Saturday, October 8, 2011

RTI finds fishing in Mineral Water !!

Right to information or RTI act dug out many misdeeds in several government organizations. The latest is siphoning off money placing purchase orders for Bisleri Mineral water at inflated rates by different Govt. Deptt. at the same time. The RTI revealed this in details.
In the under noted letter I received you may find the names of officials involved in the deals. Of course we have to wait and see; after inquiry who are fixed ! See that amazing amount of exchequer's money is drained out thus!


1.            "   Different Ministries/Departments procure Mineral water (packaged drinking water) to fulfill requirement of drinking water for its employees, preferably senior level officers. But the sad part of this is that, while M/o Agriculture (Department of Agriculture & Cooperation) is purchasing 20 Ltrs. Jar of Bisleri Mineral water @ Rs.50/- per jar, the same is being purchased by M/o Urban Development @ Rs.78/- per jar. M/o UD purchases nearly 1200 jars per month and has been purchasing the same @ 78/- per jar since September,2008 [Ref: M/o Agriculture (Deptt. of Agriculture & Cooperation) letter No. F.N.21-4/2011-G.A.I, dated-8.3.2011 (available on the website ‘http://www.agricoop.nic.in’ under the heading ‘details of AMC/CMCS’) and M/o UD letter No. F.No.I-16011/03/2010-Admn.III, dated-20.9.2011]. This is nothing else but loss/loot of taxpayer’s money. Slight variation in purchase prices may be agreed to. But purchases by M/o UD at such a high price itself tells that there has been either sheer negligence on the part of concerned officials of M/o UD or there is some nexus in between the supplier and officials of M/o UD dealing with purchases. The attitude of Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) and Shri V. K. Sharma, [ Director (Admn.) (at present JS Admn.)], who deal with purchases hints toward the latter as explained below :-

1(a)    like M/o Agriculture (Department of Agriculture & Cooperation), M/o UD has not displayed letter awarding contract for supply of mineral water on its website i.e. it do not want to make it public.

1(b)      in today’s computerized world where almost everyone in M/o UD is having internet facility, it is hard to believe that concerned officials of M/o UD were not aware of the fact that M/o Agriculture (Department of Agriculture & Cooperation) is purchasing the same @ Rs.50/- per jar i.e. the information which is available on the internet.

1(c)      on 3.5.2011, Shri Kishan Chand, S.O. working in the Directorate of Estates (an attached office of M/o UD) intimated M/o UD that it is purchasing mineral water at inflated price. It appears that either the matter was not taken up seriously or the complaint was hushed up.

1(d)      later on M/o Agriculture (Department of Agriculture & Cooperation) letter No. F.N.21-4/2011-G.A.I, dated-8.3.2011 was also brought to the notice of M/o UD by Shri Kishan Chand, S.O. vide his email dated-12.7.2011. Still M/o UD is purchasing it @78/- per jar. And Shri Kishan Chand, who raised  voice against this, has been transferred from Directorate of Estates to M/o Urban Development vide M/o UD Order No.A-22013/3/2011-Admn.I, dated-11.8.2011 i.e. Shri Kishan Chand was brought under direct administrative control of M/o UD. Prima facie it appears that rather than investigating the matter/rather than making serious efforts to procure mineral water at a lower price, M/o UD preferred to harass Shri Kishan Chand for raising voice against this. Shri Kishan Chand was in the Directorate of Estates only since August,2011. There are a number of Section Officers who are in the Directorate of Estates and other attached office(s) of M/o UD for the last several years. They have not been touched. Only Shri Kishan Chand has been transferred. This is nothing else but pick and choose policy of M/o UD for the reasons best known to them.

1(e)      through a R.T.I. Application M/o UD was requested to provide information regarding items purchased during the last one year, rate at which the said items were purchased, quantities purchased and name of the shop/agency from which purchases were made. It was made clear that in case it is not feasible to work out total quantities of a particular item, then the quantity of last purchase may be intimated. Similarly, it was also made clear that in case purchase price of any item varied from time to time, then the rate at which it was purchased last may be intimated. The reply was furnished by Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) & CPIO vide letter No.I-11011/16/2011-Admn.III, dated-30.6.2011. With respect to items purchased, it was replied that the items that have been purchased by Admn.III section during the last one year broadly includes the Stationery items, office equipments like Photocopiers, Fax Machines, Computer items, Cartridges, Furniture etc. and items which are required in daily office use by the indenting Sections/Divisions/Officers, the detail of which are maintained in Stock Register by Admn.III Section. Compilation of all individual items would take a considerable time and preparation thereof is likely to divert the resources of public authority under Section 7(9) of the RTI Act. However, items so purchased can be ascertained by going through the Stock Register maintained in Admn.III section and relevant copies may be obtained on payment of prescribed fees. With respect to rate, quantity and name of shop/agency, it was replied by that the quantity purchased alongwith its rates can be ascertained by going through the stock register maintained in Admn.III section and relevant copies may be obtained on payment of prescribed fee. In nutshell, the information sought was very tactfully denied. CPIO intentionally put hurdles for providing information. RTI Act gives one the right to inspect the records, but it does not mean that to obtain information, the RTI Applicant shall personally visit the concerned office to get the desired information. I apprehend that M/o UD very tactfully not provided me the desired information for fear of being exposed further for purchases at inflated costs. I apprehend that similar situation (like purchase of mineral water at inflated cost) might be there in case of purchase of other items and award of AMC etc. The expenses incurred by M/o UD (including expenditure on repairs) during the last three years are as under :-

