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Hefty fee for auditor, no money for teachers

Forced by Governor Viren J. Shah, who is also its chancellor, Calcutta University (CU) has decided to engage a private firm to update its audit backlog, for a hefty fee. It has also put on the backburner its plans for recruiting 200 teachers, in response to the government’s directive on austerity due to a funds crunch.

A large section of CU employees are unhappy with the university management for taking the two conflicting decisions — the recruitment freeze and the expensive audit.

Despite the financial restrictions imposed on the university by the government, it has started negotiations with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which is believed to have asked for a hefty fee for updating the university’s financial accounts, that have been lying unexamined for over a decade. Sources said TCS has been engaged even though the university has a full-fledged department for conducting its audits on a regular basis.

Buddhadeb Chatterjee, leader of the Calcutta University Employees’ Unity Centre, said the decision to hire TCS could have been done away with if the authorities had ensured regular audits. “A few lakhs would be spent in engaging TCS. The entire amount could have been saved if the authorities had regularly audited its accounts,” said Chatterjee.

According to Tapan Mukherjee, CU pro vice-chancellor, finance and business affairs, the university’s decision to engage the firm follows repeated reminders from Governor Shah.

“The chancellor had sent several reminders to us, directing us to update the university accounts, latest by March 2003. It is not possible for the university’s own set-up to clear the huge backlog within this deadline, as it is not equipped with the latest technology. We have found TCS the most suitable agency, which can complete the job within the target date,” said Mukherjee.

He added that TCS has assured the university it has the suitable knowhow to clear the backlog. The firm will complete the audit for the current financial year within March 31, 2003, as directed by the chancellor.

Dismissing the allegation that the university would have to pay a few lakhs to TCS for the job, Mukherjee said: “The university is yet to finalise its agreement with TCS on the charges. The workers are simply assuming that the fee will be hefty.”

Sources in the university, however, alleged that the backlog had been piling up since 1992. The process started from 1990, when an important ledger was lost from the university’s accounts department. “Lack of initiative on the part of the authorities in filling up the post of an audit officer is another reason for the backlog,” the sources added.

Only recently, following a reminder by the chancellor, did the university employ an audit officer. “Clearly, that was not enough, as the department lacks the resources to tide over the crisis. With TCS expertise, the job can be done accurately and within the deadline,” an official said.

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