KERALA

Question paper printing under a cloud

G. Mahadevan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The decision of the Kerala State Open School to get the question papers for last year's Plus One examinations printed at a private press has come under a cloud after a preliminary inquiry by an official of the Education Department found that the Government lost more than Rs.13 lakhs in the bargain.

It is learnt that the Government is preparing to conduct a detailed investigation into the circumstances that led to this decision that was reportedly taken without its concurrence. The Plus One examinations for private registration candidates are conducted by the Open School while the second year examinations are handled by the Higher Secondary Department.

The report submitted after the preliminary inquiry points out that since 2000, when the Open School started handling private registration candidates for the higher secondary course, the question papers for the Plus One examinations have been printed at the Audio Visual Reprographic Centre.

In March 2004, the Open School decided to take away the printing contract from the AVRC and to give it to another press. According to the preliminary report, the Open School records do not mention the name of the press to which the printing contract was given.

The inquiry also found no records of any Government sanction given to the Open School authorities to take such a decision.

In 2003, the Open School got about 70,000 question papers printed at the AVRC for less than Rs.3 lakhs. The bill for printing the question papers for the 2004 examinations on the other hand came to Rs.15.8 lakhs. The bill for this amount was issued in the name of one `Gita Printer.'

The said bill does not reveal the address of the press where the question papers were printed, it is learnt. The inquiry has also found that the bill was addressed to the course coordinator at the Open School even though that official is not authorised to issue the contract for printing.

The inquiry report concludes that all this points to a "deliberate attempt" to cause financial loss to the State Government and calls for a detailed inquiry to bring to light the full facts of the matter.

The Secretary General, Education, Sajen Peter confirmed to The Hindu here on Wednesday that he had received the report of the preliminary inquiry.

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