The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) Director General (DG) Prabhakar Singh has decided to go against the report submitted by Ernst & Young, which was appointed by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs at a cost of ₹50 lakh to study the CPWD restructuring. The report suggests ways to reorganise the department to make it more efficient.
The report suggested that the department was top heavy and needed to be pruned, without downsizing, to better efficiency.
As reported by National Herald, the Ernst & Young report had suggested the merging of the posts of Executive Engineer (EE) and Superintending Engineer (SE) with both reporting to the CE (Circle Engineer), while the Additional Director General (ADG) and Special Director General (SDG) would report to the Director General.
The Executive Engineer is the highest nodal officer for the execution of work. From the Superintending Engineer upwards, it’s administrative posts.
This was mainly to reduce the many layers in the decision-making process, to improve efficiency and ensure more officers in executive roles than in administrative roles.
DG Prabhakar Singh has a field day
Instead of following the Ernst and Young report, the DG is delayering of junior engineering staff, who do most of the field work. This would later lead to a shortage of staff and eventually lead to fewer projects being allotted to the department. The DG has ordered the merging of the Junior Engineer (JE), Assistant Engineer (AE) and Executive Engineer (EE).
In a letter which was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, the CPWD associations have highlighted that in the CPWD organisational set-up, the JEs and AEs are not involved in the decision-making process and they primarily supervise and implement decisions taken by the executive engineers and above.
This restructuring would mean that the Junior Engineer, who after getting regular promotions to the post of Assistant Engineer after almost 15 years of service, will continue to perform the duties of the JE all his life as he is unlikely to be promoted as the DG has recommended to equate the post of JE with AE in terms of duties, pointed out the CPWD union in the letter to the PMO.
Prabhakar Singh has claimed it has got the approval of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, under which CPWD falls. Moreover, he has neither consulted the Finance Department nor the Chief Controller of Accounts to undertake this restructuring. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has also not been involved.
Prabhakar Singh has showcased the minutes of the meeting issued by the HUA Secretary Durga Shankar regarding a presentation on delayering as the approval from the Ministry. In the meeting, HUA secretary authorised the DG to decide the restructuring. This decision should have the approval of the government, which however was not sought.
This was challenged by employees in various courts including Hyderabad and Bengaluru.
Moreover, in a Joint Consultative Machinery (JCM) meeting held on April 13, the Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha had directed that all restructuring in CPWD has to be done in consultation with the CPWD service associations and stakeholders. This was never done.
Restructuring of CPWD
The cadre review of the whole engineering structure of the CPWD from the JE to the DG post was conducted in 2012 with the approval of DoPT and the Finance Ministry. According to this cadre review, 16 project units headed by chief engineers and 31 project units headed by SEs were approved. However, in this latest restructuring ordered by Prabhakar Singh, several project units headed by various levels of officers from SE to Spl DG have been created without approval.
Moreover, the cadre review can only be done with the approval of the Union Cabinet, according to the Transaction of Business rules 1961 as amended on February 22, 2019. Additionally, the approval of the finance ministry and the Cabinet is required to enable the same, however no such approvals have been obtained. The CPWD employee associations have sent a letter to the ministry stating the same.
The cadre review/restructuring would cost around ₹55 crore to the public exchequer as around 4,000 employees are likely to be sent to new location. For each of this transfer, the government has to allocate in the range of ₹1 lakh to 2 lakh per employee as travel and dearness allowance.
In what has come as a momentary relief to the department, on June 4, the Bangalore bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal ordered a stay on restructuring the CPWD. Following it up, the CAT-Hyderabad, ordered maintaining status-quo. Later on June 20, the CAT-Bangalore extended their stay on restructuring still July 23.
Prabhakar Singh, who is set to retire in July after an extension, has ordered several engineers to move to Gulbarga in Karnataka where an IIT has been proposed. He sent 1 CE, 4 EEs and 24 AEs to the state, when even the tender for the proposal has not been put out by the government. In another instance, the DG has ordered 1 CE, 3 EEs and 24 AEs to be sent to Uttarakhand for an unidentified project. The engineers have neither been given any information about the project nor its location. Several of these officers are shuffling between various offices to figure out the details.
These engineers have been shifted from locations where there were projects to locations where there are no projects. This would mean that in both the cases, the projects will fail as there are not enough engineers to look at ongoing projects and there are too many engineers in locations where there are no projects. This then allows the government to point towards their non-functionality.