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Friday, August 3, 2012

Govt mulling austerity measurers as officers plunder exchequer for luxuries

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 2: With most of the officers, bureaucrats, Ministers and heads of different boards and autonomous bodies looting the state exchequer on acquisition of luxuries, Government is likely to announce and enforce austerity measures by next week.

Department of Finance, headed by Principal Secretary Iqbal Khanday, has observed that the revenue expenditure, particularly the spendings of public servants and public men on air travel between Srinagar and Jammu, Jammu and Delhi, and Srinagar and Delhi, had increased manifold in the first four months of the current fiscal. It has been noticed that over 60% of such air travels were purely for personal purposes, like visiting families and accompanying children for seeking their admission to different colleges and universities all over the country.

It has been notices that almost all Ministers from Jammu have been invariably leaving Srinagar for their respective homes in Jammu on every Friday afternoon and returning on Monday next. This has also encouraged their subordinate bureaucrats and officers too to shuttle between Srinagar and Jammu every weekend. Having a cascading effect, it has further prompted scores of IAS, IPS and IFS officers from different states to keep frequently shuttling between the summer capital and their respective residences in New Delhi, Chandigarh, different cities of UP, Bihar, Punjab and Rajasthan.

“In most of the cases, officials, bureaucrats and Ministers have justified drawing of the expenditure while showing their tour destinations as venue for one or the other official meeting. One of the Secretaries to Government visited wedding of the son of a former Chief Justice of J&K High Court in Tamil Nadu and claimed entire expenditure of his air travel from a public account he is himself operating. Even the marriage ceremony of the judge’s son has passed off as an official meeting”, said a source in Department of Finance. He pointed out that the Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, had publicly announced to hold an inquiry and initiate action against the delinquent officials but he too hushed up the matter under some pulls and pressures or expediency.

In addition to air travel, public servants and public men have plundered Crores of Rupees on account of purchasing fleets of vehicles and furniture and fixtures for their offices. According to well-placed sources, it has been observed that all the three most expensive items have been clandestinely diverted to the families and residences of the public servants and public men.

Well-placed sources in Department of Planning and Development revealed that a number of officers had purchased not only expensive upholstery, furniture and fixtures for their own houses out of the state exchequer but had also placed other items, like laptops and official vehicles, at the disposal of their own families and children. Three particular KAS/IAS officers, including a former Director of School Education, have been found to have managed wood paneling and Khattamband ceiling of their own houses out of the construction or renovation of their offices. Same material, workers, suppliers and contractors have been used at their offices and residential houses. Contractors have executed these family jobs of the officers as part of their “commission, payable to the officers”.

In a number of cases, it has been noticed that the officers had purchased expensive still and video cameras, including webcams, printers and scanners, out of the government funds but given the same in custody of their families and children. According to sources, in many of the cases, Ministers and Bureaucrats have either got the vehicles of their subordinate departments attached to their own personal sections and diverted these to their own families or forced the subordinate officers to purchase brand new luxury cars. These cars, alongwith their official drivers, are being spotted ferrying the families, children, guests, friends and relatives of different officers, bureaucrats and Ministers.

Christian Missionary schools like Burn Hall, Presentation Convent, Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson, as also the prestigious Delhi Public School have become a daily demonstration of the brazen misuse of official vehicles. In flagrant violation of all rules and norms, these flagged vehicles are often fitted with red beacon lights and their windscreens are pasted with thick black tinted glasses in violation of recent orders from Supreme Court of India and J&K High Court.

People in Ministry of Finance, as well as Department of Finance, are reluctant to say anything on the subject on the record. Well-placed authoritative sources still insisted that Government was seriously considering blanket ban on purchase of furniture, fixtures and upholstery besides purchase of fresh vehicles. According to these sources, Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, and Principal Secretary Finance, Iqbal Khanday, had taken serious note of the broad daylight loot of the state exchequer by public servants and public men on account of  non-productive and luxury activities including air travel and purchasing of vehicles. Sources said that a hard-and-fast package of austerity measures was being fine-toned and it was likely to be announced and enforced within next week.


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