Highlights misleading details of lower rung officials only
SRINAGAR, Oct 27: In what could lead to a question mark on the authenticity of the recent Audit Report of the Jammu & Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) conducted by the Directorate of Audit and Inspections, it has come to the fore that vital details of some senior officers of the institute have been ‘intentionally skipped’.
However, the same audit report has unilaterally named few lower rung officials and portrayed their appointments in a bad light without even taking into consideration the approvals, decisions of the institute’s Governing Body, shown to them (the auditors) by the JKEDI authorities at the time of inspection. This puts a question mark on the authenticity of the report and makes the work of the auditors seem to be ‘motivated’ and not credible for the government.
Kashmir Despatch, after perusing the 48-page audit report of the Directorate of Audit and Inspections, J&K submitted to the Financial Commissioner, has come to know that there is no mention of some ‘questionable’ details of few senior officers, while the same report has been all fire against the rest of the lower rung employees by questioning everything related to them, despite approvals of the Governing Body– headed by the Chief Secretary of J&K an apex decision making body of JKEDI.
A cursory look at the report reveals that the auditors have been ‘casual’ in their approach towards their duties during the month-long stay at JKEDI Pampore campus. The report does not mention the actual or correct designations of the ‘targeted’ lower rung officials on which their services have been regularized or adjusted against the corresponding posts after the organizational restructuring in the year 2013, duly approved by the Governing Body.
For instance, some of these officials were initially appointed as Coordinators/ Field Investigators purely on contract basis (Pages 14, 16 & 17 of the report). EDI later advertised some substantive posts carrying a particular pay-scale and grade pay. Four of these officials applied and were selected against the new posts, providing them new designations (Program/Project Associate), better remuneration and career prospects.
On the contrary, the auditors to make their report look spicy, have skipped these new designations and mentioned it as Coordinator/Field Investigator (initial appointment) only to give an impression that an alleged fraud has been committed by the institute authorities by directly elevating them from these contractual designations to substantive posts created after Organizational Restructuring-2013.
“The report is partial and seems to be motivated to cause a dent to the image of the otherwise prestigious institute in the entire Jammu & Kashmir and even recognized at national level,” said Muhammad Muazzam (name changed), an employee of the EDI.
Page 29, audit para 3.11 of the report discusses the deputation of employees from JKEDI to other offices. The report says, “The service rules of JKEDI do not provide for deputation of employees to other offices in the erstwhile State. Moreover, the deputation of employees from JKEDI to other offices in the erstwhile State doesn’t hold water unless it is for the benefit of the institute. Despite this the institute has from time to time deputed employees to other offices….” The report cites an example to justify this. As on date two JKEDI officials are on deputation, but auditors prefer to mention complete details of one official, Obaid Riyaz, Manager HR and rather skip the other one, Mohsin Ashraf, Librarian.
Interestingly, the auditors prefer to remain silent over the earlier deputations from JKEDI, especially the coveted one where deputation order was issued by the General Administration Department (GAD). If the same audit team could dig deep over other matters, why hasn’t it made even a passing reference of the deputation of a senior officer, Mehraj-u-Din Bhat, Associate Senior Trainer, claiming to be the ‘founding member’ of the institute. Why this selective and targeted approach when the same audit report mentions everything in detail about the other employees and questions even the genuine advertisement notifications?
The story goes like this. Mehraj-u-Din Bhat, was appointed as Associate Senior Trainer in the pay band of 15600-39100 with Grade Pay of Rs 6600 vide order No. JKEDI/HR-120 of 2014 Dated: 19-06-2014. The order reads that the appointee will be on probation for a period of two years.
Due to his non-performance and failure to achieve the targets (31/75%) assigned to him, increments of Bhat were forfeited (July 2014 to June 2015) by the institute management, during the probation period only. As per the JKEDI rules-2013, if annual increment is forfeited consecutively for two years, the employee shall be liable for discontinuation from service. As the increments were forfeited, Bhat sought recourse in deputation. The process started in the year 2015 with a DO letter from the then Minister for Animal and Sheep Husbandry/Fisheries, and Science & Technology to the then Commissioner/Secretary to Government, GAD. “The Department of Animal Husbandry is implementing various new schemes and formulating new projects for which services of an experienced officer in the field of Management is required. I am recommending Dr. Mehraju Din Bhat, presently working in JKEDI. His services may kindly be placed at the Disposal of Animal Husbandry Department,” reads the DO letter, 25-06-2015 a copy of which lies with the KD.
