Terming appointment of New Delhi based firm -NetIIT - as consultant and six other firms as coordinators and facilitators (C&F) as against the prescribed guidelines of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the finance committee of the Punjab Technical University (PTU) has stopped the authorities concerned from further releasing payments to these firms from April 1 onwards.
A huge amount of nearly Rs. 30 crores had already been released to these firms in the current financial year. The NetIIT, however, topped the list by bagging over Rs. 17 crores just in the name of “consultancy” for improving distance education programme.
The high profile five members committee comprises of principal secretary (technical education and industrial training) AR Talwar, principal secretary (finance) Satish Chandra, PTU board of governors (BoG) member SK Salwan and PTU director of Finance SK Mishra. Vice chancellor Rajneesh Arora is its chairman.
The committee, during its recent meeting, has seriously deliberated upon appointment of these firms allegedly without adopting the prescribed norms. Since the appointments were made on pick and choose basis, the issue of releasing over Rs. 30 crores in a year to these firms had emerged as the main focal point of discussions. Later, it was decided not to pay these firms anymore after March 31.
Interestingly, the then board of governors (BoG) chairman and Punjab chief secretary Rakesh Singh had ordered the VC to terminate contract of the NetIIT nearly seven months back, but the orders were not complied with till date. Singh had submitted unconditional apology in the Punjab and Haryana high court for ratifying appointment of consultants during the contempt of the court proceedings.
The finance committee's decision, meanwhile, is being viewed as a major setback to the senior PTU functionaries, who had been favouring these firms till date for obvious reasons. Sources said that the officials concerned were now planning to change the minutes of meeting by adding that the “payments should not be made after March 31 or till the appointment of new firms after adopting the due procedure.”
HS Bains, registrar, said that the minutes of the meeting were being prepared and the same would be placed before the BoG during its next meeting on April 10 for approval. “We will act as per the decision of the BoG,” he quipped.
Meanwhile, the state government was seriously considering deputing a team of auditors in the university to monitor its finances. The section 23 of the PTU act mandated the accounts of the income and expenditure of the university shall be submitted once in every year to the state government for such examinations and audit as the state government may direct. The accounts, when audited, shall be published in the Punjab government gazette.
In response to the RTI query submitted by Hindustan Times, the PTU authorities replied that annual report on finances was not tabled in the Vidhan Sabha for the past six years of the SAD-BJP combine rule. Besides, the government too failed to get PTU's accounts audited despite series of reports of serious financial irregularities.
“I had received some complaints against the PTU officials. The same had been forwarded to the BoG chairman SK Munjal for necessary action. Affiliation with the Akali Dal or the BJP is not cover for anyone to evade legal action in this regard. The Vigilance Bureau findings in this connection will also be examined,” Punjab chief minister PS Badal had said.
Interestingly, the NetIIT is owned by Praveen Kumar, a batch mate of the vice chancellor (VC) Rajneesh Arora at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. Besides, the PTU authorities had appointed six firms, a majority of them owned by family members, relatives or friends of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leaders, as C&Fs to run distance education courses, on pick and choose basis. No tenders were floated before awarding these contracts. A majority of these firms, working as university's C&F, were formed just before being awarded these contracts.