India's fund-strapped treasury is bleeding crores of rupees to unauthorized, excessive pensions doled out by Indian Institute of Technology Madras to retired staff and faculty for over three years.
IIT Madras made the excessive payments despite repeated concerns raised by the ministries of finance, human resource development (HRD), the department of personnel and training and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), a series of documents, letters, emails and audit reports reveal.
But the documents don't cover the HRD ministry in glory either.
IIT Madras is continuing the exaggerated pensions because the Madras high court has ordered a stay on a directive from the human resource development (HRD) ministry to recover the excess payments.But the HRD ministry has not yet challenged the stay order, raising questions over its strategy at a time when it is struggling for funds to finance critical education programmes.
"We are just following the HC order," a senior IIT administrator told HT, requesting anonymity because he is not authorized by the institute to speak on the subject.
P Sriram, the dean of administration at the IIT, could not reached by phone.
The controversy stems from the 6th Pay Commission, which in 2009 raised pensions for all employees who retire after 2006. But IIT Madras also hiked pensions of those who retired before 2006.
In 2011, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) – India's chief auditor – concluded that 204 retired faculty members were benefiting from excessive pensions of up to Rs. 5.4 cr.
Stung by the CAG findings, the HRD ministry ordered IIT Madras to stop excessive payments and recover the extra money it had doled out as pensions, at a meeting with IIT Directors on May 5, 2011.
"The CAG audit has directed me to recover the "excess payment" made over the last couple of years," Professor MS Ananth, then the director of IIT Madras, wrote to retired faculty members on July 7, 2011.
"I am constrained to follow this direction and recalculate your pension payment accordingly as well as to recover excess payments over the next five years."
But while IIT Madras did stop excess payments in subsequent pension allowances, it set up no mechanism to recover the extra amount already paid to pensioners.
The pensioners approached the Madras high court in three separate batches, and obtained a stay on the order to stop extra pension payments while the court evaluates the case.
IIT Madras, under current direct Bhaskar Ramamurthy, started repaying the excess pensions as the court had directed.
But the HRD ministry never approached the court to try and get the stay vacated.