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Judge-led inquiry committee into NUJS Kolkata finds evidence of ‘financial mismanagement’

NUJS student politics are hotting up the place
NUJS student politics are hotting up the place

An external review committee at NUJS Kolkata, comprising of former Rajasthan high court chief justice NN Mathur and former senior government auditors Saroj Das and Asok Deb, reported that certain facts were “indicative of financial mismanagement of funds by the university”.

It also recommended measures to prevent “such irregularities” in future. [Full report below]

The committee, which submitted its report on 3 April, was constituted by NUJS vice chancellor (VC) Ishwara Bhatt on 8 February after “a group of students submitted a representation for enquiry regarding alleged mismanagement of funds in the university during the period 2011 to 2014”.

The committee reported that the university followed an “apparently fabricated” tendering process to pick a contractor for its classroom interiors, extended “undue favour” to the chosen contractor and did not maintain “transparency” in the purchase of items, apart from violating other procedural rules and regulations.

They examined nine alleged instances of financial irregularities in the use of the university’s funds and concluded that the proper procedure appeared not to have been followed in at least two cases.

It is understood that the report has been seen by NUJS students after having been circulated by the student bar council.

Bhatt, commenting to Legally India, said: “The executive council has authorised the vice chancellor to take appropriate action relating to the points raised in the report. We'll be following the due procedure. The findings have been accepted by the EC as well as the other bodies.”

Dodgy tender

The committee reported that there was an orchestrated attempt to award the classroom interiors tender to a contractor, M/s Curtain Centre.

“The Nundy’s were not interested till 26th but submitted a tender only on 27.11.2012 where the rates were higher by more than Rs one crore than the rates offered by M/s Curtain Centre. The sequence of matter is indicative of the fact that submission of the rates by M/s Nundy’s was solely in the interest of the single tenderer to facilitate him to be lowest tenderer. The elaboration as indicated above speaks in volume about financial mismanagement, irregularities, which needs in depth probe.”

“From the facts given it clearly emerges that “Curtain Centre” was the lone tenderer and as such authorities were required to follow the procedure of re-advertising, but tender of “Curtain Centre” was rescued by an apparently fabricated tender of “Nundys” at last moment.

Undue favour

The committee said that the university wasted over Rs 9 lakh with the registrar clearing the contractor’s bills prompty without waiting for a sanity check of the work done by the contractor.

“As the tender was for more than Rs 1.32 crore and the Vice Chancellor was not part of the Tender Committee to witness deliberations, he ought to have been apprised of the entire proceedings of the meeting by the registrar. We have noticed that noting made by the Registrar on the file in the subject matter are cryptic […]”

“The promptness shown by the NUJS in releasing the payments of two on A/c Bills to the contractor without any measurement or certification of the specification quality of the materials supplied and works done by the contractor has therefore, resulted in excess release of Rs 931686.27. This is an example of ‘Undue Favour’ shown to the Contractor.”

“The above facts are indicative of financial mismanagement of fund by the University.”

Lack of transparency

The committee highlighted the opaque manner of purchase of air conditioners at the university.

“The very decision making in the matter of purchase of AC machines (Total 106 machines) from a vendor offering ‘Carrier’ make AC machines without obtaining prior sanction of the Finance Committee/Executive Council of the University remained unexplained with proper justification.

This may be looked into for proper financial management and transparency in the financial transactions with the vendors/contractor and service providers to the University.”

A group of NUJS students, who in February believed they had found discrepancies in the university’s financial accounts, had asked for the registrar’s resignation before the 8 February executive council meeting. They had also launched a “loss of confidence” petition against the VC.

Measures

The inquiry recommended at the end of its 22-page report that in future the finance or executive committee should be part of capital expenditure decisions, the tender committee should include at lesat one person who is not at NUJS, and that several other best practices should be followed.

NUJS Inquiry Report 2014

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