Minister seeks Cabinet approval to allegedly repay unqualified recruits
A Cabinet Note was submitted recently by Postal Services Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga to allegedly repay allowances to four officers who participated in a Post Offices Network Improvement Project, despite an audit query finding that three of them were unqualified to do so. Consequent to which, they were asked to return related payments earlier made to them.
The Minister submitted the Cabinet paper recently, saying, “it is reasonable to pay allowances to officers who have carried out project duties in addition to their routine duties,” even though Secretary to the Ministry of Postal Services Hemasiri Fernando had written to the Auditor General earlier this year, that, consequent to the findings of the audit query, he had asked the four officers who were paid the allowances, to return the money.
The audit inquiry carried out by the Auditor General’s Dept in December 2011, found that eight persons from the Postal Dept, who had been recruited to the project, did not possess the necessary basic qualifications as required by the Management Services Circular. Three of them, as well as the Chief Accountant of the Ministry of Postal Services, are among those asked to return the monies paid to them as allowances, totaling over Rs 1.4 million.
The person recruited as the Project Director, possessed a Bachelor’s Degree in Geography, whereas the qualification required for the post was a Bachelor’s Degree, along with a Postgraduate qualification in the relevant field, or corporate membership of a recognised professional institution.
Among others who did not have the necessary qualifications, was the person recruited as Project Secretary, who had only passed the G.C.E. Ordinary Level examination, without a credit pass in either Sinhala or Tamil language, while the required qualifications for this post was passes in at least six subjects including Credit passes in English and Sinhala or Tamil, a secretarial course from a recognised institution, with a minimum of two years’ experience, or a year’s experience as a Chartered Secretary.
The six other persons recruited as Project officers (junior manager) also fell short of the required qualifications and the necessary work experience, to work on the Project.
However, despite this, Minister Kumaratunga had submitted a note to Cabinet, stating that former Posts and Telecommunication Minister Rauff Hakeem had taken steps to set up a Special Postal Services Reform Unit, by recruiting 10 people for this in 2007. In accordance with that Cabinet decision, steps had been taken to pay an allowance of 25% of their salaries, in addition to their salary, to members of the Unit, with effect from December 2007.
However, from 1.1.2008, the project had been assigned to the Chief Accountant and two development Assistants of the Ministry of Postal Services, while a Deputy Post Master General had been appointed as Project Director with effect from 23.9.2009, to expeditiously implement the project in a more comprehensive manner.
Following the appointment of the new Project director, Cabinet approval was obtained for the total expenditure of the project, computed at Rs 684.8 million. Minister Kumaratunga has said that, since these four officers work part-time on the project, they should be paid the allowance, disregarding the Auditor General’s report that three of them do not possess the necessary qualifications.
Meanwhile, Post Master General (PMG) Rohana Abeyratna said that, under this project, pilot projects have been started at 10 post offices including the General Post Office, and have been successful. Asked to comment on the audit query about recruitment to the project, he said they had taken place before he took over as PMG, and hence, could not comment on it.
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