The year did not start well for officials and staff at the Health Ministry, as most of them reported having received 80 per cent of their salaries, thanks to the breach last month of the Public Finance Management System (PFMS), the platform used by the ministry to make all its transactions.
The system is yet to be restored, so payments are now being made to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) through cheques, as an exception. The RBI transfers money to the consolidated fund of states. Health Secretary Preeti Sudan, however, said there is “no issue”.
She said, “Since PFMS is not working, we did not have access to people’s data. So 20 per cent (of staff salary) was deducted on pro rata basis. It is not as if we are not getting our salaries.” Ministry officials said all data was lost, and the money was deducted on “pro-rata basis”. It will be gradually restored as and when PFMS is back in use, they said.
The move has caused resentment, with some in the ministry asking whether interest will be paid on the remaining sum.
The breach in PFMS was detected on December 23, 2018, when a suspicious transaction of Rs 2.5 crore was reported by the ministry and an FIR lodged. Subsequently, four people were arrested in Assam for creating and verifying a fake account through PFMS and transferring the money. The system is still down since its security features continue to be tested.
Chief controller of accounts Bharti Das initially said she is not aware of any deductions but later admitted that some staff did get paid 80 per cent of their salary.
Stating that she is unaware of deductions, Das said, “If somebody did not get entire salary, he/she should get in touch with me. Initially, on December 31 (last year), we had issued instructions to banks to not release the entire amount in the first tranche. But the entire amount has now been disbursed. As for PFMS, we are working on it. It should be back in a day or two.”
She later said, “Some people did get 80 per cent of salary but I am not aware how many people that is. We will be able to release it soon.”
Ministry officials denied that the money has been restored.