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Daylight robbery

Astounding revelations from an audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and Ministry of Science and Technology in the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-led government has found that they were involved in ‘dubious and illegal payments’, causing losses amounting to more than Rs 5 crore to the national exchequer.

The figure is likely to go up once the CAG completes its audit. As per reports by our newspaper, these revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. Such ‘illegal payments’ by other ministries in the 10 years it held office could approximately reach Rs 900 Crore, once a thorough audit is completed. According to the CAG report, it was found that MoES ‘irregularly’ permitted its autonomous bodies to change the service rules of their regular employees from those envisaged under the provisions of Central Civil Service Pension Rules, 1972 to the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972. Later, based on such approvals, the National Institute of Ocean Technology reportedly paid gratuity to 54 ‘regular employees’ amounting to at least a crore in recent years, who had already resigned from the service. Reports have also emerged that such gratuities were released without the requisite approval from the Finance Ministry of the erstwhile UPA regime.

These revelations have added to the sordid narrative of corruption that undermined the previous regime and led its remarkable defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. Although the modes of ‘illegal’ payment were different in this case, nonetheless the CAG report does point towards yet another case of straight up corruption by the erstwhile UPA regime, akin to the Coal and 2G scams. However, aside from conducting such audits for every ministry, the present establishment must open up these audits to greater public scrutiny, besides naming and shaming those responsible for such pillages in the future.

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