                                Financial Year 2008-2009       : Rs. 3.02 Crores

                                Financial Year 2009-2010       : Rs. 3.33 Crores

                                Financial Year 2010-2011       : Rs. 3.62 Crores

1(f)       I also filed first appeal but it went in vain. Shri V. K. Sharma, JS(Admn.) & First Appellate Authority took side of CPIO.

1(g)      Section 7(9) of the RTI Act stipulates “an information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question”. I just asked for the names of items purchased, rate at which purchased, quantities of items purchased and the shop/agency from which purchased. I also made clear that in case it is not feasible to work out total quantities of a particular item, then the quantity of last purchase may be intimated.  I also made clear that in case purchase price of any item varied from time to time, then the rate at which it was purchased last may be intimated. Further, I never asked for these information in any particular format/table. Still the information was not provided to me. Thus it can be observed that concerned officers of M/o UD intentionally not provided the information in a planned way. I apprehend that they have done this for fear of being exposed because the amount involved is in crores of rupees as stated in para 1(e) above. There are hundreds of items which are being purchased by M/o UD. Even if it is presumed that providing list of all items, its rate, its source of purchase and quantity purchased would have disproportionately diverted the resources of public authority;  then M/o UD should have provided the details to the extent to which it was not diverting the resources of concerned public authority. But the information sought for by me was flatly denied to me.

1(h)      section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act,2005 states that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person. But RTI Applicants in M/o UD are treated like beggars. Going by the facts given in para 1(e), it implies that if Parliament/State Legislature or Hon’ble Member of Parliament/State Legislature will ask for this information, Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) & CPIO will ask them to go through the stock register maintained in Admn.III Section and Shri V. K. Sharma, JS(Admn.) & First Appellate Authority will endorse the stand taken by CPIO.

1(i)       there are 4 sections under Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) and one of them is Admn.III Section which deals with purchases, award of AMC etc.. Whenever any post of S.O. under US(Admn) (except Admn.III) fell vacant, it was filled up immediately. Post of S.O.(Admn.III) is vacant since 18.09.2010 but no regular S.O. has so far been posted there. Needless to say that the post of SO(Admn.III) is a sensitive post as per M/o UD O.M. No.A-22012/3/2001-Admn.I, dated-24.8.2001. The motive behind keeping the post of S.O.(Admn.III) vacant, as long as possible, appears to be (i) associate lesser number of officials in the matter of purchases, award of AMC etc. or (ii) if any consideration is being received from supplier for making purchases/award of AMC etc., the same is distributed amongst lower number of officials. It is pertinent to mention here that there are a number of Sections/Units/Cells in M/o UD where S.Os taken on loan from attached office(s) of M/o UD [i.e. these S.Os are working in M/o UD but are getting salary from an attached office of M/o UD] have been posted. But this has not been done in case of Admn.III Section.

1(j)       generally in other Ministries/Departments (even in attached offices of M/o UD which is located in the same building itself) mineral water is provided to select senior level officers and his personal staff. But in M/o UD, mineral water is provided to all employees irrespective of rank. I do not know, whether it is generosity of M/o UD or the reason for procuring as much packaged water as possible.

