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HindustanTimes Sun,23 Nov 2014

SGPC decided to buy 20 buses for schools, colleges, but auditor disapproved

Sukhdeep Kaur, Hindustan Times  Chandigarh, July 19, 2014
First Published: 07:53 IST(19/7/2014) | Last Updated: 08:13 IST(19/7/2014)

It is a war over donations amounting to crores of rupees flowing into gurdwaras from devotees in India and abroad. Both the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and its auditor have locked horns over “wasteful expenditure” from guru ka golak (donations).

With many of its decisions hitting the audit wall, the SGPC executive committee this week had revoked the services of Chandigarh-based audit firm, SS Kohli and Associates, for “misuse of power” and “unnecessary interference” in administrative work. SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar had also cited the auditor’s hefty fee — nearly Rs. 1 crore annually — as one of the reasons.

However, within 24 hours, the auditor was reinstated, apparently at the behest of SAD president and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal.

While it was the auditor’s Rs. 7.6 lakh monthly fee that the SGPC saw as misuse of funds, the provocation for the July 16 decision of the executive committee to terminate Kohli’s services was his dissenting note on its decision to buy 20 buses for schools and colleges being run by it.

Claiming that this would entail a recurring expenditure of Rs. 5 crore over purchase, hiring drivers, conductors and maintenance of the buses, Kohli had suggested that the buses be hired on contract.

The auditor was also pushing reforms such as e-tendering and computerising accounts of all 82 gurdwaras and nearly 100 schools, colleges and other institutions under the SGPC management.

Terming his appointment as political, an SGPC official claimed Kohli was also “not passing expense bills and overturning” decisions of SGPC president Makkar and the executive committee. “Why should donations by devotees be misused to pay a firm a hefty fee when the same audit work can be done by internal auditors of the SGPC,” he said.

Kohli, however, denies the allegations of “overruling” executive committee decisions. “I have no power to overrule any decision of the committee. I have never been to any of their meetings. My firm was hired for pre-auditing expenses and I give my suggestions. As for my appointment, it is not political and our firm’s quotation was the lowest when the SGPC invited bids for hiring an audit firm through an advertisement. The appointment was made by the executive committee. I work with a team of 30-35 chartered accountants and the fee I charge is for my team’s work. We are here to pre-audit expenses and have ensured savings,” he said.

Though aides of Makkar claim he is upset at being asked to reinstate Kohli by Sukhbir, who as SAD president has been clipping the SGPC’s wings, Makkar tried to steer clear of the controversy. “The executive committee had felt that the auditor was misusing his power so it was decided that his services be terminated. But he has been reinstated. As for the buses, we had decided that 20 buses could be bought and given to schools and colleges where they were needed. As president, I myself ensure that there is no wasteful expenditure or bungling of funds,” he said.

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