Should government officials under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) be rewarded with foreign junkets even before their names are cleared?
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has reportedly okayed the name of Rahul Bhandari, private secretary to former Railway Minister Pawan Bansal and son-in-law of Bansal’s sister, for a Mid-Career Foreign Training Programme in Canada starting from 1 July.
Bhandari has already been interrogated by the CBI which is probing the Rs 10 crore cash-for-railway postings bribery case, in which Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla has been taken into custody.
Bhandari, a 1997 batch Punjab cadre IAS officer, was questioned twice during the CBI probe. The agency has registered a preliminary inquiry (PE4(A)/2013) against him, and under the rules Bhandari needs to seek vigilance clearance before proceeding on an 'official' foreign trip.
However, the PMO is believed to have skipped the vigilance clearance and nominated Bhandari for the training programme to be held from 1 July to 23 August in Canada. The Ministry of Personnel has already sent in a request for the issue of an official diplomatic passport and visa for Bhandari.
The Ministry of External Affairs has also accorded 'political clearance’ for a foreign study tour by 216 IAS officers, including Bhandari, to Toronto and Ottawa in Canada from 21 July 2013 to 2 August 2013.
But the Ministry of Personnel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stretched Bhandari’s 'training' tour from 1 July to 23 August. Bhandari has held no post ever since his boss, and family relative, Pawan Bansal resigned from the Railway Ministry. He, however, has put in a request with the Ministry of Personnel, the nodal ministry for the IAS cadre, for a Director-level posting under the Central Staffing Scheme.
According to norms set by the Mussoorie-based Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), the Mid-Career Training Programme is mandatory in nature to build the `next level of competency’ for mid-level IAS officers.
“These officers would be holding various responsible positions in the field as well as at the state headquarters or in the government of India with increasing focus on policy formulation and implementation. Therefore, our endeavour would be to expose them to theoretical and practical inputs in public policy-related issues as well as afford them an opportunity to seek greater understanding and appreciation in the domains of their choice. A two-week exposure visit abroad will provide a global perspective as well as an exposure to international best practices,’’ a letter from LBSNAA addressed to all secretaries says.
But the concerned state or Union government has to give prior consent or clearance before the names of these IAS officers are finalised for training. And it is the established practice to get vigilance clearance before any government official is sent for private or official foreign study tour. In Bhandari’s case, the vigilance clearance has reportedly been waived.
According to sources in the Ministry of Personnel, the travel cost for Bhandari will be about Rs 3-4 lakh and the government will incur over Rs 1 lakh per IAS officer per day for training, their lodging and food. Besides, the officers will also get paid leave during the foreign study tour.
The Mid-Career Training Programme for IAS officers was started in January 2007 as a prerequisite for granting career benefits of acquiring a 'Junior Administrative Grade', 'Super Time Scale' and 'Increment after 28 years of service’ to officers. But this mandatory training 'rule' was relaxed in the case of certain batches of IAS officers in 2008.
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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2013 15:20:03 IST