The CAG, in its report on the Antrix-Devas deal of the Indian Space Research Organisation, had warned that top officials' holding multiple posts can lead to conflict of interests. It had found that G. Madhavan Nair's many hats— secretary, department of space; chairman, ISRO; chairman, Space Commission; chairman and managing director, Antrix Corporation (a subsidiary of ISRO)—had meant there were no checks and balances, as the approval chain was controlled by one individual. Following the CAG report, Nair's successor gave up the position of CMD, Antrix, but kept the other positions on the argument that they were scientific and administrative jobs, and had no commercial role.
In the urban development ministry, a similar situation has arisen, though there is no scam. Urban Development Secretary Sudhir Krishna is ex-officio chairman of three metro companies in which the Union government is a shareholder. The government had appointed the secretary of the nodal ministry as chairman thinking that the ministry would understand the special needs of the country's emerging metro sector. Thus, Krishna heads the flagship Delhi Metro, as well as the under construction Bangalore Metro and now Kochi Metro, for which the Prime Minister laid the foundation stone a few weeks ago.
A peculiar situation regarding Kochi Metro came up as the nascent corporation is confronted with a Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) order which says the consultant company for the project cannot be entrusted with the construction work. The CVC had formulated this rule to prevent consultants from featherbedding contracts to suit their needs, and to ensure transparency. But, metro legend E. Sreedharan, who is advising Kochi Metro, feels the best agency to build Kochi Metro is Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which is executing Jaipur Metro. DMRC had prepared a detailed project report for Kochi Metro. While DMRC says it has not been appointed a consultant, interpretation of CVC rules suggests that anyone who prepares the project report is deemed to be a consultant. Now the Union government has to waive off the CVC rule, but that would lead to a conflict of interest because the rule benefits a company chaired by Krishna.
Interestingly, DMRC, with a worldwide reputation in metro construction, has refused to take part in a global tender (which the Japan International Cooperation Agency, aiding the project, has demanded) for building Kochi Metro. DMRC does not want to compete, and wants its unique position to be recognised. Now, Krishna, in his capacity as urban development secretary, is negotiating with the Japanese, but conflict arises because he also chairs DMRC. It is a bit tangled and would require bureaucratic ingenuity to unravel and find a just solution.