NEW DELHI: The petroleum ministry has asked oil marketing companies Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil to recover Rs 108 crore from its employees after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found that these companies had given pre-loaded cards and vouchers to them on completion of 15, 20 and 25 years of service in violation of rules.
The pre-loaded cards and vouchers were issued in place of gold coins distributed earlier, which was stopped in 2015 after the ministry said these were over and above the entitlement of bonus and thus in violation of government rules.
“The expenditure of Rs 107.63 crore incurred by BPCL and IOC under the long service award scheme was in contravention of DPE guidelines of the administrative ministry and the recovery is yet to be effected,” CAG noted in its audit report tabled in Parliament last week.
The ministry has informed the CAG that it has examined the matter in consultation with IOC and BPCL and directed both companies to recover the “unauthorised” payments made to their employees. The two companies have been asked to furnish action taken report on the matter.
While discontinuing Gold coin scheme in 2015, the ministry had observed that the guidelines of the department of public enterprises stated that no payment of ex gratia, honorarium or reward be given by public enterprises to their employees over and above the entitlement under the Bonus Act.
However, after protests by employees, the OMCs devised a new scheme where it started distributing pre-loaded cards and vouchers. Cash value of the card was equivalent to Rs 1,500 for every completed year of service up to 25 years and Rs 2500 for those who had completed 30/35 years of service. The scheme was implemented retrospectively from 2015 when the gold coin scheme was discontinued.
The OMCs claimed that the new scheme was devised after discussions with the ministry which had no objection to “giving long service award” to employees. However, CAG noted that no such discussion note of the ministry was found on record.
“The new policy, in effect, is replacement of the old scheme of issue of gold coins by an article/pre-loaded card which also tantamounts to contravention of DPE guidelines,” the CAG observed, and added that BPCL and IOC incurred an irregular expenditure of Rs 107.63 crore from January 2015 to August 2018 by distributing pre-loaded cards.
To justify its ex gratia disbursement, BPCL also obtained an opinion in March 2015 from the additional solicitor general, which stated that the scheme was also “part of a condition of service of an employee”.