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Senior official got extension despite CVC’s objections?

By Rajeev Kumar, IANS,

New Delhi : As the anti-corruption movement heats up in the country, documents obtained through RTI reveal that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had objected to an extension for a top level public sector official but her term was renewed by the government for five years this year.

Anju Banerjee was appointed chairperson and managing director (CMD) of the Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL India) under the human resource development (HRD) for a five-year term in 2005. Subsequently, in November last year, her term was extended for three months and in February this year, the ministry again gave her an extension till Nov 28, 2015.

When contacted by IANS, Banerjee said the extension of her services were according to “procedure” and all other allegations were “baseless”.

However, documents obtained from the CVC through the Right To Information show that the anti-corruption watchdog had objected to the five-year extension, citing that several allegations against her had been found to be “prima facie” true. The RTI queries were filed by activist M.L. Gouhari.

Banerjee has been accused of causing harassment, irregularities in promotions and appointments and violation of the Whistleblower Act since 2005, according to CVC documents, copies of which are available with IANS.

According to the contents of a CVC letter revealed through RTI, she got the office of chief vigilance officer (CVO) in EdCil abolished after the official in that post found many of the complaints against her to be true during internal investigations.

“…when the Commission took up the case of protection of the whistleblower, Banerjee not only put pressure on the CVO but also got, eventually, the CVO’s post abolished,” said a letter written by CVC director P.M. Pillai to the ministry’s joint secretary Amit Khare dated Dec 2, 2010.

This confidential letter, sent after she was given the three-month extension in November 2010, noted that the ministry “is also aware that some of these allegations have been found, on investigation, to be prima facie true”.

The CVC had urged the ministry to put all the facts before a competent authority before extending her tenure for another five years, according to the RTI documents. Under the Whistleblower Act, the CVC is responsible for protecting the identity of citizens who provide information about the misuse of governmental authority and funds.

The CVC is also empowered to take action against those who reveal the identity of whistleblowers or those who threaten whistleblowers.

In this case, Rajesh Gouhari, assistant manager (finance) in EdCIL, had filed a complaint regarding harassment by the EdCIL management through “punitive transfers and threats to his personal safety and well-being.”

The CVC, after examining his allegations, directed Banerjee to post Rajesh Gouhari back to the headquarters of EdCIL at Noida.

“Keeping in view the veracity of Shri Gauhari’s complaints and facts of his reported victimisation, the Commission directs the CMD, EdCIL, to post Shri Gauhari back to the headquarters of EdCIL at Noida with immediate effect,” CVC director Rohit Tiwari wrote in an office memorandum dated Oct 10, 2009.

A case against her three-month extension, filed by EdCIL employees, is also pending in the Delhi High Court and the final hearing is set for May 26.

“She has harassed permanent staff by transferring them at her will. She also appointed her own people to top posts ignoring others,” Lalita Kumari, general secretary of the SC/ST Employees Welfare Association of EdCIL (India), alleged while speaking to IANS.

An RTI query made to the ministry’s department of higher education in December 2010 also revealed that Banerjee had not been “confirmed” as CMD after the expiry of her first year in office.

Her office, quoting Banerjee, wrote to IANS: “Thank you for contacting me for my comments. Extension of my services as CMD, EdCIL, has been done according to the laid down procedures of the government of India, other allegations are baseless.”

EdCil, the only public sector company in the educational field, offers consultancy services for education and human resource development in India and abroad.

(Rajeev Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])