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Trips’ secret out: This IAS officer likes taking his office for a ride

Showing brazen disregard for service rules, a Punjab IAS officer went to Leh and stayed there for six days, to “attend” a training course that never happened.

chandigarh Updated: Mar 30, 2015 16:29 IST
Chitleen K Sethi
Chitleen K Sethi
Hindustan Times
Punjab,IAS officer,National Productivity Council

Showing brazen disregard for service rules, a Punjab IAS officer went to Leh and stayed there for six days, to “attend” a training course that never happened.

Organised by National Productivity Council (NPC), the course on “team performance for achieving excellence”, planned for July 7 to 11, 2014, was postponed, but the officer showed participation and claimed Rs 1.86 lakh from the government for his six-day trip.

The officer, Gurdev Singh Ghumman, joint commissioner in the department of rural development and panchayats, holds the additional charge of secretary of Punjab Technical Education Board, the chairman of which, RK Verma, had sent him to Leh. Ghumman’s secret was exposed when the board received a letter on March 20 from the NPC that since Ghumman had not attended the course and the fee of Rs 28,000 was unused, he could be re-nominated for the programme this year.

Sources in the board claim that the secretary was informed about the cancellation three days in advance, yet he opted to go. (Copies of claim voucher and the NPC’s letter are with HT). Ghumman has been in the board for more than 18 months, and the vigilance bureau is already looking into allegations that he has assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. Over the past two days, HT tried to contact Ghumman several times, over the telephone and SMS, and at his office, but there is no response from him.

Documents that HT had accessed from the board reveal a host of other financial irregularities in the secretary’s office. He gets payments of about Rs 9 lakh made each year to a Chandigarh-based travel agency for his regular “official” trips to New Delhi, many of which the chairman didn’t approve. The reimbursement papers filed by the agency give no proof that the secretary travelled to New Delhi actually.

The agency books a five-star hotel in New Delhi and, on the basis of the booking confirmation sent on email, raises bills worth lakhs of rupees, none of which mentions details of the stay as attached with the claim documents. Punjab IAS officers are bound by rules to first seek accommodation at Punjab Bhawan in Delhi.

Sources add that for a recent “official” trip to Goa, the secretary stayed with his family in a five-star-hotel suite where the rent was Rs 72,000 a night, and the bill was for more than Rs 4.5 lakh. “Since the office couldn’t pay so much, keeping in view the secretary’s entitlement, the travel agency was asked to adjust the rest of the amount in fake Delhi trips,” said a source who recorded a conversation with the agency’s representative to this effect.

Members of the board’s employee union protested against Ghumman a few weeks ago when two of them working as personal cooks in his SAS Nagar house reported that he had abused them. They even refused to work in his house. An employee union member said on the condition of anonymity that three guards and a gardener at Ghumman’s house were also board employees.

The workers took documentary evidence and conversation records to board chairman RK Verma last week. No action came against Ghumman but the secretary has issued four frivolous showcause notices since to one of these whistleblowers. “I was not given any complaint against Ghumman. Someone had come to meet me only about a showcause notice,” said Verma.

What Documents in possession of Hindustan times further reveal:

Rs 3.4 lakh spent on the purchase of a Nikon camera by the Punjab State Technical Education Board IT department, which it has “issued” to the secretary.

86 daily wagers appointed against only 22 vacancies available with the board. Earlier these posts were filled through the Punjab Ex-servicemen Corporation (PESCO) but now these appointments have been made arbitrarily.

Rs 6.5 lakh wasteful expenditure per month on salaries of extra employees hired without sanction of the chairman

7 people “shown” on the rolls of the board, given Rs 60,000 per month as salary through “bearer cheques”, which are encashed and the money distributed for “miscellaneous” purposes.

Rs 2 lakh spent on buying stationery from a retail shop at Sector 17 in Chandigarh in seven months without either calling for quotations or going through shortlisted firms.

Rs 1.5 lakh spent only on purchase of crockery in two months. Dinner sets, cup and saucers, jugs, flower arrangements, glasses worth about Rs 45,000 were bought three times over in October and November, 2014.

37 recorded conversations between employees and the whistleblower lay bare the various “methods” of bungling.

First Published: Mar 29, 2015 23:46 IST