Thousands of non-gazetted employees (NGEs) in Bihar may not get their January salary on time as treasury operation glitches arising out of a festering dispute between the State Government and software support provider, the National Informatics Centre (NIC), remained unresolved on Tuesday.
According to authoritative sources, about 20,000 NGEs will be hit by software problems plaguing the Patna main treasury since January 16. "As per the code, their salaries have to be credited to their accounts by January 31. For this, processing ought to have started from January 25. But till date, the process has not started due to software problems," said an official.
Treasury operations and Value Added Tax (VAT) collections have been at a standstill after the NIC effectively stopped providing maintenance and upgradation support to its treasury and VAT softwares. This was in protest against the State Government’s decision to engage a private company for these two and some other e-governance projects.
Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who also holds the Finance and Commercial Taxes portfolios, held a meeting with officials under his charge to find ways of tiding over the crisis.
When HT reached him for his comment, he said, "There are some small glitches but we are trying to get them rectified through the Bihar State Electronics Development Corporation (BSEDC)."
Modi accused the Union IT Ministry-controlled NIC of ‘blackmailing’ his regime by refusing to provide the necessary maintenance support to its software deployed in the State’s treasuries.
The NIC-Bihar Government stand off has found an echo in New Delhi as well. Union Minister of State for IT Shakeel Ahmed has summoned the Director General of the NIC to apprise him of full facts of the dispute.
"The fact that the Bihar government has decided to pass on the software maintenance contract to a private firm cannot be a justification for the NIC’s non-cooperative attitude. We will never succumb to such blackmail. Rather, the government will take up the matter with the Centre," Modi said.
However, the situation was far more serious than Modi cared to admit. Additional Finance Commissioner (AFC) AV Chaturvedi directed NIC officials to resume unconditional support to the treasury software till alternative arrangements were made. But the NIC held its ground that any software upgradation would have to cover all treasuries.
"The AFC insists that the Patna main treasury has been suffering from software error which needs to be rectified. This is not correct as the software has functioned without any hitch since April 2006. None has complained of any error before," said NIC’s Saurabh Gupta.
Reached in Delhi, Gupta held his ground that the software required modification for which there had to be a formal request. "The government will also have to specify for how long it plans to continue using NIC software. We do not function under the Bihar Government. Our support can be forthcoming only on mutually agreeable terms," he declared.