Amid Guv-Govt tussle, 87 more PA ‘appointments’ on the sly for municipality chairmen in Kerala

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Amid a raging tussle between Kerala Governor and the state government over pension benefits to personal staff of ministers, the local administration department has squeezed through a directive that empowers municipal chairpersons to appoint a clerk or personal assistant.

The state government had in an order dated August 30, 2019, allowed the chairpersons to appoint a personal assistant, not below the rank of a Lower Division clerk, drawing from the municipalities’ own pool of staffers. That would not have created an extra burden on public money. There are roughly 70-100 employees on the payrolls of municipalities.

The Chamber of Municipal Chairmen, Kerala, had submitted a request to the state government to appoint a personal assistant from outside the employee pool of municipalities, via a letter dated November 10, 2021, with the scale of clerk/personal assistant on a contract or daily wage basis.

The authority for all appointments in municipalities vests with the municipal director and not the chairperson.

But, as per an order dated February 18, (Onmanorama is in possession of this document), allows the chairperson to appoint a staffer on daily wages or contract to boost the efficacy of the municipalities, thereby nullifying the August 30, 2019 order.

The pay is to be provided from municipalities' own fund.

The 'Own Fund' of the municipalities includes professional and building taxes, revenue from buildings owned by municipalities that have been leased out and the fee collected for various permits.

The other income source of municipalities is the grant-in-aid provided by the state government.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the state government has been engaged in a tussle over pension benefits to personal staff of ministers.

The order assumes significance as a new post has not been created, which would require the concurrence of the finance department and the approval of the council of ministers.

So a government order in “permissive sanction” format has been granted in this case, according to sources.

Even for daily wages, the creation of a post is mandatory and to circumvent that this route has been taken.

The Government Order 352/2022/LSGD has been signed by the Deputy Secretary, Local Self Government Department with a copy to Urban Affairs Director, Chairman, Chamber of Municipal Chairmen and Accountant General (Audit A&E), among others.

Cost to exchequer

As per rough estimates, if a daily wage of Rs 750 is granted, a municipality will incur an additional expense of Rs 15,000 monthly considering a maximum of 20 days of work.

Daily wage employees can’t be engaged on holidays and Sundays.

This would amount to Rs 1,80,000 a year.

Kerala has 87 municipalities. So the minimum cost to the exchequer could be pegged at Rs 1,56,60,000 annually.

Though the figure is not much, the circumventing of established procedures to facilitate nepotism is the moot point, even as controversy over political appointees garnering pension benefits is under scrutiny.

Since the six corporations in the state also fall under the Kerala Municipality Act, invoking this order, similar appointments can be made there.

The UDF rules nearly 45 of the 87 municipalities and the LDF 35.

The development comes even as Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and the political parties in the state are sparring over political appointments as personal assistants of ministers. These political appointees are also eligible for pension after just two years and the Governor seeks to end this unfair practice, which is a huge drain on the exchequer.

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