When Naresh Chandra headed Task Force on National Security submitted a confidential report to the Prime Minister in May, one of the suggestions was that the National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) should have ‘high degree of flexibility” to “attract the right kind of personnel”.
Modeled on the pattern of similar organisation existing in the United States, Natgrid was formed as a national repository of data to be shared with eleven intelligence and investigative agencies, including the IB, the R&AW and the CBI.
The Union home ministry gave it a shape of a hybrid organisation, drawing CEO and some other employees from private sector as well as taking officials from government to raise a thorough professional intelligence sharing architecture.
But, Natgrid, under the tutelage of highest paid CEO of government affiliated body Raghu Raman, is courting controversy much before it becomes fully operational, especially about the staff it is hiring from the private sector, exodus of a couple of government employees and other administrative decisions.
The home ministry and Natgrid officials privately concede that all is not well, despite the fact that Raman terms such allegations as “completely incorrect”.
The intelligence sharing organisation has about ten consultants hired from private companies depending on the required expertise. There is general unease among Natgrid officials given the lack of parity in terms of salary drawn, which in some cases is as high as Rs 2.50 lash per month, and expertise needed in the field they have been taken on board for.
Raman is also drawing Rs 10 lash per month, apart from other perks that has also become an eye sore in government circles.
Ministry sources said that reservations were pointed out on hiring a consultant from a leading private software company to head mass communication and HR though the person did not have requisite qualification. Questions are also being raised since the Natgrid is also exempted from disclosing information under the RTI.
Other than that, no action was allegedly taken against some information finding its way out of the sensitive organisation, said government sources.
When the allegations were read out in detail to Raman, he said that these were “factually incorrect”. “All the decisions have been taken by the Union home ministry. So you should pose these queries to the Union home secretary,” he remarked.
The ministry and Natgrid officials are of the view that there is a need to enforce accountability and avoid conflict of interest while hiring people and buying from private concerns.
The officials are concerned since the tax payers’ money is funding Natgrid and the home ministry will be held responsible if the organisation is audited as was the case in NTRO which was dragged to the Supreme Court on charges of nepotism and corruption in hiring of working staff and purchase of equipments.
The ministry recently issued tenders for hiring a consultant and the government also infused a fund of Rs 1000 crore for infrastructure.