The government is thinking of bringing more strict norms for appointment of personal staff of Chief Minister, Ministers, Leader of the Opposition, and the Government Chief Whip.
Recent controversies over involvement of personal staff of the Chief Minister in scams have invited attention to the manner of appointment and qualifications of the personal staff. Though some norms exist, they are often violated. Many among the personal staff of Ministers are not even matriculates. Though the personal staff are supposed to be loyal and devoted to the Ministers concerned, this has not often been reflected on the efficiency of the Ministers’ offices or their conduct.
The government has prescribed educational qualifications of common categories of posts such as assistant, clerk, typist, and confidential assistant in the personal staff of Ministers and others. They should have the same qualification as prescribed for similar posts in the Secretariat service or government service. However, the qualification can be relaxed in “deserving cases.”
No qualification has been prescribed for posts such as assistant private secretary. Information obtained by D.B. Binu of Cochin Chamber of Lawyers, under the RTI Act, show that while there are some well-qualified persons in the personal staff of some Ministers, there are also persons with pre-degree or lesser qualifications occupying posts such as that of additional private secretary, assistant private secretary, and personal assistant. In the Agriculture Minister’s Office, clerks and assistants have been promoted as assistant private secretaries and peons have been re-designated as additional personal assistants. Re-designations of peons have also taken place in the office of the Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Youth Affairs P.K. Jayalakshmi, according to the documents supplied under RTI Act.
The government increased the number of personal staff of the Chief Minister, Ministers, Leader of the Opposition, and the Government Chief Whip from 27 to 30 in September, 2011. Of this, 17 are to be in category A and 13 in category B. Though few have crossed the limit of 30, several Ministers have flouted the norms regarding category limits.
Minister for Rural Development and Culture K.C. Joseph, for instance, have 23 persons in the ‘A’ category. Sub category limits such as number of personal assistants and additional personal assistants (one each) have also been violated. Water Resources Minister P.J. Joseph and Finance Minister K. Mani too are among Ministers with higher number of personal staff in category A (23 and 22 respectively). Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, on the other hand, has only 13 persons in ‘A’ category.
The personal staff of Ministers get scales of pay ranging from Rs.8,500-Rs.13,210 (for peon and cook) to Rs.36,140-Rs.49,740 (for private secretary or special private secretary). They are eligible for pensions if they have served for just three years. They will also get death cum retirement gratuity at 50 per cent of the basic pay for each completed year. There is even provision for rounding up more than six months of service as one year. Many people who have been appointed just for the tenure of ministries or less thus become eligible for pensions.