*Hired for employees, hotel rooms being rent out to people
JAMMU, Jan 13: Taking serious note of a complaint highlighting nexus between the hoteliers and the officials of the Estates Department and plunder of State’s resources, the State Accountability Commission (SAC) has issued notice to the Director asking him to file his response by or before February 15. This is for the second time that the functioning of Estates Department has come under severe criticism as it is already in the dock for failure to get the Government accommodation vacated from former Ministers and legislators.
Reliable sources told EXCELSIOR that in the recent past State Accountability Commission (SAC) received a formal complaint mentioning that several officers of the Estates Department were hell bent to loot the exchequer and obtain undue pecuniary benefits under the garb of hiring accommodation in the private hotels for the Darbar Move employees.
It is pertinent to mention here that every year Estates Department hires hundreds of rooms in various hotels for providing accommodation to the Darbar Move employees. Moreover, the department takes rooms in the Tourist Reception Centre on rent basis so as to adjust the employees during the period Civil Secretariat functions from Winter Capital of the State.
“The complainant has alleged that several rooms hired in the hotels are not given to the entitled persons and are intentionally kept vacant so as to facilitate the hoteliers to rent out the same to the people”, sources said, adding “it has also been brought to the notice of the Accountability Commission that the officials of the Estates Department are embezzling the money being reflected as expenditure on hiring hotel rooms for the employees”.
According to the sources, the complainant has also alleged that there is a deep rooted nexus between the officials of the Estates Department and certain hoteliers, which is costing dearly to the State’s exchequer, adding “even the hoteliers are given some portion of the rent of hired but unused rooms as a part of this conspiracy”.
The complainant has further alleged that some rooms of the Tourist Reception Centre and other Government accommodations taken on rent on opening of Darbar in Winter Capital are given to the non-entitled persons in blatant violation of norms. “Even some unknown persons can be seen residing in such rooms”, he further said while seeking in-depth probe so as to unmask the officials of the Estates Department indulging in open loot of the State exchequer.
This complaint was formally placed before the Full Commission comprising Justice B A Khan (Chairperson) and Justice J P Singh and Justice B A Kirmani (Members) and the Commission found it appropriate to seek response from the Director Estates Department on the complaint before proceeding further.
Accordingly, the Accountability Commission has issued notice to the Director Estates Department asking him to furnish comments on the complaint by or before next date of hearing, sources said, adding “the Director has also been asked to substantiate his reply with data and criteria being followed for taking the hotels on rents for providing accommodation to the Darbar Move employees”.
According to the sources in the Estates Department, the Director has initiated the process of filing reply to the notice issued by the State Accountability Commission, which will decide future course of action only after going through the response of the officer.
This is for the second time that the functioning of the Estates Department has come under severe criticism. The department is already in the dock for its failure to get the Government accommodation vacated from former Ministers and legislators.
Even the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its previous report had criticized the Estates Department for making avoidable extra expenditure. It had pointed out that non-adherence to the prescribed allotment norms or policy for accommodation in private hired hotels resulted in avoidable extra-expenditure to the tune of Rs 19.02 crore during the period between 2010-11 and 2014-15.