Punjab Ex-servicemen Corporation under scanner, CM orders probe into allegations of irregularities
The functioning of the Punjab Ex-servicemen Corporation (PESCO) has come under the scanner as chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has marked an inquiry after receiving complaints regarding financial irregularities.
PESCO was founded in 1978 to uplift ex-servicemen, war widows and their dependents in Punjab. PESCO has the distinction of being the first ex-servicemen corporation of India.
An official, on condition of anonymity, said, “Several complaints have reached the chief minister (CM) about financial irregularities in PESCO. Being an ex-serviceman himself, the CM is concerned and has marked an inquiry into the matter.”
Special principal secretary to the CM Gurkirat Kirpal Singh, who is also the secretary of defence services, confirmed the development and said the CM had tasked special secretary Moneesh Kumar with holding an inquiry. “Further course of action will be decided once the report is submitted,” he said.
As per the PESCO Act the retirement age of employees is 58 years. The act allows the board to allow an extension for a period not exceeding two years, in exceptional circumstances, to an employee who is competent and physically fit.
“However, there are several employees at the corporation whose age exceeds 60 years. In fact, some of the employees are nearing 70 years of age and are still working. The board has recruited them on a contractual basis, claiming that retirement rules were not applicable to contractual staff,” the official said.
“The services of employees of the corporation are governed by Punjab Ex-Servicemen Corporation (Service) Regulations, 1993. These regulations are applicable to full time officers or employees of the corporation appointed on regular basis, and officers or employees employed on contractual basis subject to the terms of the said contract. How can the PESCO frame its own rules and regulations or overstep the PSECO Act or Punjab government’s financial rules?” asked the officer.
“No clearance for providing salaries to contractual staff has been taken from the finance department or any local auditor of the Punjab government,” the official said.
PESCO (Service) Regulations, 2012, clearly specify that the financial controller of the corporation has to be a qualified chartered accountant. “It is shocking to see that an ex-army officer who doesn’t have the basic qualification of a chartered accountant has been serving as the financial controller of this multi-crore corporation created for the welfare of ex-servicemen,” the official said.
‘REPORT HAS ALMOST BEEN FINALISED’
Moneesh Kumar, who is probing the matter, refused to share the results of the probe as the inquiry had been personally marked by the CM. “I have almost finalised the report. I will submit it in a day or two,” he said.
Captain MPS Rattan (retd), who raised the issue, said “Punjab has highest number of ex-servicemen. Why are only a select few getting the chance to work after the age of 60? A financial audit is needed.”
PESCO chairperson major general (retd) Amritpal Singh said the appointment of contractual staff and those above the age of 60 fell within the ambit of rules. It is an issue regarding interpretation of laws.
“There is an inquiry marked and we are waiting for it as it will clear certain rules and regulations,” he said.