This was followed by a series of formal communication going through the then Financial Commissioner, Industries & Commerce Department to the then Director JKEDI for Bhat’s deputation. During this time Bhat was posted as District Nodal Officer, Kupwara. Interestingly, Mehraju Din Bhat continuously applied for earned leave with effect from 12-11-2015 initially for a period of 20 days, followed by extension for a further period of 60 days from 01-01-2016 to 29-02-2016. On expiry of this leave, Bhat applied for one year leave without pay with permission to leave the country. The leave was approved vide No. JKEDI/HR-35 of 2016 Dated: 04-03-2016. However, Bhat reappeared on the scene almost after five months and joined his duties at JKEDI on 01-08-2016 with the plea that due to some domestic reasons he ‘could not visit outside the country for which the leave was granted’. So whether it is permissible under norms to remain away from duties after availing a leave to leave the country and then suddenly return after five months on the pretext that the leave couldn’t be availed and the official intends to join back, needs an answer.
But what followed this is quite interesting. Four days after Bhat resumed his duties at JKEDI, the General Administration Department ordered his deputation vide order No. 859-GAD of 2016 Dated: 05-08-2016. The deputation was not to the Animal and Sheep Husbandry/Fisheries Department as maintained in the first DO letter.
Bhat as per the GAD order was on deputation to J&K State Council for Science & Technology as Joint Director in relaxation of J&K SCST and Supporting Staff Recruitment Rules-2013. The order gives rise to queries like – Was GAD aware of his one year leave without pay? Did Bhat inform GAD that he is now available to serve on deputation at J&K Council for Science & Technology and subsequently the order was issued? Or Bhat was in constant touch with the administration for issuance of a formal order? If Bhat’s contribution couldn’t help his parent organisation, how was it fruitful for J&K Council for Science & Technology? And if deputation was requested to implement new schemes and formulate new projects at the Animal/Sheep Husbandry department, how did Bhat land at Council for Science and Technology as Joint Director?
Ironically, the special audit team has missed all this and has mentioned just one name which the employees allege is a deliberate attempt by the auditors to malign the image of selective officials and make them feel like they have committed a crime.
There is no mention of Mehraju Din Bhat in the Special Audit report. This, the sources said, puts a question mark on the genuineness of the audit report submitted to the Financial Commissioner. It has given rise to questions like, wasn’t his (Bhat’s) personal file and service records checked by the audit team at JKEDI campus when they termed other deputations as not permissible under the rules and questioned genuine recruitment, salaries etc of contractual and scheme-based employees? If his file was checked by the auditors, why didn’t it catch their eye as how a proven non-performer at his parent organisation was assigned the charge of Joint Director at the higher administrative level and draw salary from the State exchequer?
Bhat continued to serve as Joint Director till the government cancelled all deputations and later went back to JKEDI.
Questions as to why is the audit report silent over his continuation in service at JKEDI, along with another proven non-performer during the probation, Vishal Ray, Associate Senior Trainer? Ray was appointed as Associate Senior Trainer along with Bhat and his increments were also forfeited for poor performance and failure to achieve the targets assigned. Ray was posted as District Nodal Officer, Budgam at that time of forfeiture of increment.
Of late, these non-performing officials have been claiming as ‘founding members’ of JKEDI in their misleading representations to the J&K Chief Secretary’s office, Commissioner Secretary Industries and Commerce and the JKEDI Director as well. In these representations, these non-performing officials have been beating their chests and pleading to get their forfeited increments released.
Whether the silence maintained by the Special Audit Team over such issues is deliberate or just a miss, only time will decide. This, however, puts a question mark on the genuineness of the audit report and also exposes the unilateral description of things screened by the team and submitted to the government for consideration.