In the first formal representation on the proposed merger of cadres in the Indian Railways, officers who manage finances have told the Railway ministry that the move is “only a promotion scheme for Engineering Service officers”, and will compromise judicious spending of taxpayers’ money.
Addressed to the Chairman Railway Board, the representation from the Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) Officers’ Association says that checking and managing finances is done by a specialised cadre everywhere in the government or the private sector, and more so in the Railways, which has a unique accounting practice. Making the job open to all services would be detrimental to the Railways, it says.
It says that the present system of financial vetting by a specialised cadre honours the time-tested “maker and checker” concept. This system would be “severely compromised…”, will be “detrimental to the organisation” and “open to mistakes” in financial prudence, if changed.
The cadre-merger move proposes that all the five technical and three non-technical (IRAS included) services be merged to make an Indian Railway Management Service, and that an officer from any service can become Railway Board Member (Finance) or any other Member.
What the finance wing’s objection means is that when other cadres of Railways propose projects, schemes to be implemented or anything that involves spending or even earning money, the finance officers, trained to perform such scrutiny, process each project against the benchmark of financial prudence. If non-IRAS officers, like those belonging to technical departments, are in charge of this scrutiny, they may not be bipartisan to the vetting.
“A ludicrous scenario can emerge that the proposer of a project could give finance concurrence to it, then implement it while concurring with all the variations in the estimates as well, over the life of the project,” the representation says.
The submission demands that the proposed move be kept in abeyance to address the apprehensions of officers. It says it concurs with the sentiments of the other civil services departments of Traffic and Personnel.
After passing Civil Services Examination, the IRAS officers undergo two years of training in the skills required to process railway finances. The objections say that this training is not available outside of Railways and this specialised job cannot be done by officers trained in other disciplines.
Officials say that among the organised services in Railways, the IRAS has been better managed in terms of its number of intake every year and in ensuring timely promotion of officers, while many other services have placed huge indents to take more and more officers every year from the UPSC Civil Services Examination. The cadre is now just 550-strong.
The objection says that the cadre-merger move is, in a way, a punishment to the IRAS for pragmatic cadre management all these years.
The respective associations representing Traffic and Personnel have not yet submitted their formal representations to the Railways ministry. Zonal officers have been submitting separate representations and protests to the DoPT, the PMO and the Railway minister.
Indian Railway Personnel Service officers have objected to the post of Railway Board Member (Staff) being given as a look-after charge to Member (Traction), an Electrical officer, without giving the charge to the seniormost in the IRPS, even though the government recently encadred the post for this service.
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