Jain is accused of misconduct with regard to financial accounts, tax obligations

There is turmoil in Prasar Bharati once again, as the board of the public broadcaster asked for the removal of its Finance Member, A.K. Jain, alleging misconduct with regard to financial accounts and tax obligations. Mr. Jain has denied the allegations.

At its meeting on January 4, the Prasar Bharati board decided to request the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the Cabinet secretary to enquire into the alleged misconduct and repatriate Mr. Jain, who is a serving IAS officer. Sources at the meeting say the Board also requested that Mr. Jain be suspended immediately if the proceedings are likely to take time.

“There is conclusive proof to show that he has not only neglected the job issued to him to straighten out the accounts and finances of the Prasar Bharati, but also actually misled the Board, especially with regard to the accounts for 2009-10,” said a Board member.

In September 2010, Mr. Jain refused to certify the accounts, citing irregularities. In December that year, the then-chief executive, B.S. Lalli, was suspended for financial irregularities, especially those linked to the broadcast contract for the Commonwealth Games. A CBI probe is now investigating Mr. Lalli.

Evidence of obstructiveness

Days later, Mr. Jain, temporarily co-heading the organisation, cleared the accounts. The Board members allege that this was evidence of Mr. Jain's obstructiveness, part of an ongoing battle with Mr. Lalli that paralysed the organisation.

Mr. Jain insists that he is being penalised for his attempts to restore probity in the organisation. He agrees that he was only willing to approve the accounts after Mr. Lalli's departure, but says he had taken steps to reconcile the accounts using external chartered accountants before granting his stamp of approval.

There is also disagreement regarding whether or not the Comptroller and Auditor-General recommended a revision of these accounts or pulled up the organisation for failing to use a particular accounting standard.

With regard to taxes, the Board has accused Mr. Jain of under-reporting service tax and wilfully suppressing facts in order to evade payment, following which the Service Tax department slapped penalties on the defaulting organisation. Mr. Jain insists that Prasar Bharati was not liable for that amount of tax.

The Board has also accused Mr. Jain of unprofessional behaviour: taking unaccounted leaves, failing to attend meetings and follow Board instructions. The Finance Member said he should be given time to present a detailed response, and asked why he was being ejected just days before a new chief executive was scheduled to take charge of the organisation.

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