India news July 24, 2015

BCCI officials asked to promise no conflict of interest

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BCCI seeks to address conflicts of interest issue

The BCCI has, for the first time, acknowledged and sought to address the issue of conflict of interest. In a letter written to its members, the board's new secretary, Anurag Thakur, has said conflict of interest has "caused enough consternation in our organisation". Thakur has asked representatives of every state association, and members of various committees and sub-committees of the BCCI to sign a declaration stating they have no conflicts of interest.

ESPNcricinfo is in possession of a copy of the letter, which acknowledges conflict-of-interest issues have led to situations "which we need to collectively address and avoid for the future to come".

One of the stock responses to any allegation of conflict of interest has been insistence that they have never actually misused their role as a board official for personal gain. This letter, though, clearly defines conflict of interest as the possibility of a bias and not necessarily the exercising of that bias.

"Conflict of interest is not about beliefs or biases," the letter tells the board's members. "It is about a person's roles and responsibilities, and the tendency or apprehension of bias that assumes to exist when duties, decisions or actions conflict. Deciding that someone has a conflict of interest is a description of a situation, not a judgement about the person or their actual beliefs."

With a Supreme Court-appointed Lodha committee looking into institutional reforms for the BCCI, this declaration comes at a time when the board needs to "protect the reputation and institutional integrity so as to earn broad trust, faith and confidence in all our activities".

The undertaking that board officials have to sign is stern and comprehensive. For example it asks everyone to declare the absence of "any personal or family allegiance, bias, inclination, obligation or any interest of whatsoever nature, directly or indirectly which may in any way affect or provide any financial or any other benefit to me, my family or close relations or which may tend to interfere with or affect my objectivity, independence, impartiality and neutrality in any decision making process, acts and conduct relating to or arising out of discharge of my office of President/Hony. Secretary of …"

The Supreme Court had taken notice of the conflict of interest issue during the IPL spot-fixing case when it asked how N Srinivasan's company could own an IPL team when he was the BCCI president.

Srinivasan is the managing director of India Cements, which owned Chennai Super Kings. His son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan, was found to be a bona fide official of the team, a face of it, and he indulged in illegal betting. However, investigations carried out by a BCCI committee cleared Gurunath of any wrongdoing. Then the Supreme Court had to intervene, and it eventually resulted in the suspension of the owners of Super Kings for two years.

A former selector had also accused Srinivasan of blocking the selection committee's decision to remove MS Dhoni as ODI captain in 2012. Dhoni is captain of Super Kings, and also a vice-president of India Cements.

Srinivasan's defence, though, has always been that the company owned the IPL team and not he personally. This undertaking, however, eliminates the possibility of such situations. Anyone who signs it will admit that, "I am not in any manner or mode associated or connected with any Institution, body Corporate, Association of persons, Partnership or otherwise in any form or manner which derives any financial, commercial or any other benefits or gain from the Board of Control for Cricket in India directly or indirectly, other than the official grants received by the Association I represent."

The officials have been asked to declare conflicts of interest well in advance. "In the event of any act, function of the Association or any decision making process or related to any Tournament or otherwise, any conflict of interest do arise, I shall forthwith disclose the same and refrain myself from being associated with the same in any manner whatsoever or by whatever name described."

Officials have also been asked to sign they or their associated don't stand to gain from any service contracts handed out by the board.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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