AHMEDABAD: Often, tainted government servants, who know how to pull the right strings in the corridors of power in Gandhinagar, get to keep their job despite a vigilance inquiry pending, and are also promoted.

But then, dubious efforts of a public office can be thwarted as has been shown by a commoner who used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to bring this issue to the fore and even nailed some top ranking officers of the health department for helping the tainted official.

Ashwin Patel, who is a drug manufacturer himself, had asked whether the promotion of assistant depot manager of the Central Medical Stores Organisation (CMSO) RS Shah can be considered legal or not. Shah was chargesheeted by his own department and a vigilance inquiry too was pending against him. At the end of the exercise, Shah's promotion was withdrawn on Friday.

CMSO is the nodal body in the health department responsible for procurement of medicines and surgical goods for government hospitals across the state. The issue had come up for hearing before the state chief information commissioner R N Das on July 17. Despite several appeals, Patel was refused information regarding the status of the vigilance proceedings pending against Shah. Das pulled up both the director CMSO Manorama Shah and the principal secretary for persistent denial of information.

What was more appalling, was the fact that even the principal secretary had admitted in a reply to Shah dated September 22 last year, that the promotion given to R S Shah was malafide and irregular.

Patel procured under the RTI Act two letters—- one written by the under secretary dated October 30, 2001 and the other written by a vigilance officer on October 11, 2001, categorically informing the department that it had been decided to initiate departmental enquiry against him. So perturbed were the health department officials that they never allowed Patel to even inspect the files pertaining to Shah's vigilance inquiry under the RTI Act.

Shah's promotion was ordered on February 8, 2002 by the departmental promotion committee (DPC) of the health and family welfare with the recommendation of the Gujarat Public Service Commission (GPSC). Interestingly, on the same day the director of CMSO had issued a chargesheet against Shah.

Three days later, all departmental proceedings against Shah were stalled and on February 21, 2002, Shah was exonerated from the charges.

Das categorically noted that the matter raised by Patel had merit as it seeks to promote transparency in the working of a public authority. On Friday, Shah's promotion was nullified.

RTI stops senior officer's promotion-Ahmedabad-Cities-The Times of India

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