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DoPT recruitment roadblock scuttles black money probe
October, 24th 2011

The finance ministry's drive to combat black money has hit a hurdle with the five investigative units created in the Central Board of Direct Taxes at North Block facing staff crunch and work coming to a standstill. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has put a spanner in its proposal to recruit more investigators by raising fresh queries.

CBDT had earlier this year expanded its investigative branch in the finance ministry from two to five units and allocated fresh work to each with a mandate to deal with the deluge of information coming from foreign countries. At least 10,000 suspicious transaction details of Indians have been received by the foreign tax division of CBDT from abroad in the last one-year which is pending investigation.

The five investigation branches in CBDT were mandated to look into all policy matters relating to tax evasion (read black money generation), intelligence gathering and investigation, monitoring search and seizure cases, political funding and tracking transactions of politically exposed persons and other high net worth individuals.

The reallocation of work in the investigative cells of CBDT was made after a new Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was created which has been visualized as the Income Tax's special branch to fight the scourge of black money. It has been authorized to create and maintain an armed unit and a marine and air-borne unit for special operations. The staff strength is likely to touch more than 500 for DCI alone.

In addition, the finance ministry had set up Exchange of Information Cell under the Foreign Tax Division of CBDT and created new Income Tax overseas units in Indian missions abroad to procure offshore data of Indian tax evaders.

Accordingly, a recruitment proposal was drawn up for inducting 18,000 officials. After the finance minister's approval, it was sent to DoPT for additional manpower sanction. However, DoPT has thrice raised objections with repeated queries, a senior CBDT official said.

"This time, we have taken strong objection to the 'preliminary queries' being raised by DoPT and have written to it on the urgency of recruitment and how the delay is hampering investigation in cases pertaining to black money," the official added.

There are at least 600 vacancies in the rank of additional commissioners, considered the backbone of tax collection. This is 50% of the sanctioned strength of 1,200. Fresh manpower induction can open up promotional avenues for others and speed up cases under investigation.

The Financial Intelligence Unit has obtained details of more than 30,000 suspicious transactions, many of which have been passed on to CBDT and are pending probe. Already, the Income Tax's investigation units in several states are overburdened with routine search and survey operations. "To ask them to take up probe on information received from foreign countries would be asking for too much," A CBDT official said.

Box 1. Directorate of Criminal Investigation: Struggling for investigators; proposed strength 500 with creation of marine and airborne units.

2. Exchange of Information Cell set up under Foreign Tax Division of CBDT. Need officials to coordinate offshore information flow.

3. Five investigation units set up in North Block under CBDT, running with manpower of two units.

4. I-T Overseas Units to be set up in all important Indian missions abroad to collect intelligence and information on Indian tax evaders. Only two set up so far due to manpower crunch. Eight others sanctioned, but waiting for new recruits.

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