Facts emerging about several individuals whose names figure as suspects in the gold smuggling case, have engendered fresh doubts about the appointments being made in the government maapparatus. The question how Swapna Suresh, one alleged to be involved in the case, got appointed as Operations Manager in the Kerala State IT Infrastructure Limited (KSITISL) , under the government of Kerala, is one such pointer. That an individual, who is facing crime branch investigation in charges of forging of ducuments and impersonation, was able to use government vehicle and identity card with government seal, puts the government secretariat in a shadow of doubt about the unholy nexus with dubious parties hanging around the corridors of power.
It may be possible to issue technically correct statements like "that lady has no connection with the chief minister's office or with IT department". But that cannot negate the fact that a sizeable amount of money, Rs 2.3 lakhs, is being spent from government treasury on the project management unit under the consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers, where she is the lone staff employed.
Windows of opportunity are still open in the secretariat through which those who are close to the higher ups can reach for heights of power and glory, without any qualification or criteria and through questionable means. The indications emerging from the track of employment of Swapna and her continuing strings in the corridors of power only prove that those windows have not been locked in such a way as to block re-opening by aspirants.
PWC is a multinational company which for years has been providing consultancy services in IT sector to the government. It is they who appointed Swpna as a contract employee in IT department through the Delhi-based intermediary firm Vision Technology. It is shocking to know that there was no verification of qualification or background check of an individual appointed for the government by an external agency. Allegation has been raised that the degree certificate she produced of Dr Ambedkar Technological University is fake, for that university does not even have a degree named B.Com. And a crime branch case is ongoing about forgery of document and impersonation. In spite of that, the IT department passed Swapna's profile to PWC as reference. The firm, who read into the wishes of the party to sign the contract, appointed her in the Space Park. Obviously there has been a vested interest of the government at work behind Swapna's appointment, and that has to be uncovered through a robust probe.
Project-centric appointments that happen in the state are made without well-defined criteria or qualifications. Consultancy, total solution etc are short-cut routes used by many to appoint favourites. The hidden trick in this is to use them as means of bypassing tendering processes and fixing high salaries to one's minions. Even earlier, there have been complaints that several such appointments and contracts were ruling the roost in KSITIL. It was IT Principal Secretary himself who had issued orders to create 16 permanent posts and 18 temporary appointments. Contract appointments and project management appointments have happened circumventing norms even during the Covid period not only in IT department, but also in the sectors of power and Supplyco. As a matter fact, enrolled and hidden inside these appointments and the projects going through them, are chapters that are yet to be unrolled.
There is an existing provision that candidates being appointed to managerial posts in public sector undertakings should have vigilance clearance. And approved rules and provisions are also in place for eligibility to use government vehicles and authorised identity cards. However, in the case of Swapna, they all seem to have been thrown to the winds.
The incident once again stresses the point that the higher echelons of the government and the network of power in the secretatiat need to be subjected to rigorous audit. The resort to such opaque contract appointments should be done away with, if we are to stop turn employing mechanisms like PSC into scarecrows and to save our qualified job-seeking youth being put to shame. For that to happen, a comprehensive enquiry about this appointment should be conducted as a start.
The chief minister who assured all support to the Centre for a probe into the gold smuggling, should also announce an enquiry about the corrupt deals happening in the state secretariat. For, the political dispensation that rules Kerala at present had pledged itself to cleanse the chief minister's corridor and the secretariat on its very first day in office.