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What’s stopping these officers from disclosing their property?

237 out of 770 ACS officers default on property returns details despite mandatory rule

GUWAHATI, June 7: What is deterring about 30.7 per cent of the Assam Civil Services (ACS) officers from filing their annual property returns on time despite their full knowledge that such disclosure is mandatory and for the sake of their own career advancement? While the Sarbananda Sonowal government has been trumpeting its transparency plank ever since it came to power two years back with enormous emphasis on its war on corruption, a significant bulk of its officers at the highest level seem to believe that opaqueness rather than transparency can still help them move up the ladder of success in their own secretively murky ways.

Now the fact of the matter: The personnel department of the Government of Assam has taken note of the fact that altogether 237 officers of the total 770 officers in the Assam Civil Services (ACS) are yet to submit their annual property returns (APR) details of the year 2017. Talking to The Sentinel, a highly placed source of the personnel department said the government will not tolerate such lapses on the part of any officer beyond a certain time frame.

It is incumbent on all officers of the Government of Assam to submit their annual property returns latest by January 31 every year to their appointing authority or disciplinary authority. This is done on an online mode.

The immovable property returns (IPR) submitted by Class-I officers are placed in the public domain/official website of the respective administrative departments.

As per the official memorandum, the officers who do not submit their IPR on time are denied vigilance clearance. This apart, they are not considered for promotion, empanelment for senior-level posts, deputation for foreign service, permission for foreign tours, permission for availing bank loan, and NOC for passports.

Furthermore, non-submission of IPR statements is recorded against the Integrity column in ACR (confidential report). Besides, initiation of disciplinary action is undertaken against the officer concerned for violating Assam Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1965.

Now the question is what plans the government has in mind to discipline the errant officers in question so that a message is sent out loud and clear that the government means business of the most serious and pro-people kind when it comes to transparency and accountability. But a simple and straightforward question for the errant ACS officers is this: What do you have to hide if you have owned property honestly – that is, if you are owning property not disproportionate to your own known sources of income? If you have nothing to hide, why do you not file your property returns on time as stipulated? Is it not simply a question of discipline, honesty and integrity?

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Ankur Kalita