The Maharashtra government on Thursday informed Bombay High Court more than Rs 700 crore was disbursed to thousands of non-teaching staff of six universities in the state fraudulently.
Advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni informed the bench of justice SC Dharmadhikari and justice RI Chagla that under the guise of changing the nomenclature of certain posts, the pay scale of several non-teaching posts was increased and salaries were drawn accordingly after fraudulently obtaining approvals to the proposals.
“What we have discovered is a fraud on the state exchequer. This has happened in the case of six universities,” Kumbhakoni said.
According to an affidavit filed by the higher and technical education department, thousands of non-teaching staff members of Savitribai Phule Pune University, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, North Maharashtra University at Jalgaon, Sant Gadgebaba University, Amravati and Gondwana University at Gadchiroli have taken undue benefit under the fraud.
Kumbhakoni said after the state government decided to introduce a new staffing pattern in 2014, these universities sent their proposals for changing the nomenclature of several non-teaching posts to a certain desk officer in the higher and technical education department.
The desk officer obtained approvals from higher-ups to the proposals on the ground that there would be no additional financial burden and because of that, no approval of the finance department was obtained.
The universities not only changed the posts’ nomenclature but also increased the pay-scale for them. The non-teaching staff and their duties remained unchanged but they started getting higher pay scales, said the advocate general.
He added the matter did not stop at that and several employees drew additional amounts running into lakhs of rupees towards arrears, he added.
“The total excess amount paid is over Rs 700 crore,” he added.
He was responding to a bunch of petitions filed by bodies representing employees of Pune and Shivaji universities and some individuals, challenging the December 17, 2018, government resolution (GR) issued by the higher and technical education department under which a squad was appointed to probe the matter and recover the excess dues.
The GR was issued after the finance department, in October 2017, realised that there was something wrong in the way salaries to non-teaching staff at the six universities were being disbursed after employees of other varsities started demanding higher pay scale at par with them, and asked the higher and technical education department to investigate the matter.
The investigating squad submitted its interim report recently revealing how the fraud was perpetrated by giving a go by to the prevailing procedure – to seek approval of the finance department to every proposal involving financial implications – and how excess amounts have been drawn from the state exchequer.
The court has posted the petitions for further hearing on Friday when it is likely to appoint an independent authority to hear the beneficiary university employees and submit a report suggesting course for further action.
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