While the dust is yet to settle on controversies regarding its high-level appointments, the Railway Ministry once again finds itself in soup for allegedly creating five joint-secretary-level posts bypassing the Cabinet and without necessary approval from the Finance ministry.
The Finance ministry has now written to the Railways citing serious lapse and violation of rules and has overturned the creation of the posts. The Indian Express has a copy of the letter.“It is evident the Railways was aware that the approval of the Finance ministry was required. This is a serious lapse on the part of the officers responsible to place the factual position and rules and regulations before the decision-making authorities,” the letter from the Finance ministry’s Department of Expenditure says.
The Railways took the decision to create these posts in 2012, through a “cadre-restructuring” process of its Railway Board Secretariat Service and Railway Board Secretariat Clerical Service. Creation of new senior-level posts entails further creation of subordinate posts down the chain, opening up promotion avenues for a large number of people.
The Finance Ministry has pointed out that creation of posts means additional expenditure to the exchequer, more so in the case of joint-secretary level posts. Therefore, as is the rule, the concurrence of the Department of Expenditure is a must. For posts like these, the Cabinet is the authority.
The letter also mentions that according to the “economy instructions” issued by the government in 2013, there is a ban on the creation of plan and non-plan posts, and that the Railways has not been granted any exemption.
When this move was being prepared by the Railway Board two years ago, its own Finance directorate had raised objections saying it should be vetted by the Finance ministry and the Department of Personnel and Training. However such objections were bulldozed by the incumbent Railway Board Chairman, Member Staff and the political dispensation, sources said.
“The Railway ministry knows the rule because during the cadre-restructuring of groups C and D posts it sought the Finance ministry’s appro-val. But it was also written in that approval that for higher-level posts, they would have to approach the Finance ministry and the Cabinet,” a senior official said.
It is learnt that one of the first things Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge was asked to take a call on was to approve the creation of these posts “internally”. The minister is learnt to have told the senior rail bureaucracy that an approval of the Finance ministry must be sought in retrospective effect as a case like this was “unheard of in Government of India”.