Tuesday, October 30, 2012

COVER STORY | DSS: System-Driven Corruption

DSS: System-Driven Corruption

By Zubair Ahmed

Is it a coincidence that Directors who come on deputation from Navy carry the virus of corruption or is it a systemic plague that inflicts the department? Three directors in succession have faced corruption charges and had to be abruptly repatriated.
In fact, experts in the field opine that those on deputation from Navy are neither acquainted with the commercial aspects nor the mandatory documentation part. Without merchant shipping background, they are prone to falter at every administrative decision they take.
Those on the helm of affairs need to know the nitty-gritty of repair and maintenance of vessels, commercial aspects and meeting the statutory requirements regarding safety of life at sea. Those with Naval background need not worry about any surveys or MMD or DG Shipping requirements.
Without professional experience, they are prone to all kind of manipulations by those who know how the system can be bent for their advantage and keep themselves safe. This is what has happened in the department since long time. Although, Capt Seshasai has become an easy whipping boy, the whole blame cannot be offloaded on to him as corruption is system driven with more people involved.
The Deputy Director's role or those in the planning remain hidden in the whole episode, whereas they play a major role in all decision making process. Nevertheless, their imprint will remain undetectable in the files.
On the one hand, DSS, the second largest fleet after Shipping Corporation of India does not possess the Document of Compliance to operate vessels. Hence, they rely on SCI or ABS by offloading manning and technical management.
"Since 1989, the Department does not have a Marine Engineer and the present crop of AMEs lack professional competency," said a retired master. Just wishing for a Marine Engineer is not going to solve the issue, as concrete steps towards making the whole Directorate compliant for running its own vessels without offloading needs serious attention.
Its easy to blame SCI for fleecing the Directorate, and to bring ABS into the picture, where Capt Seshasai played a major role. ABS is equally incompetent without professionals and failing on the maintenance part. First they entered into manning and later technical management was also given to them.
ABS has very low base strength without competence and about 70% of vessels are non-operational. SCI, owned by the government follows certain procedures like they have an assessment system for workshops and also maintain annual tariff. SCI inspects the workshop and make sure about their financial and technical capability. Whereas, ABS has continuously failed on this aspect. Still, it ABS was always favoured by the Director.
SCI has been maligned so much by the coterie who controls the Director as well as the Secretariat; today it is looked down by everyone. The crux of the issue is that no kickbacks can be secured from a government agency.
Although SCI doesn't have a single workshop, it maintains a huge fleet. They keep a set of approved and registered suppliers and workshops on annual contract, whereas ABS goes for instant quotation, as and when the problem arises. It however does not exnorate SCI from all blames. The case of MV Nancowry which had gone to drydock at Colombo in 2010 is not running continuously since a year. After every month of sailing,  the Surveyor puts it on hold and only gives extension for three months and the ship idles in Chennai.
It's a curse that the Shipping sector in an Island territory remains an issue unsolved since decades. Without a comprehensive overhaul of the system, many more Seshasais and cronies are going to con the Islanders, and the ultimate casualty is the connectivity.

No comments: