Perks, foreign trips of govt babus under oil ministry scanner
With growing controversies over perks given to senior minister and officials, as fresh news of extravagant junkets being enjoyed by this privileged group keep getting reported, the union oil ministry has sort to put an end to such over spending.
As a first step, the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, has sought to bring such expenses of companies under his ministry under control by examining their funding on fringe benefits such as perks, foreign travel, for senior officials of public sector undertakings.
According to reports, a letter sent in March by the ministry had asked all PSUs to submit a report on the perks and facilities provided to senior directors, highlighting the monetary implications these have on the company's balance sheet and red-flagging those which did not fall within official guidelines.
The move followed complaints made by the Central Vigilance Commission and the Cabinet Secretariat, which pointed to PSUs under his ministry handing out a number of such benefits, and include some perks that are said to be even above norms prescribed by the government.
The letter reportedly added, "It is also not clear whether these facilities/perks are being given with the approval of the board of the PSUs."
Also, in the month of April, the minister had recorded his concern over foreign travel by officials of the PSUs in the oil and gas sector. Following this, the ministry sent a separate communication to the PSUs seeking details of such foreign trips with clearly noted purpose and outcomes.
"Against the name of each officer, the number of times he has visited abroad and names of the countries should be mentioned. The purpose of each foreign visit and outcome of the visit shall also be mentioned against each name," the note dated April 17 is reported to have stated.
The minister, who took charge following the formation of the new BJP government in 2014, has only sought information coinciding with his taking over and subsequent administrative control of such companies.
Senior employees of such PSUs enjoy a number of fringe benefits, such as special dearness allowance, fuel and light charges, expenses on cleaning material and garden maintenance, and even wages for sweepers and domestic help.
And further benefits like, furniture, air-conditioners and office vehicles, with an option to buy them either at depreciated or market value, whichever is higher, after two years of personal use, are also provided to top executives.
The logic behind such perks have always been explained as a necessity to attract and retain the best talent in the industry, which has seen a massive exodus of employees in the past to the private sector.