The committee are of the view that keeping in mind the large number of cases and the rising workload with greater complexity, the ministry should strengthen the workforce in SFIO and equip them with the requisite expertise and motivation to fulfil the mandate. "It also needs to be ensured that the cases referred/taken up are investigated thoroughly and in a professional manner with a view to improving their prosecution outcomes," the report said. Advertisement

Besides, the panel has called for expeditiously addressing the manpower requirements of the Investor Education and Protection Fund in order to meet the increasing number of claims filed as well as to fulfil its objective of spreading awareness among investors.

The committee also noted that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) are "seriously under-staffed and under-funded" as a result of which there is a massive pendency of critical cases.

"This has rendered these important tribunals unable to work to their full potential and to meet the demands of laws like the IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) which are therefore being rendered ineffectual. Advertisement

"The Committee feel that in order to tackle the huge pendency of cases, more benches of NCLT with adequate manpower are required, for which the recruitment rules may be finalised at the earliest and that implementation of version 2 of e-courts should be expedited for faster resolution of cases," the report said.

The observations are part of the committee's report on the ministry's Demands for Grants (2019-20). RAM HRS

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