2.          Vigilance Unit of any Ministry/Department is considered to be the most sensitive Section/Unit. I understand that majority of the cases in Vigilance Unit of M/o UD relate to officials of CPWD. I also understand that a retired superintendent of CPWD (an attached office of M/o UD) has been appointed as consultant and has been posted in Vigilance Unit of M/o UD to fill the gap of Under Secretary level officer. It is said that this consultant is well known among CPWD officials (because of having worked as Superintendent) and is committing irregularities on a large scale in connivance with one of the US posted in Vigilance Unit. This may or may not be true. But I am surprised at the wisdom of concerned officials in M/o UD who took decision to post a consultant (who has almost no accountability, who can hardly be held responsible for any irregularities) in Vigilance Unit (where entry of even officials of other branches of M/o UD is generally remains restricted). In case there was/is shortage of officials, then officials of equivalent rank from attached office(s) of M/o UD could have been posted in Vigilance Unit on loan basis, as has been done in several other Sections/Units/Cells of M/o UD. But, rather than doing this, the competent authority in M/o UD decided to post a consultant in Vigilance Unit. My humble submission is to review posting of a consultant in Vigilance Unit. If it is intended to conduct an inquiry, it may be looked into as to if cases have been processed in the order in which they were received in the Vigilance Unit. It may be looked into as to if all the cases have been examined/dealt with with even pain/labour. etc. etc. Further, period of scrutiny may be restricted from the date of his appointment as consultant to September end. Scrutiny of period after receipt of my mail (1st Lot onwards) may not give correct findings.

3.          The earlier existing departmental canteen (which was a welfare activity for govt. employees) was closed and after renovating the  same (including installation of ACs, new Furniture etc.) M/o UD has given it on lease to M/s Bikanervala Foods Pvt. Ltd. on a token rent of Rs.1/- only with free water and some part of electricity. After taking the canteen on lease, M/s Bikanervala has further given it to a franchise for running the same. I understand that the said Firm pay electricity bill for electrical kitchen appliances, freezers and exhausts only. Electricity bill for AC and Lights fitted in the area where visitors take eatable items are being paid by M/o UD. This do not appear to be in order. With this facility, the market rental value for this canteen is likely to be in lakhs. The area of the canteen is approximately 1500 sq.feet. There is hardly any item in the private canteen which is cheaper than the rate prevailing in the market. It is therefore requested that matter may please be reviewed for either (i) increasing rent, or (ii) making available eatable at a cheaper rate, or (iii) paying of all the electricity bill of canteen by the lesee. Certainly this is not a canteen which is being run on no profit no loss basis for the welfare of employees.

4.          M/o UD vide Office Memorandum No. A-22020/1/2008-Admn.IV, dated-23.3.2009 issued a rotational transfer policy in respect of CSS (upto the level of US) and CSCS officials of the cadre of M/o UD posted in the secretariat of the two Ministries (M/o UD & M/o HUPA) and their attached offices with the approval of the then Secretary (UD). The salient features of O.M. dated-23.3.2009 are :-

4(i)       The provisions of this O.M. shall be complied with on regular basis.

4(ii)      An officer/official working in the main Ministry (Ministry of Urban Development and Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation) and their attached offices, who had completed a period of six (6) years or more (combined period in all grades/posts whether continuous or intermittent) in a Department shall be transferred to another Department by the competent authority.

4(iii)     The tenure of officials in a particular Section/Desk in a Department shall not exceed three (3) years (combined period in all grades/posts whether continuous or intermittent). An officer/official on completion of three years of period in a Section/Desk, shall be transferred to another Section/Desk by the respective competent authority.

4(iv)     Posting of officers/officials under the category of ‘Sensitive’ postings shall be decided as per the instructions that have so far been issued and as per amendments as may be carried out from time to time by the competent authority in the Administrative Vigilance Unit of this Ministry.

4(v)      Secretary (UD) shall be the competent authority to relax the provisions of aforesaid rotational transfer policy.

4(vi)     Orders effecting rotational transfers in compliance with O.M. dated-23.3.2009 shall be issued within a period of three months on completion of the prescribed periods of tenure.

5.          Shri R. K. Sinha, Assistant, Admn.-IV Section, M/o UD on account of being in Ministry since 11.04.1996 was transferred and posted to CPWD on his promotion as Section Officer vide M/o UD Order No. A-22013/3/2010-Admn.-I, dated-28.7.2010. A little after 2 months, he was transferred back to M/o UD (Admn.-I Section) vide Order No. A-32014/5/2009-Admn.-I, dated-06.10.2010. His transfer from CPWD to M/o UD was in violation of para 4(ii) and so his transfer from CPWD to M/o UD should have been approved by Secretary (UD). But his transfer was approved by Shri A. K. Mehta, the then JS(UD) i.e. the transfer that required approval of Secretary (UD) was approved by JS(UD). File was not sent to Secretary (UD). Thus the concerned officials dealing posting/transfer made a mockery of the provisions contained in M/o UD O.M. dated-23.3.2009, kept Secretary (UD) in dark. As per channel of submission, Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) and Shri V. K. Sharma, the then Director (Admn.) (presently JS(Admn.) were in the channel. Now, Shri R. K. Sinha, S.O. is virtually in Ministry since 11.4.1996, except for few months, but whenever exercise for rotational transfer will be done, his name is not likely to considered because presently he in Ministry only since 15.12.2010. There may be several other cases like that of Shri R. K. Sinha. M/o UD has refused to provide posting details of officials working in different Sections/Units/Cell of M/o UD as explained in para 9 below.

