In what can be termed as an exceptional means of (mis)utilising the allowances for uniforms, a large number of BSNL employees have used the 'khaki' cloth meant for their uniforms to design pillow covers at their homes.
An amount to the tune of more than RS 15 lakh was spent on buying cloth, stitching and washing allowance for the uniforms in 2008 and 2011 which was allegedly misappropriated in absence of check of the BSNL authorities. As a result, only 10% of the Class 3 and 4 employees working in Ludhiana secondary service areas (SSA) are wearing uniforms.
Requesting anonymity, a senior official in BSNL said that the cloth purchased for the uniforms was handed over to the employees but a large number instead of getting the uniforms stitched used it for making pillow covers.
Rohit Sabharwal, the president of Council of RTI Activists had sought information under the RTI from BSNL pertaining to washing allowance being given to the class 3 and 4 employees. BSNL in its reply stated that from 1/4/2008 to 30/9/2012 an amount of Rs 10 lakh was paid as washing allowance.
Thereafter, Sabharwal gave a complaint to the director general of audit (postal and telecommunications, Delhi) on February 2, 2013 regarding misappropriation of funds for uniforms by the class 3 and 4 employees of Ludhiana.
An inquiry was marked by the audit department and it was found that in 2011, uniforms worth to Rs 5.42 lakh were given to Ludhiana SSA of BSNL. The uniform allowances are given to the employees every three years.
The complainant further alleged that despite getting stitching and washing allowances, the staff was not wearing the uniforms.
On the other hand, the office of general manager BSNL in a reply sent to the audit department stated that wearing of uniforms is not a condition of service and daily uniform attendance or any monitoring of uniform or monthly statement of uniform does not exist in the rules.
However, the question that where did the department utilise the allowances taken under stitching and washing of uniforms remains unanswered.
Interestingly, the audit department while giving a counter-reply to the letter from the office of GM, BSNL, referred to the para 11 of the instructions contained in handbook on uniforms that reads “eligible government employees who are provided with uniforms are required to turn out in proper and clean uniforms and failure to do so should be treated as a breach of discipline for which disciplinary action can be taken against the concerned staff.”
Further questioning the role of BSNL officials, the audit department referred to their previous replies wherein office of the GM, BSNL, Ludhiana, had agreed to have given 671 and 620 uniforms to class 3 and 4 employees in 2008 and 2011 respectively.
BSNL GM, Ludhiana, CS Bhanot said that class 3 and 4 employees were wearing uniforms, adding, “ The concerned SDOs are regularly monitoring the same. But it is not possible to wear the uniform throughout the week as its needs washing. Thus, the employees must be missing out on uniforms on the days of washing them.”