When each penny matters for the cash-strapped Punjab government, the state information commission is paying a monthly rent of Rs 2.5 lakh for its office on private premises in Sector 17 here, despite the state’s own building ready for the commission since September last year and stuck in red tape.
Not having procured the occupation certificate (OC) from the Chandigarh administration’s estate office, the commission was even in a hurry to purchase and dump furniture at the new building last year, causing an additional loss.
The blame game over this two-pronged wastage, however, continues. Officials of the commission, the Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC) that constructed the building in the Red Cross complex in Sector 16 here, and the Punjab Red Cross Society, the project’s facilitator, have passed the buck to each other for the delay and the questionable purchase of furniture, learnt to be worth “at least Rs 10 lakh”.
The chief information commissioner, SS Channy, acknowledged the delay, saying that the estate office had been raising objections “one after another” for the OC. “Instead of noticing any shortfalls once and for all, they (estate office) kept doing several inspections, now asking to install a solar water heating system in the building,” Channy said. The two earlier objections that the estate office made at different instances included lack of shelter over the walking ramp and the absence of a compound wall.
Channy, however, said the shifting was “a matter of a few months” now as all the unfinished tasks pointed out by the estate office had been done. “We will be shifting by the new year,” he said.
On the purchase and dumping of furniture for the new building, Channy said he had joined recently and would not be able to clear the air on the purchase. “The commission was not aware of the technical hiccups that it later faced in the getting the nod to shift,” he added.
The commission’s manager (finance), Ravinder Arora, said purchases for the new premises were made last year on the presumption of shifting in 2-3 months. He could not explain the losses incurred that included the furniture’s one-year warranty period, in the absence of its maintenance.
A question remains that when the commission did not get the possession of the new building, how did its officials manage to store the furniture there?
PHSC’s engineering wing officials also blamed the UT estate office for the delay, saying that several inspections have been done with new objections being raised every time.
Back in the commission’s office in Sector 17, a member (or information commissioner, who did not want to be quoted) lamented that several requests for new racks or to get the broken iron racks repaired had fallen on deaf ears of the administrative wing of the commission. A member of the commission has even kept huge piles of files on the floor, rejecting his broken iron rack. “Forget about shifting, we do not have proper racks to keep files here, while furniture worth lakhs is dumped in the new building for a year now,” he said.
UT estate officials said the architect hired by the PHSC had been asked to fulfil all conditions nine months ago, and given three months. They, however, maintained that the plan approval committee of the estate office had agreed to issue a provisional OC to the commission on an undertaking that the unfinished mandatory tasks would soon be finished.