In what may snowball into a controversy, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India overlooked Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka after agreeing to let him attend the ‘exit conference’ to present his case in the special audit of his tenure in the Haryana State Warehousing Corporation (HSWC).
The CAG audit team held the exit conference - a crucial meet to discuss the findings and clarify doubts before finalising the audit report - with officials of the state agriculture department on December 19 on the audit of purchase of galvalume roofing sheets for food storage godowns, but Khemka was not invited or informed about the meeting.
The 1991-batch IAS officer was ignored even though the office of the CAG had accepted his request to give him an opportunity of “being heard” before finalising the audit report.
“We have been advised by the office of CAG to request the state government to afford an opportunity to Ashok Khemka for attending the exit conference relating to the audit of the HSWC before its finalisation,” principal accountant general (audit) wrote in a letter to the state government on July 11, 2014. However, the agriculture department was not in favour of his participation or “allowing his request for examination of files” at that stage.
‘HOLD EXIT MEET AGAIN’
The IAS officer, who is currently the state transport commissioner, has now requested the federal auditor to hold the exit conference again.
Hindustan Times, in a story titled ‘Khemka audit delayed CAG report on Haryana PSUs by 10 months’, had on January 29 reported about the delay in the audit report and the exit conference held between officers of the two departments on the special performance audit of the state warehousing corporation.
Referring to the HT story, Khemka has written to principal accountant general (PAG-audit), Haryana, Mahua Pal, on February 2 to “re-schedule the exit conference, if already held, as per the advice of the CAG of India in the matter.”
Efforts were made to contact Mahua Pal, but she was not available. The CAG had agreed to allow the IAS officer to attend the exit meet after he made repeated written requests. In one of his letters, he had accused the then state government of having an ulterior motive in obtaining an audit report so as to take punitive measures against him as revenge.
AUDIT ON GOVT’S REQUEST
The federal auditor had started the special audit after the then Hooda government, rattled by the IAS officer’s decision to cancel the mutation of a land deal between DLF and businessman Robert Vadra, in November 2013 made the request for the special audit on the complaint of a Panchkula resident.
The complainant had alleged irregularities in the purchase of galvalume sheets worth Rs 8 crore by the HSWC from a Gujarat firm for roofing food storage godowns in 2009, accusing Khemka, who was its managing director from July 2008 to April 2010, of not obtaining the required approvals before getting the work executed.
However, the IAS officer, in a letter to PAG (audit) in January 2014, rubbished the charges, alleging attempts to malign his image for daring to expose wrongdoings. On the purchase of galvalume sheets, he wrote that they were meant to replace the conventional asbestos cement roofing sheets, which were not only expensive, but also declared deleterious to health by the World Health Organisation.
The replacement of asbestos cement sheets with the galvalume sheets in foodgrain storage godowns had the approval of the then chief minister, according to the letter in which details related to approval of board of directors and enhancements for 11 new godowns were also given.
Besides, three years after these sheets were introduced in Haryana, the Food Corporation of India had also in May 2013 made their use mandatory in new constructed and hired godowns for grain storage. email@example.com
November 2013: Govt seeks special audit of purchase of galvalume sheets
January 2014: Khemka alleges attempts to malign his reputation for daring to expose scams
April 2014: CAG team begins ‘performance’ audit of replacement of asbestos cement with galvalume sheets
June 2014: Khemka again seeks a fair hearing before the audit report is finalised
July 2014: CAG agrees to let the officer attend the exit conference
December 2014: Exit conference held before finalising the report, but Khemka not invited
February 2015: He writes to PAG (audit) to hold exit meet again