Finance Minister sought detailed report within week
On the instructions Finance Minister an Audit Party comprising of Mr. Ishrat Amin and Mr. Hilal Ahmad Assistant Accounts Officers has been deputed to conduct the special audit in respect of suspected fraud committed by Director Agriculture Kashmir, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi as serious allegations of raising his pay fraudulently in gross violation of financial code have been leveled against him. The audit party has been asked to take up assignment w.e.f. 22.9.2017 and had to submit detailed report in the matter within one week.
Alleged to have abused his official position, Andrabi substantively holding the post of Agriculture Assistant carrying pay scale of 9300-34800 GP 4800, is suspected of raising his pay scale to 15600-39100 GP 6600 as against the admissible or entitled pay scale of 9300-34800 GP 4800. He is alleged to have conferred upon himself undue pecuniary advantage with corresponding loss to state exchequer. The allegations if proved amounts to grave misconduct by an officer of the rank of HOD.
Pertinent to mention Agriculture Department had ordered promotions and retrospective release of pay scales to 800 odd officers vide order No. 279-Agri of 2008 dated 07.10.2008.Andrabi was also promoted and placed in pay scale of 15600-39100 GP 6600 vide order No. 279 of 2008. But due to severe criticism and allegations of gross irregularities in promotion order No. 279, Government, vide General Administration Department’s order No. 1606-GAD of 2009 dated 17-11-2009 ordered a probe into the allegations against these promotions. Samuel Verghese (IAS), then Financial Commissioner Home entrusted with the inquiry job, after conducting an in-depth inquiry exposed gross irregularities in these promotions. On the basis of the Verghese report government took a sleek of decisions, all officers responsible for processing and issuing this order including Sonali Kumar, the then Principle Secretary, M. Y. Dar, the then Special Secretary, Vinod Bala then Director Agriculture Jammu and Bashir Ahmed Dar then Director Agriculture Kashmir were axed. The order No. 279 was kept in abeyance by the Agriculture Department vide its order No.14-Agri of 2010 dated. Since then order No. 279 of 2008 has never been re-enforced or revived by the Agriculture Department.
As per statement of articles of charge issued by S. S. Kapur ex-Chief Secretary to M. Y. Dar, the irregular promotion order No. 279 had caused a loss of more than Rs. 2.43 crores to the state exchequer on account of drawal of arrears by the concerned promoted officers and further loss to the State exchequer on account of fixation of pay in higher pay scales by the concerned officers from the date of issue of order to 29.01.2010 when it was finally revoked.
Despite repeated attempts, Minister for Agriculture could not be contacted for comments. A middle rung officer in the civil secretariat, pleading anonymity said that Hon’ble High Court, vide its directions, had kept order No. 279 of 2008 in force, subject to the outcome of DPC/PSC. Elaborating further he said that in 2013, the department conducted a DPC to fill up the posts in accordance with the Rules and as per directions of Hon’ble High Court, in which 67 VEWs including Andrabi were cleared for promotion as Agriculture Assistant post carrying a pay scale of 9300-34800 GP 4800. The Government order No. 113 of 2013 for promoting of 67 VEWs including Andrabi to the post of Agriculture Assistant came to be issued on the recommendations of DPC/PSC, he added.
He also drew the attention of this reporter to the Agriculture Department’s latest order No.180-Agri of 2017 dated 18.07.2017, in which the department has reiterated that order No. 279 of 2008, being issued without following procedures and without the mandatory consultation of DPC/PSC, had lost its relevance after the DPC/PSC held in 2013, as the matrix of the whole case has undergone a change and officers who were promoted vide Order No.279 do not find place even at the entry level of gazetted service. The consequential benefits given to officers by virtue of Government Order No.279 of 2008, or any other orders did not survive reads the order.
A retired employee talking to this reporter said it is very unfortunate that the order No.279 which has been kept in abeyance, has actually been implemented selectively under a well-knitted conspiracy. He said that a number of officers have been extended the benefits of this irregular order, but for many others no benefits have been given.
Andrabi, along with many others has, allegedly implemented order No.279 which as per the department’s latest stand had lost its relevance and the consequential benefits given to officers by virtue of the said order or any other orders did not survive.
If proved, the act amounts to severe fraud by an officer of the rank of HOD, who should otherwise have high standards of financial propriety. The HOD is responsible for the observance of financial code, regulations, procedures and guidelines both by his own office and by subordinate drawing & disbursing officers. All eyes will now be on the report of the Audit Party.