These practices of manipulation and doctoring of data, have overall brought us immense shame and reputation risk as a nation.
A well informed and aware person is generally averse to trusting published data today. The litany of gigantic and shocking corporate frauds and scams, by a chain of top-ranking entrepreneurs, unearthed in recent times have made us a nation of cynics and non-believers of data in the public domain. Last week’s reports of fraudulent transactions of thousands of crores in Cox & Kings and DHFL, refresh memories of criminal malpractices in ILFS, ICICI, DHFL, PMC Bank, Jet Airways, Yes Bank, and so many others where giant frauds, were perpetrated for years, with the active collusion and participation of all those who were expected to prevent such frauds, viz. independent directors, auditors, bankers and regulators too. This list of cases is not over and many more will tumble out of the corporate dungeons, as laws get tougher, making it difficult to conceal frauds and fraudsters and easier for the empowered enforcement agencies to nab and prosecute them. Despite such strengthening of the laws, the influential babus and netas who together let banks be looted by the borrowers will get away with their crimes. A large portion of the Rs. 3.10 lakh crores of additional capital infused into PSBS by the government in the past five years represents money lost by banks due to this criminal nexus/negligence of the babus, netas and the Banias.
If this has been the case of audited corporate financial statements, then the government data and statistics have fared no better. As is evident from, revealing statements of former bureaucrats and senior government advisors, and as compared with the ground reality that we face, the data on GDP, growth, fiscal deficit, tax collection, EODB etc. has been regularly doctored to show a rosy picture and hide government failures. No wonder, the government has been often accused of indulging in headline management. If the auditors failed to keep a check on corporates and let them fudge figures, so did the rating agencies, who knowingly, blindly accepted the bogus financial statements presented to them and gave the most undeserving ones, a AAA rating, as in the case of ILFS. This rot of bogus attested data runs far and wide and deep and very unsurprisingly, has been recently found in the television TRP data too. This unchecked data and unrestrained proliferation of manipulated data, has established wrong benchmarks and role models, for the young generation to emulate.
These practices of manipulation and doctoring of data, have overall brought us immense shame and reputation risk as a nation. Audited statements and government data, were always meant to be accepted as correct on the face of it, but that is not so anymore and is now looked at with suspicion and is taken with a ton of salt. If India wants to grow to a USD 5 trn economy and beyond, and wants to attract large volumes of foreign investments, then this widespread manipulation of data must be stopped, (not just by the corporates, but by the government too) with a heavy hand. Punish all the wrongdoers, particularly the influential/powerful ones, spare no one, redress and compensate the public for losses suffered due to reliance on such false data, enforce a value system mandatorily, if not followed voluntarily and make ‘true and fair’ reality and not merely a vague jargon, used to embellish financial statements. And that applies to government financial statements and data as well. False data and financial statements, constitute a serious infraction of law and such crimes deserves the most stringent punishment.