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Posting of DTPC Secretaries on contract opposed

By S. Anil Radhakrishnan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JAN. 20. The Government decision to reconstitute the District Tourism Promotion Councils (DTPCs) and appoint Secretaries on contract basis ignoring the recommendations of the Assembly Committee on Non-official Resolutions and Bills has come under fire, as it is feared that it will lead to lack of accountability and misappropriation of funds.

The decision has been taken by the Government while revamping the DTPCs on the basis of the report of the study team of the Personnel and Administrative Reforms headed by C.V. Ananda Bose that looked into the functioning of the DTPCs in the wake of the changing scenario in the tourism sector and wide spectrum of its activities.

Along with setting up a governing body and fixing the councils as the nodal agencies for implementing the projects of Kerala Tourism, the Government has decided to appoint DTPC Secretaries on contract basis.

On the basis of a Government Order, the Director, Kerala Tourism, has invited applications for the post of Secretaries (the last date for submitting the application is January 22).

House panel report

However, the Assembly Committee on Non-Official Resolutions and Bills headed by A. Sujanapal, in its 31st report submitted to the House in July 2004 had recommended that the Secretaries "should not be appointed on contract basis as the Government would not be able to fix responsibilities or take action in case there is any lapse in the projects worth crores being implemented by the 14 DTPCs in the State."

The committee had also recommended that Government officials willing to work in the tourism sector and having professional expertise should be appointed as the Secretaries. A panel of such officers should be prepared and short-term training should be provided in the Kerala Institute of Tourism and Travel Studies (KITTS) before posting them.

Lack of competency

Tourism sources said the District Collector, who is the chairman of the DTPC, finds little time to monitor the functioning of the council. The post of Secretary, who is the chief executive of the council, is filled on deputation basis by those in power till now.

The posting of DTPC Secretaries in Palakkad, Kozhikode, Kannur, Kasaragod and Kollam on contract basis in the late 1990s had landed the department in trouble. Those posted were mainly youngsters who pass out from private travel institutes and the KITTS. These persons were not able to competently handle affairs of the DTPC, especially finance matters, as they were not aware of the working of the Government.

Sources said the Government had unearthed alleged irregularities and misappropriation of funds to the tune of Rs.1 crore in the Kollam DTPC. An inquiry was conducted by the Finance Officer on the directive of the District Collector and the report is with the Government. A case in this regard is still pending with the Lok Ayukta.

With the DTPCs being designated as nodal agencies, their responsibilities will increase in the coming months. The Tourism Coordination Committee to be headed by the District Collector and the Secretary as the convener would have to monitor the projects and the chances of financial misappropriation are high, sources said.

Performance appraisal

As per the qualifications prescribed for a DTPC Secretary, a Masters Degree in Tourism Management/Business Management or Masters Degree in any discipline with PG Diploma in Tourism Management/Business Management is needed. Anyone below 55 years and having two years of minimum experience in managerial capacity in a reputed company or organisation can apply for the post. Those in Government service can also apply, but no posts had been reserved for the department staff as demanded by them.

The appointments are for three years and may be extended up to five years. A tourism official said the Secretary would be appointed initially for the period of one year and further extension shall be granted only on the basis of performance appraisal in Financial Management, toning up administration, project formulation, implementation, coordination of activities with private sector and innovative contributions. "The Government would go ahead with the process of selecting the secretaries," he added.

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