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Illegal payments worth Rs 900 cr from UPA ministries: CAG

The startling revelation came during the CAG audit of Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) and Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST). Between these two ministries, the loss to the national exchequer was amounting to more than Rs.5 Crore (approx), which is likely to go up after the final report of the audit is prepared.

Government sources said that this is just a tip of the iceberg and ‘illegal payments’ at various ministries could stand to nearly Rs. 900 Crore (approx) in last 10 years if audited properly. The figure has raised several questions about the functioning of the several ministries during the UPA regime.

Now, with the disclosures stumbling out of the files of these two ministries, there are discussions in the government level that the national auditor might take up other ministries including Environment, Petroleum, Education, Social Welfare and Child Development etc. for audit to unearth the ‘irregularities’ in terms of the ‘illegal payments’.

It was learnt that as per Rule 50 of the Central Civil Service (CCS) Rules, 1972, government employee after completing five years of qualifying service become eligible for receiving retirement gratuity eligible for any retirement gratuity.’

But, it was found that MoES ‘irregularly’ permitted its autonomous bodies to change the service conditions of their regular employees from those envisaged under the provisions of CCS Pension Rules, 1972 to the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972. Later, based on this permission, National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai paid gratuity to 54 ‘regular employees’ amounting to at least a crore in recent years, who had already resigned from the service.

It has also come to light that the retirement gratuity was released without getting any approval from the Finance Ministry during the UPA regime. It is suspected that such payments could have also been done in other autonomous bodies of the MoES, which include National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorological, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services etc. “Things will be clear and more figures will come with the final audit report,” government sources said.

Similarly, at Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science and Bose Institute (Kolkata) falls under MoST, paid legal fees of Rs.83.55 lakh to an advocate without verifying actual attendance in court. Out of this, payment of Rs.54.93 lakh was found to be fraudulent.

Shockingly, in 144 dates of appearances claimed by the advocate, there were no hearings on the said date in the courts. Also, in 54 dates of appearances claimed by the advocate, for which payments were made by the institute were in respect of a case that did not pertain to the
institutions.

The ‘scam’ within the ministries for decades has now prompted the NDA government to go for a clean drive, with more such audits in other department. Sources said, PMO will soon take the decision on having such audits for every ministry.
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