Debunking criticism over equity structure of the company building world’s biggest tax system, GST-Network Chairman Navin Kumar today said all measures have been taken to protect sensitive tax information and the government will have strategic control over it. By keeping Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) private, the company has been equipped to take decisions quickly as an agile and nimble organisation not bound by red tape that can retain talent by paying market salaries, he told PTI.
Kumar insisted that enough fire-walls and 8-levels of security is being built to keep the data safe.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has questioned the structure of the entity created under the previous UPA regime saying how a private firm can be allowed access to “sensitive” tax information without security clearance.
The Government of India has 24.5 per cent stake in GSTN and the state government an equal share. The remaining 51 per cent is with private financial institutions.
“But measures for strategic control by the government have been built-in,” he said adding the GSTN board has 14 directors, half of them are appointed by the government.
The Centre and State nominate three directors each and the Chairman is jointly named by the two.
“So government has 49 per cent equity and 50 per cent of the directors. The private equity holders who hold 51 per cent, can nominate only three directors. And then there are three are indepedent directors and one is a CEO.
“The rules of business specify that no meeting of the board can take place unless 50 per cent of the directors are from government. Which basically means that no decision can be taken against the wishes of the government. So this is the strategic control that they exercise,” Kumar said.
While GSTN in day-to-day functioning works like a private company, takes quick decisions and is not bound by the PSU rules, there are certain critical decisions which can be taken only through special resolution in the general meeting, where 75 per cent of the votes are to be polled for any decision.
“So in a nutshell, it is a non-government company over which government has a strategic control,” he said.
Asked about concerns over data security, he said this is not the first time that the government is implementing an IT project through a private company.
“There are many large IT projects already in operation. Take the case of Income Tax. Who is doing the Income Tax project– it is Infosys and TCS. What are Infosys and TCS, they are private companies. Go to any VAT projects in the states, most of them are being done by either TCS or Wipro…
“So is the I-T data sensitive or not? That is with these private companies. Now look at GSTN. GSTN is structured as a private company over which government has a strategic control. No decision can be taken without its consent… So what is the concern? If data can rest with TCS or Wipro without any problem, why is a question being raised about GSTN handling such data. Because here government has a presence on our board. So there is no problem,” Kumar said.