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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

SGPC auditor’s reinstatement raises eyebrows

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times  Amritsar, July 18, 2014
First Published: 22:39 IST(18/7/2014) | Last Updated: 08:13 IST(19/7/2014)

The reinstatement of the high-profile Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) internal auditor SS Kohli has raised eyebrows, with many Panthic leaders claiming that rules were flouted to reinstate Kohli, who is close to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

“The SGPC president cannot overturn the decision of his executive, only the general house can,” former SGPC secretary Manjit Singh Calcutta said here on Friday.

Kohli was sacked by the executive at its meeting held in Chandigarh on July 11 on charges of “misuse of power” after many members criticised his style of functioning, particularly his rude behavior towards SGPC employees. They also pointed to his hefty pay package of around Rs. 1 crore a year saying this precious amount could be saved.

On the basis of the executive’s decision, Kohli’s services were terminated by the SGPC on July 16. However, the very next day, the internal auditor was reinstated on the orders of president Avtar Singh Makkar.

Makkar’s decision created a furore in the SGPC circles here, with many, including most executive members, questioning the powers of the president.

Commenting on the issue, Calcutta told HT, “How can the SGPC president overturn the decision of a meeting (executive) that he himself presided over? Such a thing never happened during the 15-16 years I spent in the gurdwara body as its secretary. All this shows that Sukhbir Badal is running the SGPC.”

Kohli’s entry into SGPC

Kohli, a chartered accountant hailing from Ambala, was an unknown entity till his entry into the SGPC in January 2009. The only political figure he knew till then was the SGPC senior vice-president Raghujit Singh Virk, a co-opted member from Karnal.

Virk introduced him to Sukhbir Badal. At the behest of Virk, Kohli began managing the accounts of the bus companies of the Badals, which further drew him closer to the deputy CM.

At the time of his appointment as internal auditor, Kohli drew a salary of Rs. 3.5 lakh per month. No other employee of the SGPC, including its then seniormost secretary, could boast of such a salary. In fact, the seniormost employee of the SGPC even now does not get a monthly salary of more than Rs. 60,000.

Appointment challenged

Kohli’s appointment was challenged in the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission by Baldev Singh Sirsa, currently a member of the Akali Dal (Panj Pradhani). The commission sacked him in October 2009 from the SGPC post.

“My contention was that Kohli’s appointment was illegal as according to the SGPC rules, if an appointment has to be made to a post having a salary of above Rs. 7,000, the post must be advertised, which was not done. Moreover, I questioned the hefty pay package and also pointed out in my petition that the SGPC already had three internal auditors and a government auditor, so there was no need for another,” Sirsa said.

However, the SGPC re-appointed him to the same post after duly issuing an advertisment in the newspapers. This time, his salary was increased to Rs. 5.5 lakh a month. Currently, he is drawing a monthly package of Rs. 7.66 lakh.

Initially, he looked after the auditing of accounts of only the SGPC. However, as his influence with the deputy CM grew, he was also asked to handle the accounts of the Sri Guru Ramdass Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, the Guru Granth Sahib World University and various other higher educational institutes run by the SGPC. He even succeeded in employing around six persons in different institutes and it was said that they only obeyed his orders.

SGPC sources have claimed that Kohli is consulted on all major construction projects of the SGPC. This includes the construction of the ultra-modern, environment-friendly kitchen of the ‘langar’ (community kitchen) of the Golden Temple. This work has been sourced to a private company and is not being built through ‘kar sewa’, as it requires a great degree of expertise.

“Kar sewa is being replaced by corporate sewa in the SGPC,” an SGPC official said while referring to the langar project.

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Defying dress code

It is said that Kohli does not follow the SGPC dress code. According to the code, an employee can wear turbans of only three colours -- blue, black and saffron. No other colour of the turban is permitted during duty hours.
However, the auditor is often seen wearing other coloured turbans that match his trousers and shirt.

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