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Shuffle on finance ministry cards

New Delhi, April 23: A major bureaucratic reshuffle is in the offing in the Union finance ministry.

Apart from the revenue secretary and the finance secretary retiring in the next two months, finance minister Jaswant Singh is expected to create his own team of bureaucrats at the highest level of secretaries and joint secretaries.

Another secretary — against whom the CBI is investigating a case — is also likely to be removed, ministry sources said. The chief of the Central Board of Excise and Customs, M.K. Zutshi, who has got two extensions, is also due to retire on May 31.

A senior finance ministry officer said that of the14 joint secretaries posted in the economic, expenditure and revenue departments, the axe was likely to fall on more than one officer. The reason, sources pointed out, was that Singh was not willing to accommodate tainted or inefficient officers under him.

The finance minister needed old hats to help him draft the budget, but now that the mammoth and important exercise is over, he is looking for fresh and clean faces, the sources explained.

Usha Mathur, who was joint secretary (personnel), has gone on deputation to the railway ministry, while her colleagues P.K. Dave and Sanjeev Mishra are due for promotion to the additional secretary rank. That would leave more vacancies at the joint secretary level. Sources said it was not immediately known whether they would move out of the ministry or stay on as additional secretaries.

Other than them, four joint secretaries are expected to be shunted out of the ministry on charges of either inefficiency or corruption. Of the four, the ministry’s top brass is doubting the competence of two officers. The remaining two face complaints against them.

Sources said the Prime Minister’s Office had complained to the finance ministry, saying that disciplinary action should be taken against one joint secretary for misbehaving with a minister of state. Another joint secretary, whose brother was arrested in the Delhi Development Authority scam, is likely to be repatriated to his state cadre following disciplinary action recommended against him.

Sources said penalty has been recommended against this officer, who was to take on an assignment in the Indian embassy in Japan last month. His chances were jeopardised when irregularities, allegedly committed by him, were brought to the ministry’s notice.

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