Nearly 2,500 files relating to disciplinary inquiries against Postal Department employees are gathering dust, primarily due to a shortage of investigative officers to probe these cases, the Sunday Times learns. Postal Department trade unions claim that the problem has been exacerbated because the department failed to hold the competitive examination to recruit investigation officers for [...]

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No investigative officers to probe disciplinary inquiries against Postal Dept. workers

Trade unions charge exams to recruit investigation officers not held for 4 years
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Nearly 2,500 files relating to disciplinary inquiries against Postal Department employees are gathering dust, primarily due to a shortage of investigative officers to probe these cases, the Sunday Times learns.

Postal Department trade unions claim that the problem has been exacerbated because the department failed to hold the competitive examination to recruit investigation officers for four years now.

According to a 2013 Service Minute approved by the Public Service Commission, a single competitive examination must be held to promote officers from within the department to three key designations. They are Assistant Superintendent of Posts (Investigations), Assistant Superintendent of Posts (Internal Audit) and Assistant Superintendent of Posts (Chief Post Master). The exam is yet to be held.

According to Champika Perera, General Secretary of the Postal Service Staff Officers’ Union (PSSOU), this has created a strain on the activities of the department. The approved cadre for Assistant Superintendent of Posts (Investigations) is 51 but there are only 27 officers at present. The approved cadre for Assistant Superintendent of Posts (Internal Audit) is 40, but the department currently has just 12 officers. Meanwhile, 53 officers should be serving as Assistant Superintendent of Posts (Chief Post Master) but there are only four. As such, 101 vacancies exist in these key officer posts.

Mr. Perera said these positions play an important role to minimise corruption within the Postal Department. “The investigation officers may be the ones directly probing the cases. But those in internal audit also contribute towards investigations. The post of Assistant Superintendent of Posts (Chief Post Master) is also vital as their role is to keep post offices functioning efficiently, while closing off avenues of corruption.”

According to the trade union leader, about 800 officers within the Postal Department were qualified to sit for the examination to fill these vacancies. “It’s a mystery as to why the department continues to delay holding the exam.”

The delay in concluding the disciplinary inquiries was also unfair to those who are the subject of the such inquiries, he pointed out. Some officials haven’t even been served charge sheets, while others, who have retired from service, continue to be denied their pensions on the grounds that there are ongoing disciplinary inquiries against them.

Additional Secretary (Development) at the Ministry of Posts, Postal Services and Acting Postmaster General S.H.A.N.D. Abeyrathne acknowledged that the shortage of investigation officers had significantly impacted on the progress of disciplinary inquiries. She however, said there were other issues.

“For example, in some cases, there are ongoing court cases and items deemed as evidence are in the possession of the courts. The inquiries cannot proceed without them. In other cases, we simply can’t find the people against whom the inquiries have been initiated. They may not even be in the country.”

Mrs. Abeyrathne further revealed that the delay in completing the disciplinary inquiries had recently been taken up by Parliament’s Committee on Public Accounts. The Ministry has appointed a three-member committee to categorise these cases and identify the reasons for the delay in completing them, she added. “The Public Accounts Committee has given us till September to finish this process and report back on the progress.”

In the meantime, she said the Postal Department was discussing with Department of Examinations and the Public Service Commission on holding the competitive examination to fill these key vacancies.

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