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Voices: Editorial Opinion

Numbers do lie

It is time those who swear by the assessment of high-flying, smooth-talking US consultancy firms do a rethink. The shocking case of Ernst & Young, a leading consultancy firm, plagiarising word for word an environmental impact report prepared by the Institute for Catchment Studies and Environmental Management (ICSEM), Bangalore, exposes the casual `we can fool the natives' approach of some of these firms in their dealings with Indian clients.

Ernst & Young's brief was to prepare an environmental impact report on the Dandeli-Mini-Hydel project (DMH) for the Karnataka government. Instead of wasting manpower and money on conducting field studies, the company made full use of the impact report of the Tatthalla Augmentation Scheme (TAS) prepared by the ICSEM. All that the whiz kids at Ernst & Young had to do was to replace DMH with TAS in their report.

That the two projects are in no way linked to each other and was separated by 100 kms did not seem to worry the company which projects itself as one of the leading consultancies in the world. That Ernst & Young did not act in a professional manner goes without saying and one wonders what penalty they would have had to pay if they pulled off the same caper in their own country.

With the Indian market opening up, we have to tighten our laws to discourage foreign companies which think they can cheat us. And it is time we examine the conclusions and recommendations drawn up by firang consultants before accepting these. Ernst & Young has no plausible explanation for their act of plagiarism. One hopes that the firm lives up to its claims of being professional and tenders an unconditional apology to the Karnataka government. Certainly it did not require the services of an international agency to copy para by para a 60-page report. A photocopier would have done the job better and that exercise would have cost a lot less that what was paid to the American consultancy firm.

Ajith Pillai
August 29, 2000

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