Good governance? 260 senior IRS officers reshuffled mid-term across country; 189 given ‘additional charge'
A CBDT order has reshuffled 260 IRS officers serving in the grade of Commissioner of Income Tax (CIT), including 95 officers awaiting posting orders for the last 6 months even after being promoted
In a move termed by senior retired IRS officers as being indicative of policy paralysis and governance deficit at the highest echelons of power besides centralisation of power in the PMO, the Centre has issued transfer/posting orders of as many as 260 IRS officers serving in the grade of Commissioners of Income Tax (CIT) – equivalent to Joint Secretary rank in the Government of India (level 14 in the pay matrix) – across the country.
The order (no. 270) issued by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the Income Tax Department’s apex policy-making and administrative body which functions under the Finance Ministry’s Department of Revenue, also gave ‘additional charge’ of as many as 189 posts to officers in the CIT/DIT grade.
What riled retired IRS officers in particular was the fact that this latest round of transfers/postings included 95 officers who were promoted to the grade of CIT on April 22, 2021 on ‘in-situ’ basis, which essentially meant that they were forced to continue serving at a junior rank for six months even after being promoted.
“IRS officers serve with diligence for almost 20 years or more in towns and cities across the length and breadth of the country before making to the grade of Commissioner of Income Tax, a position which technically makes them head of the department and entitles them to perks such as an official car – something which, incidentally, their counterparts in the IAS and IPS get right from day one – and they look forward to it from day one of joining the service as probationers,” an IRS officer who retired as Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCIT) said on the condition of anonymity.
“So, to make them serve in junior positions for months at end would not only be demeaning and demoralising for them but revenue collection work is bound to get affected as they could hardly be expected to focus on work under the circumstances. It also amounts to a waste of exchequer’s money as they become entitled to a higher pay grade after promotion. This is nothing but policy paralysis and governance deficit,” he said.
The latest order also reshuffled 120 officers serving as CIT/DITs under the category of request & other cases, 35 officers under MTL/Review category and 25 under OSD category.
An officer who retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation) pointed out that such a major mid-term rejig, that too while the festive season is on and the threat of Covid has not completely abated, was uncalled for. “The norm has always been to effect annual transfers in April-May so as to let the officers settle down at their postings and allow their children to join schools at the new stations at the start of the academic session. This order would totally disrupt the schooling of the officers’ children,” she said, requesting anonymity.
General Secretary of IRS Retired Officers' Association SR Wadhwa, a 1959 Batch IRS officer who retired as Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Madhya Pradesh, deprecated the ‘new culture’ of giving additional charge to officers. He also opined that it was centralisation of power in the PMO that was responsible for the recent trends in delayed postings and promotions etc.
“This kind of thing was unheard of earlier. Now, a clear pattern has emerged that even routine and necessary decisions are not being taken at the top level in a timely manner. It is an open secret that the PMO insists on being kept in the loop, to put it mildly,” he said.
National Herald had earlier reported in July, 2021 that the Centre had promoted officers to the CIT grade in April, 2021 without giving them postings, and that two dozen Principal Commissioners were promoted on December 30, 2020 without being given postings for 7 months, with the posting orders issued finally only on July 26, 2021.
Another report carried on August 11, 2021 highlighted a bizarre order in which as many as 35 officers serving as Chief Commissioners of Income Tax (CCIT) and Director Generals of Income Tax (DGIT) across the country were given ‘additional charge’ of junior posts. These CCITs and DGITs were asked to discharge functions of officers at lower ranks, i.e. as Principal Commissioners of Income Tax (PCIT) and Principal Directors of Income Tax (PDIT). Moreover, most of these additional charges were located at towns and cities hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres away.
On August 21, 2021, National Herald reported that a whopping 222 IRS officers serving in the grade of Principal Commissioners of Income Tax (PCIT) across the country were reshuffled in one go, which ‘shook the entire cadre’, as a retired IRS officer put it. It also gave additional charge of as many as 79 PCIT posts to officers holding other substantive posts, though in the same grade. Though most of these officers were posted at the same stations, in some cases, the additional charges were of posts located in other cities.