6.          Shri R. K. Sharma, Section Officer, CPWD (who is due to retire in December,2011) was all of a sudden transferred from CPWD to Directorate of Printing vide M/o UD Order No.A-32014/5/2009-Admn.I, dated-6.10.2010. Later on the same was cancelled by M/o UD vide Order No.A-32014/5/2009-Admn.I, dated-6.10.2010, probably after receipt of a reference from CPWD to this effect. I understand that these orders were also approved by Shri A. K. Mehta, the then JS(UD).

7.          Shri Kishan Chand, Section Officer (who raised voice against purchases by M/o UD at inflated costs and pick and chose policy in the matter of posting/transfer) was transferred from Directorate of Estate to M/o UD vide Order No.A-22013/3/2011-Admn.I, dated-11.8.2011. He was in the Directorate of Estate only since 18.8.2011. Section Officers who are in the Directorate of Estates and other attached offices for several years have been spared, and the officer who is in DOE only since August,2010 has been transferred.

8.          From the facts given in para 4,5,6 and 7 above, it can be observed that in M/o UD, posting/transfer is done on pick and choose policy and is given the name of exigencies of work. Exigency of work is a very vague word unless it is explained. Officials whom they want to favour, they go to any extent. For such blue eyed officials, even a formal representation is not required. On the other, officials who do not have access to them, seldom get justice. Sometime(s) their written request for even mutual transfer is not considered/processed.

9.          The case explained in para 1(e) above is not the single example of misuse of provisions of Section 7(9) of the RTI Act. Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.)&CPIO and Shri V. K. Sharma, erstwhile JS(Admn.)&First Appellate Authority are in the habit of misusing the provisions of Section 7(9) of the RTI Act. Here are some more examples:-

9(a)      Through an RTI Application I wanted to know names and designation of officials working in sensitive units, date since working in sensitive units, their posting immediately before being posted in sensitive section and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.

9(b)      Through another RTI Application, I wanted to know name and designation of officials working in “UD-I, UD-II, Library, Coordination Section, Parliament Section, Finance Division, Vigilance Unit, P.I.Cell”, date since working, their posting immediately before being posted in respective sections and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.

9(c)      Through another RTI Application I wanted to know names and designation of officials working in “Delhi Division, Works Division, C.R. Section, P.G. Cell, NURM-I, NURM-II, NURM-III”, date since working, their posting immediately before being posted in respective sections and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.

9(d)      Through another RTI Application I wanted to know names and designation of officials working in “O/o Secretary (UD)/AS(UD)/JS(UD)/JS(DL)/JS(Mission)/JS&FA/Economic Advisor”, date since working, their posting immediately before being posted in respective units and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.

9(e)      Through another RTI Application I wanted to know names and designation of officials working in “O/o UDM/MOS/Director(UD), MRTS Cell/UT Division, UCD/LSG, Technical Cell(JNNURM), CHPEEO, PHE”, date since working, their posting immediately before being posted in the respective units and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.  

9(f)       Through another RTI Application I wanted to know names and designation of officials working in “O/o Director(WS)/ Director(W)/ Director(UD)/ DS(NURM), O/o DS(Finance), DS(Budget-I), DS(Budget-II), O/o Director (Admn.)”, date since working, their posting immediately before being posted in the respective units and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.  

9(g)      Through another RTI Application I wanted to know names and designation of officials working in “Hindi Section, PMU, O/o Director (NURM-III), PSP Division, O/o DS(UT), DS(UCU/PSP), OSD(UD), NERUDP Cell, US(Admn.) and US(NURM-I)”, date since working, their posting immediately before being posted in the respective units and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.  

9(h)      Through another RTI Application I wanted to know names and designation of officials working in “O/o US(EW-I)/ US(W-I)/ US(W-II), US(W-III), US(PS)/ DO(EW-II)/ US(DD-IA)/ US(DD-IB)/US(DD-IIA)/ US(DD-IIB)/ US(DD-VI)/ US(DD-VA)”, date since working, their posting immediately before being posted in the respective units and the date since born on the cadre of M/o UD.  

