A typical sarkari lacunae and administrative indifference caused an inordinate delay in the releasing of June salary to nine information commissioners and other members of the staff at the Punjab Information Commission, transparency watchdog created to implement the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
The 55-odd contractual employees and information commissioners, however, heaved a sigh of relief on Thursday when they received the pay seven days before the July salary was due. The episode has brought to the fore the alleged nonchalant style of functioning of Dr Arvinder Singh, secretary to the commission and responsible for taking up issues with the state government.
The gross salary of the information commissioners is about Rs 1.5 lakh a month, while their support staff and employees of other wings are appointed on contract. Each commissioner is provided with a chauffeur-driven car, peon, reader, and a personal assistant. One post of the commissioner is vacant. The nine commissioners include four IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers and two journalists.
Commission secretary Dr Arvinder Singh shrugged off his responsibility, saying: “Please ask C Roul (principal secretary).” Pressed further, he said: “Even I have not received my salary. It is not my job to prepare the salary bills of the commission employees.” Reacting to the question, principal secretary (governance reforms) C Roul said: “You are the first person who has brought this (delay in salary) to my notice. The secretary to the information commission should have alerted me at least over telephone.”
Upset that the secretary did not take up the serious issue with him, Roul said after a flurry of queries: “This happened because the superintendent who had the powers of the drawing and disbursing officer was promoted. The salary bills were sent to the treasury on July 22 after the new superintendent took charge. But this delay could have been avoided had Dr Singh sounded me. It is strange.”
Well-placed sources in the commission alleged that the inept style of functioning of the secretary was at the core of a slew of administrative problems the employees as well as the information commissioners faced, a charge that the secretary denied, saying: “Those responsible for preparing the salary bills don’t do it well in time.”
Sources say ever since chief information commissioner RI Singh, former Punjab chief secretary, demitted office last month, the secretary does not take up the routine administrative issues of the commission with the government on priority. RI Singh’s salary, too, was released on Thursday. “The exCIC used to flag such routine issues and resolve them quickly. In his absence, the secretary was responsible to raise these matters with the government, a section of the information commissioners said.