New Delhi, Abdul Bari Masoud, The Milli Gazette: It seems that the post of Secretary of the Maulana Azad Education Foundation (MAEF) has been turned into a war of attrition between outgoing Minister of Minority Affairs K Rahman Khan and senior IPS officer Mohammad Wazir Ansari who was abruptly removed from the office of Secretary on May 1 in the thick of elections when such an action is not allowed under the Election Commission’s model code of conduct.
Maulana Azad Foundation controversy: Minister places his version
Upright officer vs. scheming neta
In a meeting with The Milli Gazette, the minister strongly refuted the charge that Ansari was summarily “sacked” saying in-spite of committing serious “procedural lapses”, he has been “repatriated to his earlier post”. Sources close to Ansari said he was made “sacrificial lamb” for the alter ego of the minister whose wishes for grants to certain NGOs and largesse to some people were not honoured by Ansari known as an honest and upright officer who brought life to MAEF.
Giving a graphic account that led to removal of Ansari from the post of Secretary, Rahman Khan, who as MoMA is the ex officio President of MAEF, told MG that the decision was taken in the governing body of MAEF to relieve Ansari from office after he was found “guilty” of “serious financial irregularities”. “We have appointed a sub-committee to look into the allegations of financial indiscipline and the expenditure of Rs 64 lakh incurred by the Foundation for the repair and renovation of MAEF campus and it found him guilty”. Khan further said whatever the reply and documents submitted to the sub-committee and explanations personally given by the Secretary made it clear that he did not follow a single legally-required procedure while undertaking the repair and renovation work of the MAEF campus.
The Ministry has asked the public sector company National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) to evaluate the work carried out by the Secretary in March this year. The report of the NBCC, based on a theoretical assessment of the costs, submitted to the Ministry stated that “10-15% extra cost was incurred on the project”. For example, MAEF repaired the Rest House through a contractor spending Rs 4,09,580 while NBCC puts its theoretical assessed amount at a mere Rs 90,781. On roof, veranda and inside boundary wall, generator shed, etc, MAEF spent Rs. 6,05,116, while NBCC assessed the amount to be Rs. 3,26,729.
According to Minister Rahman, Ansari was also accused of self-withdrawing the money and keeping the cash with him. Sources told MG that this not correct. Monies were withdrawn, kept and disbursed by the MAEF accountant.
How can he self-withdraw the money and insists that this is his own way of carrying work, the minister asked. Casting doubts on Ansari’s competence, Rahman Khan said he did not live up to the expectations. The Foundation has 12 objectives but except distributing scholarships and grants for construction of hostel and school buildings, he failed to expand the activities of the Foundation, Khan added. When asked, you wanted to do a favour to certain NGOs and to an individual but the Secretary refused to oblige, Khan said it is an absurd and baseless allegation. “If the Secretary has any such file that I recommended someone for grant, then he should show it to the world. I will be happy for this,” said Khan adding that I asked Ansari to digitize all the records and computerise the whole process of all schemes with a view to bring transparency but he failed to do so. In reply to another question that the ministry wanted to give contract to NBCC for constructing a signature building for MAEF, he said it was a proposal as the Foundation building is situated at a prime location and the proposed building would fetch huge income to the Foundation.
Khan also mentioned that the Foundation has a corpus fund of Rs. 910 crore but it cannot be invested other than keeping it in public sector banks. “Because of this rider, we cannot put the money in private banks or other ventures and this is causing losses to the tune of Rs 1.5 crore per month to the Foundation.
Ansari, on the other hand, is determined to stick to his ground despite removal from the post. Sources close to him said that he sent a detailed missive to the minister pointing fallacies and inaccuracies in the charges levelled against him. Sources said Ansari has defended his case forcefully saying “the total amount withdrawn in case as mentioned in the minutes is Rs. 64 lakh which is factually incorrect, because the fact is that this includes the amount of Rs. 10 lakh spent on repairs through contractors by following due procedure. Withdrawal of Rs. 5 lakh each time as mentioned in the minutes is also factually incorrect as I have never withdrawn Rs. 5 at one time”. Ansari also pointed out in his letter that the name of the then Treasurer, MAEF who was qualified CA and supposed to be a financial expert [a nominee of the Minister], has not been mentioned as he is equally responsible as Joint Signatory for withdrawal of cash.
The letter sent to the Minister, a copy of which is in the possession of MG, refutes the charge of self-withdrawing of cash. It further says, “Initially, I had withdrawn advance of Rs. 1.5 lakh for fencing work and thereafter advance was withdrawn on need basis as and when required and submitted the bill for repairs and renovation work from time to time against those advances.”
Defending the work carried out by him, Ansari said in his letter the NBCC report did not indict any malpractices — “The whole report of NBCC is very much clear but it appears that no one has gone through this report minutely except the last para where they have mentioned about percentage of likely variation on theoretical assessment which means they had not conducted physical assessment of the work. They have mentioned that the building is very old and its repair is not like repairs in modern buildings. Hence paras 3 to 8 of the said report should be read carefully to understand the gist of the report”. Ansari further said in his letter, “It is worthy to note that NBCC is a leading civil construction company which has given “Theoretically Assessed Report” which is not realistic and practical and where other factors such as profit margin of contractors/builders etc have not been added to it, otherwise the cost would have been escalated manifolds”.
While Ansari admitted that he did not follow the due procedure in carrying out the repair work, he explained the same by saying, “The only thing which I am lacking is “following due procedure” and that too because of the special nature of the repair work and shortage of time. Just because of the fencing, repair & renovation works carried out by the undersigned, this portion was made habitable within the shortest possible time and kept the entire premises under the possession of MAEF. Otherwise both the Ministries [MoMA and Min. of Social Justice and Empowerment] were not having interest even to carry out partition work. The entire work has been done in full view and in the best interest of MAEF. It is only due to efforts of MAEF, this campus is now famous as Maulana Azad Campus”.
Sources pointed out that the governing body of MAEF at its 86th meeting held on 3 December, 2013 had approved the expenditure of Rs. 34 lakh and authorized the Secretary to carry out the remaining repair/renovation works at the earliest i.e., by the end of December, 2013 as directed by the Ministry.
New Developments: Arbitrariness and flip-flop of the outgoing Minister were demonstrated by his later actions. His first choice to replace Ansari as Secretary as an additional charge was DS Bist, managing director of National Minorities Financial Development Corporation on 3 May. Days later a MoMA officer, MA Imam, was appointed in this post on 15 May. Imam too was removed within two days and the charge was given to Ali Ahmad Khan, a deputy secretary in MoMA, who took charge late on 21 May. All this happened at a time when UPA had lost and PM Manmohan Singh had already resigned on 17 May as a result the outgoing Minister had no moral or even legal authority to take any such decision.
The whole sage is a story of a scheming neta making even with an upright officer who rejected his verbal orders to dole out largesse to CERTAIN NGOs and individuals. The officer’s only guilt is that he chose unconventional ways to meet the deadline of two months to repair a dilapidated building to take possession of the campus given to MAEF. That property, worth hundreds of cores, could have been lost had he failed to take possession within the stipulated time-frame, for which he deserves gratitude, not revenge by a Minister who as President of MAEF did not allow it to function, then blamed the Secretary who enjoyed no real powers to run the institution as he wished.