Systemic problems keep ED understaffed, black money menace remains untamed

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Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said last Sunday in an article posted on his Facebook page that bulk of black money was within the country. Apart from fiscal measures to plough back that money into white economy, he would need to hone the functioning of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that is responsible for anti-money laundering operations. It is distressing that he has not been able in the last 17 months to resolve the systemic issues that have triggered an avoidable manpower problem for the Directorate that functions directly under his Department of Revenue. Of course, he can’t be singularly blamed; it has been going on for the past two decades. And the accumulated lapses in governance have brought down the strength of the ED to its current bare level of 678 personnel of all ranks versus the sanctioned strength of 2,064, a deficit as high as of 67.15 percent.

Even though the Supreme Court has clearly directed in the Vineet Narain case over two decades back, the government has not been able to put its act together on the ‘functional and administrative autonomy’ of the ED. Let’s look at what has happened since. Following the judgement, while the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was given freedom to appoint DSP rank officers on its own, the ED is still not exempted from consulting the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) in appointing Deputy Directors. Further, there are 34 sanctioned posts of Joint Directors, of which 17 are reserved for officers on deputation while the remaining 17 are to be filled internally from within the Directorate. Sadly, the ED doesn’t have a single officer in the rank of Joint Director from its internal quota and there will be none till 2023.

Do you know of a better method to let go money launderer scot free?

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