SKUAST Plagued By Favoritism, Irregular Appointments: CAG

   

SRINAGAR: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has reported a series of irregularities in recruitment, promotions and allowances in Jammu and Kashmir’s two prestigious agricultural varsities- SKUAST (Kashmir) and SKUAST (Jammu).

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The CAG has said that the human resource function of the universities was far from satisfactory and was plagued by irregular appointments, favoritism and inadmissible financial up-gradations.

In its report, which was tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday, the CAG has exposed wrongdoings by the SKUAST authorities in appointments, promotions and entitlements over the years, raising serious questions over silence on JK’s successive regimes over their affairs.

In the report, the auditor pointed out that both universities violated UGC norms for the direct appointment of teachers and filled these posts through lateral entry.

“Relaxing the minimum standards for appointments and promotions of teachers compromised the quality of teaching and research in the universities while the lateral entry to teaching positions from lower technical positions deprived the university of availing the benefits of recruiting meritorious teachers through open advertisements. Extension of undue benefits due to excess drawl of pay, allowances and entitlements led to financial strain on the state coffers,” the report states.

The CAG noticed cases of appointments without adoption of mandatory academic performance indicators, appointments without mandatory NET qualification, appointments by counting inadmissible periods in teaching experience and appointments through lateral entry by irregular up-gradation of technical posts.

The UGC regulations 2010 prescribed a Performance Based Appraisal System (PBAS) with specific Academic Performance Indicators (API) for the appointment and promotion of teachers.

“During the intervening period between January 2011 (due date of implementation of UGC regulations) and July 2017, SKUAST-J appointed 31 assistant professors, 14 associate professors and seven professors on the basis of a self-devised format with respective weight age of 30 percent, 40 percent and 50 percent given to interview up to 2014 and 30 percent thereafter against the prescribed weight age of only 20 percent. In a similar manner, SKUAST-K appointed 68 assistant professors, four associate professors and two professors on the basis, during the period between January 2011 to July 2017,” the report states.

The auditor has remarked that in absence of PBAS, the teaching, learning, professional development, research and academic contribution of the candidates remained un-assessed.

Pointing out to more illegalities in appointments, the CAG report states that out of the 31 assistant professors/junior scientists appointed between the year 2011 and 2017, seven did not possess the minimum eligibility of NET-something which is necessary for these posts as per University Grants Commission and Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR).

 

“In SKUAST-J, 31 assistant professors/ junior Scientists and 13 SMSs were appointed between the years 2011 and 2017. Out of the 31 assistant professors/ junior scientists, seven did not possess the minimum eligibility of NET. The selection committee had recommended these cases subject to obtaining certificates from the candidates that their PhD degree was as per UGC regulations, 2009. The requisite certificates, though called for, were neither produced to audit nor available on record. In eight out of 44 appointments, the representative from the state government was not present in the meeting of the selection committee. Thus, the oversight mechanism of government was not availed by SKUAST-J in respect of these appointments,” reads the report.

Audit further noticed that the Agriculture Universities had not specified any norm regarding the minimum number of applications required for holding an interview.

“Records show that in 29 cases, interviews were conducted when applications received were less than three and in eight cases interviews were conducted when there was only one candidate,” the report states.

The audit noticed that in respect of six associate professors (SKUAST-J: 04, SKUASTK: 02) appointed between January 2004 and November 2015, time spent on acquiring PhD, service rendered as guest lecturer, adhoc/ consolidated service and as visiting scientist was included in teaching experience of seven/ eight years required for appointment of associate professors.

The auditor has found that the appointment of teaching posts through lateral entry caused a financial burden of Rs 10.16 crore to state exchequer.

The report states that Agriculture Universities irregularly upgraded 10 senior technical assistants in SKUAST-J and 45 STAs in SKUAST-K, to entry level UGC pay scales of assistant professors.

“Even requirement of two years of service arbitrarily fixed by the Universities for up-gradation was not followed as one STA of SKUAST-K was prematurely designated (February 1998) as assistant professor after completing only four months of service as STA which led to further future up-gradations and resulted in excess payment of ₹ 0.30 crore. Further, one STA in SKUAST-K was placed in the next higher pay scale before successful completion of probation with the result he was prematurely designated as assistant professor leading to further placement in higher scales under CAS. This had resulted in excess payment of Rs 0.26 crore,” the report further states.

The CAG has observed that by upgrading non-teaching staff to teaching positions, the Agriculture Universities had restricted competition and denied opportunities to aspiring meritorious candidates to apply for teaching posts, and compromised quality of teaching in such cases as minimum standards prescribed for appointment of teachers had not been maintained.

“Against the requirement of five publications for professors, the Universities stipulated a requirement of only three publications. Submission of publications for assessment of eminent experts before interview was also not ensured by the Universities. The Universities had thus avoided the methodology prescribed in the UGC regulations for CAS, which defeated the purpose of PBAS,” the report states.

It further says the move rendered promotion of 122 associate professors (62 in SKUAST-J and 60 in SKUAST-K) to professors in the Universities irregular.

The audit noticed cases of premature placements in next higher grade pay without completion of prescribed residency periods. “Against the minimum residency period of five years required for placement in next higher Grade pay of ₹ 8,000, 17 assistant professors (SKUAST-J: 05; SKUAST-K: 12) were placed (between August 2010 and July 2017) in the higher grade and designated as associate professors prematurely after completing service ranging between two years and four years eight months only,” the report states.

Audit scrutiny of service records of 557 non-teaching employees out of a total of 1,794 revealed cases of recruitments through regularisation of adhoc/ contractual employees, appointments without qualifying mandatory tests, direct recruitments to posts required to be filled through promotion, lateral entry to sts prescribed to be filled through direct recruitment etc.

“Audit noticed that out of 557 cases checked in audit, 112 (SKUAST J: 31; SKUAST-K: 81) personnel were initially engaged (between March 1992 and November 2010) either on adhoc or contractual basis for a period of 89 days. Their period of their engagement was extended from time to time. These adhoc/ contractual employees were regularised (2015) without advertising the post,” the report states.

The auditor has also pointed towards the dearth of manpower, both teaching and non-teaching, in Agriculture Universities of J&K.

“In SKUAST-J, the shortfall ranged between 26 and 33 per cent under the teaching category and 19 and 26 per cent under the non-teaching category during the period. Similarly, shortage of manpower in SKUAST-K ranged between 22 and 33 percent under teaching category and 29 and 32 per cent under non-teaching category during 2016-21,” the report states. (KNO)

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