By Ghulam Mohammad Bhat
Re-organizing J&K Accounts Service has always remained a non priority issue not withstanding the fact that it is overdue and become a necessity. It, among other things, pertains to managing finances of the State Government, the volume of which has not only increased but also become a challenging job. Accounts personnel are meant to serve as interface between the government and the tax payer. More properly , the books are maintained, more better, will be the performance of the government
Time has witnessed that while other services have been reorganized tremendously even more than the requirement, the Accounts Service stands neglected. Our Assistant Accounts Officer used to be identical to the Assistant Engineers, Range Officers, Agriculture Extension Officers and Revenue Officers in yester years. But he has now been reduced to the status of an Office Superintendent, though AAO qualifies three different Accounts Exams held by Public Service Commission and his duties, functions and responsibilities are detailed out in all financial rules and regulations created through statutory orders.
In other states and central services , the AAO is of Gazetted status. Senior officers of the Accounts Organization have not contributed anything in finding ways and means for creating avenues for the expansion of the cadre. We have never been able to project our problems in an organized and professional manner. We have never been able to give an academic touch to our profession. Economic and financial reforms are unavoidable in the contemporary world, but senior members of the Accounts Service have never put any suggestion / counter suggestions to improve the working culture not only in the organization but related to the executive and administrative segments of governance.
The usefulness and credibility of the Accounts service is worth in its utility only. The members of the service are under stress. We are the financial advisors whose advices are blatantly over ruled. Instead we are being asked to account for the ill conceived administrative and executive activities. Our senior officers are treated like desk officers instead of professionals. We are tigers without teeth as our advice is not mandatory to be adhered to.
In order to overcome all the problems, the best way to re organize the Accounts Service will be, to create Pay and Accounts Office Institution at the tehsil, district, province and state level in every civil and engineering departments of the state. This system is at present under operation in the Flood Control and System operation wing of PDD. Besides this, the system is prevailing throughout hook and corner of the countryside and also in Central Govtt offices. The centralized system of Accounting and compilation at various Departments wise territorial levels will not only serve the purpose of desired culture of accountability but will also raise the stature and identity of the Accounts service. This will also serve the purpose of fool proof accounting system outside the jurisdiction of administrative and executive officers who misuse their drawing and disbursing powers and shift the blame to Accounts staff working under them. It will install and establish a system where accounts service will deliver more carefully as they will be more accountable. This will pave the way to utilize the tremendous scope of reorganizing the Accounts Service in real sense of the term and purpose.
By creating the institution of Centralized Pay and Accounts offices in every department at various places (from block to state level) and withdrawing the drawing powers from non accounts administrative / executive officers, the creation of hundreds of posts of Accounts Personnel for the delivery system needs to be considered as early as possible. If the Government t is really serious about cultivating a workable financial discipline as well as advance the career prospectus of the officers / officials borne upon the Accounts Service, the present treasury system and self compiling system ( Engineering Divisions) needs to be replaced by installation of the network of pay and Accounts Offices in each Deptt and at different levels consisting of respective territories. The financial implication of the reorganization as such, will be shared by each and every Deptt of the Govt as the new posts will be created in the respective Departments while as their cadre management will be under J and K Accounts Service to ensure handling of financial affairs independent of the control of the middle level administrative and executive officers.
The Pay and Accounts offices in all departments should be in addition to the accounts staff both gazetted as well as non-gazetted who are working with the state, provincial and block levels at present with various executive, and administrative authorities of the state government Even there is still a need and scope for further creating hundreds of accounts personnel posts in various departments for maintenance of account books, for rendering financial advice and serving as on-spot and resident auditor.
Institution of FA & CAO
The institution of FA & CAO which was created in 1988 by issuance of a Government order, has remained rather defunct in the civil secretariat because of insufficient staff available to FA & CAO’s and non compliance of the letter and spirit of the Governmentt order by the Administrative Secretaries. FA & CAO’s of civil secretariat have turned just into desk officers who only draw and disburse salaries and office expenses of Hon’ble Ministers and Administrative Secretaries. This job of DDO could have been assigned to Junior Accounts Officers. Actually the idea behind creation of the institution of FA & CAO was to facilitate the Administrative Secretaries to speed up the implementation of development agenda of the government by delegating some important powers to them with the concurrence of FA & CAO which were previously sought from the Finance Department. But whenever a genuine objection to qualify a certain opinion, is raised by the FA &C AO , it is not taken kindly by the Adm. Secretaries and qualifying his opinion and concurrence is translated as an act of indiscipline. The FA & CAO institution needs to be strengthened by providing at-least one Accounts Officer, two AAOs, two accountants and two accounts assistants in each of the Civil Secretariat Department. Performance of the FA & CAO at Administration Department needs to be monitored by the Finance Department regularly and monthly progress reports should be watched as a usual affair with encouragement by the Finance Department.
Audit and Inspections
The Audit and Accounts Wing of the Finance Department should be delegated punitive powers because report after report submitted by this wing is ignored and consigned to the dust bins. This wing has become just a paper pushing organisation. It should be vested with the powers to fine officials who misuse and abuse their position, make undue delay in pushing the development programs of the Government. The Audit Wing of the Finance Department should be empowered to raid the offices and seize documents. It has been experienced that its findings are ignored. In Government Departments, the maintenance of records is poor and unspeakable. There is little or no monitoring to prevent money being mis-spent. There are no penal provisions, judicial power to impose punitive orders. The Audit Wing should enlarge its role in new emerging areas. It should be given more powers to improve its efficiency and efficacy. It should have powers to deduct money from salaries of the corrupt officials. It should have a full fledged office in every District and proper and sufficient staff strength to deliver in a desired manner.
Audit of the CAG / AG is a post event happening. The Government delivery system is getting more and more complex. Simply educating and advising will not do and that also when acts of omission and commission become part of the history. So, the officers / officials can be controlled by keeping a system of checks and balances in place, always available itself during execution of work or performing a Government job. Here comes the importance of Audit and Inspection Wing of the Finance Department.
Cutting Red Tapeism
A driving license, an electrical connection, a birth / death certificate, a revenue record certificate, a simple FIR, a building permission and so on are not available easily because of suffocating “Red Tape”. This most basic process is fraught with delay which leaves citizens in despair- it is virtually impossible to get them. So, we need talent among professionals for infusing much more professionalism and integrity in the bureaucracy. Promotion of officials should be on the basis of performance, as the best person, not a senior inefficient for a specific job. Dullard and non performers should be forced to exit especially in sectors where the Government renders the services like, health, education and the public distribution system. The delivery system should be headed by professionals selected through talent hunt and given free hand to manage their affairs independently without interference by political authority.
Last but not the least, the extant talent and skills in the Accounts Service must be updated.A small/medium businessman to a corporater will not hire a person to maintain its accounts unless he or she is well versed in modern and contemporary Management of Systems of the Accounting. So, the Accounts Personnel, both gazetted or others , as a matter of choice should learn and update themselves with all skills like computer applications, digitalization of records ,e-Governance etc. They should remain connected with latest corporate and business laws. The Accounts Personnel should develop an emotional connection with their job requirements to develop a sense of belonging in the processes of a welfare state. They should develop creativity in their working and utilize their capacities.
—The author is a Retired Senior Scale Member of the Kashmir Accounts Service. He can be reached at: Yamberzal786@gmail.com