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Legislators resent checks on perks, staff strength

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 6: Many MLAs are reportedly uneasy over an office memorandum (OM) and the addenda and corrigenda about the perks and facilities, allocation of support staff, and other entitlements with the designated posts for the elected representatives of Meghalaya under the A+ and other categories.
The legislators concerned recently wrote to Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma expressing their collective concern over the OM.
They said the OM lacks comprehensiveness, commitment, and collaborative dialogue from various stakeholders and is not aligned with the diverse, current needs of the state administration. This can be seen from several corrigenda and addenda to this OM, thereby creating confusion for the departments, boards, and commissions to follow up, they pointed out.
The MLAs observed that the departments concerned have often failed to provide sufficient support staff as mandated through the OM on one pretext or the other.
“Further, regarding restriction/ limitation of office staff to only Steno-Grade-I/ II as PSs and PAs with reduced residential support staff appears to be completely disregarding the rights and privileges of the elected members/ legislators of the state,” they said.
In light of these concerns, they urged the Chief Minister’s Office to convene a special meeting with all the affected stakeholders along with the officials of the departments concerned to reconsider the directives outlined in the OM for a revised and comprehensive guideline that will promote efficiency, fairness, and effectiveness with flexibility in the secretarial practices and are aligned with the diverse needs of the current scenario.
The special meeting has not been convened yet although many MLAs personally approached the CM.
According to an earlier notification, the secretariat staff and co-terminus posts to Chairman A+ category (sitting MLA) included stenographer Grade I or II, personal assistant (UDA/steno Grade II), LDA/typist, driver (against allotted vehicle) and two Grade-IV staff.
However, the new notification said the secretariat staff and co-terminus posts to the Chairman A+ category (sitting MLA) include a PS steno Grade I or II, personal assistant (Steno Grade II), and LDA/typist.
The co-terminus posts according to the old notification included a special assistant, an additional driver and five Grade-IV staff while the new notification prescribes a driver and three Grade-IV staff.
The notifications say sitting MLAs appointed as chairmen and advisors to undertakings, corporations, boards, and departments are categorised as A+.
In the official staff section of the new notification, only steno Grade-II is allowed to be the personal assistant. An official driver from the department concerned and Grade-IV staff from the Secretariat Administration Department (Nazarat) have been omitted.
Although the salaries against the co-terminus posts have been enhanced, the staff strength has been reduced from seven to four.
The MLAs had also written the CM last year seeking the revocation of OMs or office orders issued by the Secretariat Administration (Establishment) Department, etc. for refusing to provide office staff in line with entitlements to the chairman, co-chairmen, or advisors to the government of Meghalaya.
They said the orders restrict using the assistants for five years or more in the offices of the Deputy CM, ministers, chairmen, co-chairmen, etc., and seek to utilise the services of casual staff instead of regular staff.
They also questioned why, as elected representatives placed in the A+ category equivalent to the rank of cabinet ministers, they are prevented from choosing their office staff to run their offices efficiently for the benefit of the people.
They said when subordinate executives such as IAS and IPS officers (who are supposed to carry out the policies or decisions of the legislators) are given regular staff, the OM appears to disregard the privileges of the elected representatives.
“This letter is to voice our concern regarding the use of casual staff or inexperienced personnel by chairmen/ co-chairmen/ advisors to the government of Meghalaya instead of regular ones. We believe this will not only be impracticable, but also hinder the smooth functioning and progress in the day-to-day official works as these individuals are not well equipped and lack knowledge about government affairs, functions, and procedures,” the letter read.
“We are deeply concerned about the problematic approach of the Secretariat Administration (Establishment) Department to dictate, regulate, and show disrespect to the privileged members of the state. This has caused great distress amongst those affected by this order and set a bad precedent for others in similar positions. We would like to urge you to kindly direct the minister in charge of SAD to revoke any OM or orders issued and intervene immediately and finally instruct the Secretariat Administration (Establishment) Department not to make such orders in future without proper caution being taken into consideration with disregard for members’ rights or privileges as per rules and regulations laid down by your esteemed office,” the letter further read.

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