Conflict-of-interest policy likely to dominate BCCI AGM
The proposals listed in a three-page document on conflict of interest prepared by BCCI president Shashank Manohar will be the main topic of discussion at the board's 86th annual general meeting in Mumbai on Monday
The proposals listed in a three-page document on conflict of interest, prepared by BCCI president Shashank Manohar, will be the main topic of discussion at the board's 86th annual general meeting in Mumbai on Monday. The proposals, which were first presented to board members during the working committee meeting in October, are likely to provoke much debate at the AGM, with many member associations still seeking clarity on the recommendations.
With doubts over whether N Srinivasan could continue as ICC chairman, the AGM may also decide on a successor for the remainder of his term, which extends until next June. Another key topic that is likely to be deliberated upon is a recommendation to scrap the zonal rotation system used to choose the BCCI president. Niranjan Shah, the former BCCI secretary and one of the senior-most administrators in the board, had proposed that move, although it is understood it was once again Manohar's idea. Shah also wants all BCCI office-bearers' tenures to be curtailed to one term.
At the BCCI's last working committee, held on October 18, Manohar had presented the paper on conflict of interest where he told members that the issue was the biggest hurdle the board faced in its move towards becoming a more transparent organisation. Unsurprisingly, some of the members associations were unimpressed and expressed doubts, asking for time to study the proposals.
The issue has been marked as part of Item No. 13 in the agenda circulated among BCCI members: "adoption of rules regarding conflict of interest." Although Manohar had remained stoic during the working committee, he will once again have to put to use his powers of debate as a senior and established lawyer to convince the members of the policy.
Manohar had elaborated on the exact meaning of conflict of interest relating to administrators (former and present) at both the BCCI and the affiliated-unit levels, players (retired and current) and employees of the board. The message was clear: you cannot have dual roles.
Some members, however, want further clarity on the term "conflict". "They need to bring in more clarity with respect to whom it's applicable to and the practicality," an administrator, from a southern state unit, said.
A senior administrator from the east zone agreed a debate was necessary, even if he felt Manohar's proposals were both "good and bad" for administrators. "There are examples like Brijesh Patel who is the secretary of the Karnataka State Cricket Association as well as with Royal Challengers Bangalore [Patel is a director at the IPL franchise]. Under the new rules, Patel will have to give up one role," the east zone official said.
According to this official, an administrator's post, in the BCCI and the state units, has always been honorary. In the past, officials focused on their day job while sparing a few hours every day for cricket administration. Now, however, administration is a full-time job.
"There is something happening all the time throughout the year, especially in India," the official said. "So if I, as an administrator, am doing my job honestly where should I earn my money? I can only do that by doing something cricket-related, like running an academy."
At the same time the east zone official agreed that administrators who could have vested interests due to their dual roles were guilty of conflict of interest and would need to give up one position: "We have to address this subject. One big reason the BCCI has been dragged to the Supreme Court is because of the conflict of interest of various individuals."
Sourav Ganguly, Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar are some of the individuals, the official said, who could be affected by Manohar's recommendation.
A Manohar loyalist from the west zone failed to understand the opposition. "There are conflict-of-interest rules all over the world. Conflict of interest is more like a document rather than a set of rules," the west zone official said. "What has to be ensured is that there is no direct or indirect profiteering and also that the decision-making process cannot be influenced for the benefit of somebody. This is the only real conflict of interest."
According to this official, Manohar's conflict-of-interest policy should be read as guidelines and not rules set in stone. He felt that more than opposing the conflict-of-interest policy, some members should look into the conduct of their own state units. He said he would not be afraid, if need be, to highlight states where the BCCI's annual grants were being used by members for personal gains instead of the betterment of the state unit.
"There are associations where people are swindling money, money is being exchanged, where their members are being given gifts. Catch those people first," the west zone official said.
He said the recent appointment of global accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to audit the affiliate units' accounts could probably rectify the issue, which was hurting not only the particular states but also the BCCI.
Reforms, and bold ones like the kind Manohar and BCCI secretary Anurag Thakur are suggesting, are incumbent on the board. In December, the RM Lodha committee, appointed by the Supreme Court to suggest reforms to the BCCI's governance structure, will submit its final report, which is likely to be binding upon the board.
Manohar is unlikely to be cowed down by the scepticism. Immediately upon taking over as the BCCI president he made it clear that cleansing the image of the board was his main goal and he already set timelines to achieve those targets. One of his other proposals is to amend the BCCI's memorandum, and rules and regulations concerning the appointment of the president.
Under the zonal selection system, for a candidate to be eligible to contest the elections, he needs only one proposer from the zone whose turn it is to nominate the president. Under the old system, candidates were chosen strictly from their own zone but, a few years ago, the BCCI's constitution was amended - incidentally during Manohar's first term as president - to allow even an outsider to contest from a different zone.
"We have to get away from the zonal system, otherwise there is no democratic way of picking a president because five people from a zone pick him. In the new proposal any office bearer can stand for the president's post," Shah said.