Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday ordered a vigilance inquiry against IAS officer Gurdev Singh Ghumman following a report carried in Hindustan Times stating that the officer visited Leh and stayed there for six days to attend a training course that never happened.
Ghumman has also been divested of the charge of secretary, Punjab State Technical Education Board. He will, however, continue to hold the post of special secretary in the department of rural development and panchayats.
A fact-finding report submitted by the principal secretary, technical education, MP Singh to the chief secretary has found glaring irregularities in Ghumman’s functioning as the secretary of the board.
Chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal had asked for a factfinding report after Hindustan Times highlighted Ghumman’s brazen disregard for rules in going to Leh and staying there for six days to attend a training course which never took place.
Organised by the National Productivity Council (NPC), the course on “team performance for achieving excellence” planned from July 7 to July 11, 2014, was postponed, but the officer “showed” he had diligently participated in it claiming Rs 1.86 lakh from the government for the trip.
The principal secretary’s report of April 3 states: “I find that serious irregularities have been committed by the officer (Ghumman), particularly with regard to attending and claiming payment on account of training programme which was never held, staying in an accommodation even when the full fee covering the accommodation was paid by the board, putting up in five-star hotels in Delhi without justification and approval and payment of salary to some daily-wage employees in cash. This type of conduct from an IAS officer is not expected.
I also feel that some of these things have happened because of lack of supervision at the highest level. There is a need for a thorough inquiry to find out about the other aspects of the board’s functioning and therefore, I strongly recommend that a suitable action in this matter, including vigilance inquiry, may be considered.”
The report further states that the fee for the course was Rs 28,315 and was deposited by the board under the “nonresidential category” (that the officer will not need any staying arrangement). The fee for the course along with accommodation was only Rs 44,000.
But Ghumman was granted specific sanction (by chairman of the board RK Verma) under the non-residential category and since he stayed in a hotel there, he charged the board Rs 1.39 lakh.
“This was not desirable as the cost of the stay incurred was eight times of what was to be charged by the NPC for accommodation. However, the most important fact is that the course was never held which the officer claimed to have attended and also got the bills paid by the office,” states the report. “The fact that the officer (Ghumman) never attended the Leh programme came to the notice of the office when a letter from the NPC was received on March 20, 2015.
However, no further action was taken by anyone in the office. The officer himself knew all along since July 2014 about the non-existent course and deliberately kept silent and also got the bills paid to the travel agency. This conduct of an officer is not acceptable and needs to be dealt with strongly,” adds the report.
An unsavoury split in Aam Aadmi Party has triggered convulsions among its rank and file in Punjab — the only state where the rookie party picked up all its four Lok Sabha seats last year. While three MPs – Sadhu Singh, Bhagwant Mann and Harinder Singh Khalsa — have thrown their lot behind AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal, their Patiala colleague Dharamvira Gandhi has chosen to be a lone and loud dissenter, siding with expelled leaders Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan. All’s not well even in the pro-Kejriwal camp, beset as it is with clashing egos and ambitions. State AAP convener Sucha Singh Chhotepur continues to be at loggerheads with Mann who, with his barely-concealed chief ministerial dream for 2017 assembly polls, is uncomfortable with Chhotepur’s moves to strengthen his grip by drafting leaders from other parties into the AAP fold. Hindustan Times on Monday spoke to key AAP faces of the state to bring out their stand on five issues confronting them and the party.