CAG punches holes in NDMA recruitments

CAG punches holes in NDMA recruitments

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has smelt a rat in recruitment conducted by the prime minister-headed National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for specialised jobs. 

The auditors have dug out “irregularities” in the appointment of consultants who were given extensions to stay on for years, which the CAG found was not in consonance with a Cabinet decision.

At least 10 consultants—hired initially on contracts of one year for different disciplines, ranging from capacity-building and mock exercises to psycho-social care and media—have come under the CAG’s scanner during its preliminary examination of the NDMA’s internal records. 

The contractors were hired by the previous NDMA dispensation, administered directly by former vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy, a Congress leader from Telangana, and continued to work till March.  

Among them, one was hired way back in 2005, four in 2009 and three last year. The NDMA explained that the consultants, some of whom were drawn from the defence forces, were given extensions on the recommendation of members in order to fulfil unfinished targets.

Reddy and other NDMA members had to quit after Narendra Modi took oath as prime minister in May. The NDA government, however, has so far not been able to fill the NDMA vacancies.

Flipping through the records, the auditors found that some consultants were taken on board in disciplines that were not authorised by the Cabinet, which had laid down the organisational structure of the NDMA. It has identified 23 such subjects for hiring advisors.

Shockingly, the preliminary probe also revealed that the NDMA hired a consultant in the finance division to oversee a project that was already outsourced to an agency. The auditors are not convinced with a clarification the NDMA gave, that it was done under general financial rules.

The CAG has also raised serious objection to the hiring of a consultant last year to handle “awareness and media”, who was promoted as senior consultant in January. 

In this case, the auditors have put a question mark over why the advisor was promoted without an advertisement being put out for the senior post and the eligibility conditions tailored to suit the advisor’s candidature.

Though the NDMA claimed that the advisor applied against an advertisement and that there were some “oversights” in the eligibility criteria, which were amended with the approval of vice-chairman Reddy, the auditors are not convinced due to lack of transparency in the procedure.

In another case, a junior consultant was engaged in the NCRMP on “nomination basis without following the prescribed procedure”. Yet another example picked up by the CAG is that of a senior advisor hired for crowd management at a religious gathering through a single-source selection, which violates the selection guidelines.

The NDMA said it created categories to offer jobs. Interestingly, the authority created the “resource person” segment since the candidate could not fit into the consultant category.

The auditors have also found no “scoring system” for engaging advisors, which allowed them to choose specialists as per their own wish.    

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