After working with the government for 15 years, Atul Gupta quit the cushy job in 2005 to take up a more challenging role as a director at Deloitte, the global consultancy firm. He was just a few years away from the coveted post of a joint secretary in the finance ministry, but still chose to quit as “the learning curve in the ministry had plateaued”. And, the remuneration was far better on the other side.
In retrospect, it was a good decision, says Gupta, now a partner at Deloitte. Career options for government officials were relatively limited when Gupta quit six years earlier.Since when, financial sector reforms have opened avenues for many government officials, flooded with job opportunities from the private sector. Besides retired officers, those on the job are also seeing a lot of offers coming their way.
With the setting up of the watchdog Competition Commission of India (CCI) and introduction of new legislation like the Direct Taxes Code and the Goods & Services Tax scheduled next year, private companies and consultancies are looking at the government pool of civil servants to meet their requirements.
“We hire about one per cent of staff with government background. Since these people come with a number of years of experience, they generally fit levels above that of manager. With increased focus on government work, we hire more staff from government. Our focus on hiring these staff will be aimed at those who have been a part of policy formulation while they were with the government,” said Abhishek Tiwary, associate director, human resources, KPMG.
Consultants see many advantages in hiring from the government. The biggest advantage is that those hired have contacts in the government. It is also believed that bureaucrats are in a better position to offer advice on government policies.
In addition to the Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Revenue Service, the corporate sector is looking at people with specific skills like police, Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation and the armed forces.
The Competition Act, 2002, which gave birth to CCI, has also opened opportunities for government officials to become subject experts in the private sector. Many officials moved to the private sector or set up their own consultancy after retiring from CCI. Several officers have taken voluntary retirement to move to law firms in search of greener pastures.
“The opportunity is not just because of the domain expertise. It’s the brand value of being an ex-CCI official that is helping them get attractive offers from the private sector,” said the head of a leading legal firm.
Experts said government officials joining the private sector was a global phenomenon, but one should be watchful against a conflict of interest. “For instance, if a senior official has been scrutinising a particular case, then he should not be seen joining the law firm that argued that case,” said Pradeep S Mehta, secretary-general, CUTS International.
Government officials Business Standard spoke to agreed there had been a spurt in job offers from the private sector and most of these promised a huge leap in pay packages. They, however, said not that many take up the offers because between “huge money” and “respect in the society”, most officers decide to go for the latter.
At present, out of a cadre strength of about 4,500 officers in the Central Board of Direct Taxes, an average 10 from the IRS leave each year to join the private sector.