Country’s transparency watchdog Central Information Commission has pointed out serious procedural lapses in the appointment of officers in important public undertakings like the NHAI.
The case related to RTI application, which was filed by one Vishnu Darbari, had sought to know information regarding vigilance clearance for one V K Sharma, 1994-batch IFoS, for his induction in NHAI in 2000 and absorption in NHAI five years later.
Darbari had claimed the disclosure of this information was in public interest and there have been reports regarding induction of officers in NHAI without requisite vigilance clearance, which is a requirement for any induction and absorption in the organisation.
The NHAI had claimed that the vigilance clearance was not provided as there is no such paper available in the records.
When the matter reached the CIC, it ordered an enquiry to be held by an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to trace out the missing files.
Following the orders, National Highway Authority of India submitted a No Objection (NOC) and approval of the Competent Authority towards permanent absorption of Sharma in NHAI.
When CIC further questioned, NHAI had stated they had taken the vigilance clearance “telephonically” from the Ministry.
The NHAI further produced a copy of vigilance clearance issued by Secretary, UP to the Ministry of Environment and Forest, and stated that this letter was also taken by them as a vigilance clearance.
Expressing concern over the state of affairs, Information Commissioner Yashovardhan Azad said the RTI query brings to light, a matter of public interest, that is serious procedural lapses in appointment of officers in important public undertakings like the NHAI.
“Records of the case reveal the subject of illegal appointments in which the High Court had advised rectification of the irregularities in appointments including that of the post of GM Environment, which is the subject matter of the instant case,” Azad said.
He ordered that a copy of the order be marked to Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and Chairman, NHAI to note that a fruitless exercise was carried out by NHAI in the first hearing and thereafter, stating that no information was available in the files rather than conceding at the first stage itself that no formal vigilance clearance was taken in the case.
“Honesty and forthrightness on the part of the respondents would have been in keeping with the spirit of the RTI Act and would have also saved lot of time and energy of all the parties in this case,” he said.