The government’s inability to fill top slots in key regulatory bodies on time continues with the Centre extending the additional charge of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) Wholetime Member Navrang Saini as Chairperson till March 5 this year.

It may be recalled that the Centre had in October last year assigned the additional charge to Navrang Saini for a period of three months (till January 13, 2022).

While IBBI still has a chairperson for two more months, the post of Chairman at Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) is vacant for over eight months now. This is glaring especially in light of the fact that the Government is looking to take insurance behemoth Life Insurance Corporation public in the current quarter.

It may be recalled that the Centre had issued a notification inviting applications for the new Chairman on April 30 last year. The erstwhile Chairman Subhash C Khuntia had demitted office in the first week of May 2021 on completion of his term.

In the case of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA), which is the country’s independent audit regulator, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) had, in October 2021, constituted a search-cum-selection committee for recommending names for the post of Chairperson and full-time members. The Panel, chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, had been given four months’ time to make its recommendations. The MCA had, in September 2021, assigned the charge of the post of NFRA Chairman to Ashok Kumar Gupta, Chairman, Competition Commission of India (CCI), for a period of three months with effect from October 1. Economy watchers wonder whether the continuing vacancies is a sign of talent crisis at the regulatory leadership level in India or is a sign of process flaws. Time has come for policymakers to think about succession planning for regulatory body chiefs at least one year before the incumbents are due to demit office, they add.

‘Test of resilience’

Srinath Sridharan, corporate advisor & independent markets commentator, says institutional resilience has been tested during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Especially in these times, having vacant roles in leadership of regulators is not comforting. From the perspective of showcasing governance standards, it would be nice if we can have robust processes to ensure that all regulatory roles are filled on time, every time,” he said.

Succession planning has to be proactive process, especially in institutional setup, so that there in no ambiguity about leadership, as well as no letup in rigour of sectoral-oversight, Sridharan added.