9/9       None of the information sought for by me as stated in para 9(a) to 9(h) above was provided to me. It was replied by Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) & CPIO that the desired information is not readily available in consolidated form and preparation thereof is likely to divert the resources of public authority disproportionately under Section 7(9) of the RTI Act. However, copies of Office Orders pertaining to transfer/posting made in the last 2-3 years, as available with the undersigned, which contain 404 pages may be obtained on deposit of Rs.808/- as the cost of information. It implies that whenever Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) is required to (i) implement O.M. No. A-22012/3/2001-Admn.I, dated-24.8.2001 relating to rotation of officials working in sensitive posts, (ii) implement O.M.No. A-22020/1/2008-Admn.IV, dated-23.3.2009 relating to rotation of officials as stated in para 4 above, (iii) find out vacancies in any particular Section/Unit etc., (iv) make a proposal for posting/transfer, (v) find out the posting of a particular official etc. etc, then he goes through the orders issues in the past 2-3 years or sometimes even more because there may be official(s) working in the same Section/Unit for more than 2-3 years. If this is so, then concerned officials of M/o UD shall be ashamed of its record keeping. I apprehend, rather I strongly feel, that information has intentionally not been provided to me tactfully so that M/o UD is not further exposed for its pick and choose policy in the matter of posting/transfer. It may also be noted that Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) & CPIO has used the word “as available with the undersigned” i.e. even if one pay Rs.808/- and compiles the record he/she may not be able to get the desired information because of some missing orders, because of officials working for more than 2-3 years in a Section/Unit etc. I filed an appeal but it again went in vain. Shri V.K. Sharma, erstwhile JS(Admn.) and First Appellate Authority took side of Shri Jitender Kumar, US(ADmn.) & CPIO. [All the above RTI Applications quoted at 9(a) to 9(h) have been dealt with in M/o UD File No.A-22020/4/2011-Admn.IV].

10.        It is pertinent to mention here that Section 4(2) of the RTI Act stipulates that it shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information. But in M/o UD, leave aside suo-motu disclosure of information, the information is not provided even if the same is asked under RTI Act, as explained above. Different Ministries/Departments suo-motu provide a lot more information as compared to M/o UD. I understand that M/o UD in a number of cases either do not give wide publicity to NIT (Notice Inviting Tender) or do not display the same on internet a number of items. Even in cases where NIT is published, the final outcome i.e. the firm/agency etc. to whom the contract is finally awarded is not put on website of M/o UD. Not only the RTI Act, but the principle of natural justice also demands that the same shall be put on the website. All the bidders, who could not succeed, have a legitimate right to know as to whom the contract has been awarded, where they lagged behind. It may also be noted that C.P.W.D. (which is an attached office of M/o UD), put all the orders of posting/transfer of its employee on the internet. Not only this, basic particulars of each and every employee including their present posting is also available on the internet. This itself speaks that M/o UD itself do not want to be transparent in the matter of posting/transfer so that they may continue with the practice of pick and choose policy. It was only after I raised much hue and cry, M/o UD vide letter No.C-11016/1/2011-Admn.III, dated-29.8.2011 intimated me that necessary instructions are being issued to upload posting/transfer orders of officers/officials of the Ministry as well as letters awarding contracts to private firms on the website of the Ministry.

11.        I am of the view that it is the corruption which leads to increase in rate of taxation and levy of one after another new taxes. It is the corruption due to which benefits of several welfare measures of the Govt. do not reach the deserving people. Had there been no corruption, the rate of tax would have been much less, there might not have been a number of taxes.

12.        Since Shri Jitender Kumar, US(Admn.) and Shri V. K. Sharma,, erstwhile JS(Admn.) [until recently Director (Admn.)] have miserably failed in discharging their duties efficiently, the competent authority in M/o UD may consider shifting Shri Jitender Kumar, US from the post of US(Admn.) and Shri V.K. Sharma, in-situ JS from the post of Director (Admn.), if he is still  discharging duties attached with the post of Director (Admn.). As per information available on website of M/o UD, Director (Admn.) is the level at which file relating to purchases, award of AMC etc. is disposed. I understand that Shri V. K. Sharma, JS(Admn.) is still discharging duties attached with the post of Director (Admn.).

13.        I intend to send this mail to Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, some Hon’ble Minister(s), Hon’ble Members of Parliament, Chief Vigilance Officers, Officials of CAG, Volunteers of ‘India Against Corruption’, officials of M/o UD and to many more. Since it is not feasible to send mail to all of them in one go, I am sending the same in different lots.  All are requested to take appropriate action in the matter."; this letter was emailed by one RTI activist Mamta Kumari to-day. If you have had the patience to read it; now you are wise how Government departments work!

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