If you want to know which members of the Central Secretariat Service (CSS) have not submitted their Immoveable Property Returns (IPRs) for the current year, open the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) website, click on “Submission of Immovable Property Return for the years 2009 & 2010 — List of defaulting officers of CSS” and voila, the names of 461 defaulting officers roll out. These officers are scattered across the ministries — most are under secretaries, deputy secretaries and directors with just a handful of joint secretaries.

But if you are looking for a similar list of defaulting IAS officers, it is virtually impossible to get past the firewall. In theory, it is possible to get the names; in practice, it's not worth the effort.

Persevering sorts will spot a small link for ‘IAS' on the top, left side of the screen. Several clicks later, you get “Immovable Property Return” with several choices. The last one, “List of Officers who are yet to submit IPR,” looks promising. But when you click on it, like that exasperating treasure hunt which never ends, you are confronted with three slots to be filled — name, cadre, year. Welcome to the elite firewall.

This means that unless you already have the names of the defaulting IAS officers — in which case you would not be on this wild goose chase — along with their cadres and year of joining service, you would have to plough through hundreds of names (assuming you have their cadre and year handy) before striking lucky even once. That's transparency, IAS–style, even though one estimate suggests there at least 450-odd defaulters in the ranks of the IAS.

Clearly, the bureaucratic elite have devised a system that protects the defaulters among them from all but the most persevering eyes, while obeying the government fiat to put their names in the public domain. This even as the defaulting non-elite CSS officers have been named and shamed.

Enquiries in the DoPT revealed that the system of disclosure for the CSS officers was devised by an outsider to the service, a senior IAS officer, while the format of disclosure for IAS officers has been devised by the Establishment Officer, a fellow tribesman. Queried on why different methods had been adopted for disclosure, Mamta Kundra, Joint Secretary, DoPT said: “This is the first year that we are doing this. It will be reviewed and there could be a new software to make the system uniform.” Any deadline? No, not yet, she said.

Traditionally, bureaucrats have been expected to reveal their IPRs to the government, but it was only following public pressure in this continuing season of scams that a government order — followed by repeated reminders — was issued to make public these returns by the end of May 2011. The DoPT has since directed all ministries to issue show-cause notices to officers attached to them and make notings in their performance appraisal reports. The defaulters could be denied vigilance clearance and be passed over for promotion and empanelment to senior level posts in government.

[Smita Gupta writes: A number of readers have noted that clicking the SUBMIT button on the relevant form page even if the rest of the required information is not filled in produces the entire list of IAS defaulters. At the time that we contacted the DoPT about the apparent lack of transparency, this does not appear to have been the case. Indeed, the concerned Joint Secretary, Mamta Kundra, is quoted admitting that the display system for different Services was not uniform and that the software would be updated soon.

Even now, however, there is no instruction on the landing page which says that the list of IAS defaulters can be accessed by clicking the SUBMIT button. Ordinary citizens are still likely to be deterred by the appearance of the need to fill out the form.]

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