Thursday, January 10, 2013

SALARY SCAM : `30cr ‘illegal pay’ for Prasar Bharati staff

THE Broadcasting Corporation of India or Prasar Bharati, which controls Air India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan, has allegedly caused a loss of about Rs 30 crore to the exchequer following anomalies in fixing salaries of senior employees.

The organisation not only formulated an erroneous pay scale years ago, but also misinterpreted an order of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in 2004, leading to a continuing loss each year since 1996.
Worse, prompted by the pay scale fixed for the directly appointed programme executives, some promoted executives also applied for the same.

Their pay was illegitimately increased too, confirmed a report by RK Sharma, former deputy director (administration) in AIR. The December 2011 report highlighted the losses and issued a recommendation to recover the excess payment from more than 300 senior employees (direct appointees). However, little has been done on Sharma’s report.

The report said, “The government has to pay almost Rs four thousand per month per head undue payment to almost 300 programme executives. This causes undue expenditure of almost Rs 1.44 crore per year, as such the loss projected per day is in millions…”

It all started in 1999 when a few directly recruited programme executives approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) seeking upward revision of pay scale. In 2002, the CAT directed that an anomaly committee be constituted. This committee, headed by Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, rejected the claims. The director general of AIR went on to seek a clarification from the ministry.

In June 2004, the ministry directed, “If their pay claim is found correct, then the concerned AIR Station(s) be directed to fix their pay…with effect from 1996.”

Kundan Singh, a former promotee programme executive who retired last year, says this order was misinterpreted. “The ministry did not okay an increased pay, the order was to clarify individual claims,” says Singh. “AIR misinterpreted facts to favour its officials.”

Sharma’s report also confirms that the directorate general of AIR failed to verify individual executives’ claims and instead surprisingly ‘misinterpreted’ rules and misguided higher authorities while giving its nod for stepping up the pay in 2004.

The report issued instructions that the error must be rectified by all AIR stations and Doordarshan kendras by issuing orders for re-fixation of pay of all officers concerned as on January 1, 1996 and onwards.
Various DD Kendras and AIR stations acknowledged the error but failed to take any action.
In a letter to Prasar Bharati in June 2011, a senior accounts officer from Mumbai admits that 30 to 40 programme executives in the city are benefiting from the incorrect fixation of pay.

Kundan Singh says the number of employees benefiting is much more than 400. He filed several Right to Information applications regarding the matter but received different numbers each time. Moreover, Prasar Bharati also reportedly informed him that some executives’ files are missing. “The actual loss is much greater,” says Singh, who has complained to the prime minister’s office, the comptroller and auditor general and others. In August this year, the PMO forwarded his complaint to the ministry.

When Kundan and others learnt about the matter in 2007, they had applied for an increase in their pay as well, and got it. Eventually, about Rs 1 lakh was recovered from him before retirement, with the public broadcaster stating that since the pay of directly-appointed programme executives was raised illegally, his pay hike was unlawful too. “Recovery should be done from both directly appointed and promotee executives. They targeted me because I was raising this issue,” he adds.

The ministry advised AIR to take action too. In June this year, it wrote a letter saying, “DG: AIR has clearly admitted in the proposal [Report] that the wrong pay fixation has been done … the rectification of the same has to be done...”

Despite repeated attempts to contact various senior authorities at Prasar Bharati since November 27, they remained unavailable to respond to a detailed questionnaire on the matter.
Sandeep Pai l Mumbai
Published Date:  Jan 10, 2013

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