BHUBANESWAR: The Higher Education department has re-engaged a retired bureaucrat as legal consultant, consigning austerity norms of the State Government to the dustbin. Bivas Kanungo, who retired as Special Secretary from Finance department in June, is the third officer to get a post-retirement appointment after the July 7 announcement of austerity measures and fifth to be re-engaged during the lockdown.
“Bivas Kanungo, OAS (SAG), retired is hereby engaged as Legal Consultant in Higher Education department for a period not exceeding one year from the date of his joining,” said an August 6 office order of the department.
Sources said, efforts were made to retain service of Kanungo in the same post (Special Secretary) in Finance department post retirement. On his retirement on June 30, a file was moved to rehire him which got the approval of the Government. However, the department could not issue the appointment order after this paper exposed how the Government is bending the (austerity) rules to rehabilitate a few retired officers in lucrative positions.
Kanungo’s appointment as legal consultant is baffling when the department has two law officers and the Government has a full fledged Law department to advise on official legal matters. The Advocate General is the top legal officer of the State to guide the Government on legal issues. Kanungo had all along been dealing with service conditions regarding financial matters, sources who worked closely with him told this paper.
As per the 2014 circular of GA department, there are provisions for notice inviting applications for selection of candidate (post-retirement) justifying the need for such an engagement. Prior concurrence of the Finance department is mandatory. While fixing monthly remuneration of Kanungo at `60,000, the department said this has been concurred by the Finance department.
Ironically, the previous four appointments were made without taking Finance department concurrence. The departments concerned were given the freedom to decided the remuneration which is against the GA circular. “If the Finance department is bent upon violating the austerity measures, it should better withdraw the office memorandum issued on July 7 as part of the fiscal compression initiatives to overcome economic crisis due to Covid pandemic,” said former Finance Minister Panchanan Kanungo.