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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Panchkula MC: Three consultants paid 63 lakhs, recoveries issued but not received

The three were hired under the Section 37 D (2) of the Haryana Municipal Corporation Business Bye-laws, which state that services of legal advisors, experts, labour advisor and architects can be hired by the commissioner.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
Updated: September 12, 2020 6:52:32 pm
Government decides to waive interest on interest for loans up to Rs 2 croreThe Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has decided to waive compound interest on MSME and personal loans up to Rs 2 crore for the six-month period. (Representational Image)

Rs. 63.08 lakh is the total amount spent by the Panchkula Municipal Corporation on its three employees, hired on contractual basis as consultants in the civic body’s Engineering wing, which already had several permanent engineers. These consultants were hired by the MC in October 2018 on varied salaries.

While salaries of even permanent employees of the MC Engineering wing ranges between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 70,000, documents and orders accessed by The Indian Express, which were issued during the appointment of the said consultants, showed a significant raise of almost 50 per cent as the salaries of the three consultants ranged between Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 1.7 lakh. These salary amounts were in addition to the pension being received by them.

Jagdish Ram, a retired executive engineer from UT Chandigarh was hired as consultant in an order issued August 6, 2018. As per further orders on October 16, 2018, his salary was fixed at Rs. 47,050 per month without any house rent or allowance, but with the provision of a vehicle. This salary was revised within two months on December 13, 2018, and was fixed at Rs. 80,000. No reason for the revision was stated in the order released.

Sunil Kumar, another retired engineer from UT Chandigarh, was hired at the post of ‘technical advisor’ to the department on August 8, 2018. In further orders, signed on October 16, 2018, his pay was fixed at Rs. 1.69 lakh per month. He was also provided with a government vehicle.

DK Gupta, who retired from Himachal Pradesh as HPAS Director, Urban Development, was hired as a ‘senior consultant’ on November 11, 2018. In salary orders passed on the same date—October 16, 2018—his salary was set at Rs. 1.5 lakh per month, and he too was provided with a government vehicle.

The three were hired under the Section 37 D (2) of the Haryana Municipal Corporation Business Bye-laws, which state that services of legal advisors, experts, labour advisor and architects can be hired by the commissioner.

The hiring had received widespread backlash from former councillors, where in at least one of them had approached the vigilance bureau of Panchkula and the CM window, asking for an inquiry into the matter.

The hiring had only taken place after the elected council of the corporation was dissolved in July 2018, and despite letters and requests for probe submitted by the former councillors to both the vigilance bureau of the state and the CM window, no action was taken in the matter. The consultants, even though hired through a six months contract were employed at the corporation for almost a year and a half as their contracts were extended at least twice.

Regarding the work of the consultants at the MC, officials posted at the civic body since 2018 revealed that their jobs mostly involved paperwork. “While Gupta was made the in-charge of looking over the Swaccha Bharat Mission scheme in Panchkula, Kumar only used to advice the commissioner over any new projects. Jagdish Ram was on the other hand serving as an engineer but all the three mostly did only paper work. No crucial projects under them were passed or implemented,” said a senior MC official, on condition of anonymity.

Even in 2019, after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had issued orders to the MC to restraint the flow of waste water from the city’s slums into Ghaggar river, the Municipal Corporation– already employing three consultants– had sought approval from the Haryana government to hire another one to prepare a report (DPR) on how to control the waste water discharge.

While the contracts of at least two of them including Sunil Kumar and DK Gupta were terminated abruptly on January 31, after the corporation witnessed a regime change in January under Commissioner Sumedha Kataria, the salary of the Jagdish was reduced to its prior amount of Rs 47,050.

While Kumar’s contract was ending on February 6, Gupta’s was due on April 6.

At the time of the termination of contracts in February, Commissioner Sumedha Kataria had told The Indian Express, “It was just that their initial term was to be six months and was extended twice since. The audit has raised objections on their salaries and issued recovery too– of the excess paid of last pay minus pension.”

The recovery which was to be affected was never received by the Panchkula Municipal Corporation, informed sources in the department.

No response was received to the calls and messages sent to MC Commissioner Mahavir Singh.

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