CVC report reveals Union ministries, departments shielding corrupt officers; railway ministry among top offenders

Yatish Yadav

New Delhi: While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is determined to fire the deadwoods from the system, the Central ministries and departments are protecting tainted officers. The startling revelation has been made by the anti-corruption watchdog, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) which has illustrated 44 cases where ministries acted against its recommendation last year.

In a veiled attack for such unwarranted protection of accused officers, the CVC said such action vitiates the vigilance process and weakens the impartiality of the vigilance administration.

Ministry of Railways tops the chart among the government departments which rejected the advice of the CVC in 2018. At least 19 cases of alleged corruption was flagged by the CVC, however, the Ministry did not pay heed to its recommendations. In one particular case, the Ministry of Railway did not take any action against a Senior DGM at the centre of an alleged corruption case that was related to tendering of parking space at railway stations.

The officer under the scanner gave 10 extensions to the existing contractor at lower rates causing loss to the government exchequer. The CVC had recommended major penalty against the officer but the ministry gave them a clean chit arguing that there was no malafide intention. In another case, an officer was charged for alleged corruption in awarding tender in September 2009. CVC said the rates were considerably higher than those awarded by an adjacent division only a few months earlier.

In March 2013, the CBI registered a regular case against three private firms and 11 railways officials and recommended action as deemed fit against the officer under the scanner. Although CVC had recommended a major penalty against the officer, the ministry gave him a clean-chit in May 2018.

The CVC was established in 1964 to fight corruption and to ensure integrity in public administration. Although it is empowered to conduct preliminary inquiry and also refer certain corruption cases to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the CVC largely remains an advisory body and government departments may reject the advice against officers reducing the whole anti-corruption battle into an eyewash.

Another corruption case in Department of Atomic Energy met the same fate. Several officers of Uranium Corporation of India Limited were charged for irregularities in finalising a tender for removal of waste and extraction of Uranium ore at an open cast mine. According to the CVC, total loss to the Uranium Corporation was close to Rs 46 crores; this was 'established beyond doubt' in the CVC investigation. The Commission was of the view that members of the tender committee and members of the board did not exercise due diligence and did not discharge their functions in the best interest of the company.

The Department of Atomic Energy, however, in disagreement with the Commission issued only administrative warning to three officers and no action was taken against another charged senior officers since he had resigned from the government-owned entity.

Similarly, State Bank of Hyderabad (now merged with State Bank of India) refused to either give sanction to prosecute or impose major penalty against one of its officials under the scanner for a case related to bank fraud to the tune of Rs 48.53 crore. Although, the bank had filed a complaint to the CBI in the fraud case, it declined to give sanction of prosecution and decided to issue a warning letter to the official.

There are some more shockers related to banking corruption in the CVC report. In a case related to state-owned Bank of India, the CBI had trapped a branch manager who had demanded and accepted kickbacks for sanctioning a loan. The CBI had registered a case on the basis of a written complaint and recording of conversation between the accused officers and the complainant. The agency subsequently recommended grant of sanction for prosecution against the accused manager. However, the competent authority at the bank declined it. The matter was subsequently escalated to Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) through Department of Financial Services. The DoPT agreed with the CVC and recommended prosecution of the officer. The bank, however, again stonewalled the move and denied sanction to prosecute the officer in open ended corruption case.

National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) ignored the charges of disproportionate assets against a senior officer, which was first reported to the CBI in 2011. The authority acted against the advice of CVC and recommendation of the CBI, which had recommended regular departmental action or major penalty proceedings. The NHAI decided to close the case after issuing a show cause notice in October 2017 for violation of CCS (Conduct) Rules. The case was closed by issuing a mere advisory caution note to the officer. The CVC said the administrative ministry of NHAI, Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways has delayed the departmental proceedings against the officer inordinately despite agreeing with the vigilance body's advice that the officer has violated the CCS (Conduct) Rules. The Commission further said that the action of the disciplinary authority (ministry) in this case is highly objectionable.

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