Aim is to fix responsibility in case of Vigilance inquiry

The days of simply signing off crucial documents with unintelligible dots and lines might be over for those who wield those powers in the City Corporation. As per a government circular issued last week to all local bodies, any official who approves any document or sends a recommendation has to sign it off with a seal which mentions the concerned official’s name, post, office and contact number, all of it legibly printed.

This rule applies to all official communications, including file notings. Such a directive had to be issued as it had become tough to trace the official who had issued a particular permission in case of irregularities. Fixing of responsibility had become an issue, even when irregularities were pulled up.

Speaking to The Hindu on Saturday, Chief Town Planner (Vigilance) Eapen Varghese, who as part of the revamped vigilance team has been tracking irregularities in various local bodies over the past three months, said that such a directive was required as officials were inventing ways to evade responsibility.

“Most of the building permits or other important documents that I have come across will have a barely legible signature at the bottom. It will usually be just initials of their names. No other detail would be there. There is no way we can trace the person who gave the permission. Since vigilance inquiries sometimes happen a few years after the permission is given, it becomes even harder,” says Mr. Varghese.

He says that the situation is different in offices like the Secretariat, where every single document is traceable to an official. The ‘initials’ make their appearance most often in permissions granted to buildings and flats.

But this is not the first time that the government is not coming out with such a directive.

On November 1, 2012, a similar circular was sent to all concerned departments, which seems to have made not much of a difference. This forced the government to issue it again.

This time around, the vigilance wing has been asked to go around the offices of local bodies and strictly check if the directive is being followed to the letter.