Several cabinet ministers have `declared’ their assets recently on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s website. The figures are astounding for their inaccuracy and lack of connect with reality. Particularly when it comes to values of real estate. A Wall Street Journal article even termed these figures as being generated from the Department Of Opaqueness.
The WSJ carried out a simple exercise. It called up real estate brokers to ask them their estimates of property values of cabinet ministers like Pranab Mukherjee, Praful Patel, S M Krishna and Salman Khurshid and highlighted the difference in what the ministers’ claimed versus market rates. For some reason, the WSJ article misses Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s assets. On which there are so many jokes floating around in social media that it would take two special bulletins just to list the good ones.
SPR has been compiling far more detailed reports of assets of Government officials. We began with Indian Foreign Service officials and showed how at least a dozen of them had declared wildly varying values for the same property (apartment block) in Delhi’s Mayur Vihar. Ditto with officials of the Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IAAS) who could not ascertain the true value of their own assets, it appeared. Again, we used one benchmark property and apartment block in which they had pooled in together. Each time, we’ve asked the same question. What is more worrying, the fact that they don’t declare the true values, or that they just don’t care?