Shri V. Ravindran, IA&AS
Ms. Parveen Mehta, IA&AS
The Comptroller and Auditor General is responsible for authorising pensions on behalf of 19 State Governments. This mandate is a residual one, emanating from Article 149 of the Constitution of India which states that the CAG would continue to perform such duties and exercise such powers in relation to the accounts of the Union and States as were performed by the Auditor General before the enactment of the Constitution till such time he is relieved of such powers. While, over the past few decades some State Governments have divested the CAG of his pension authorisation functions, some others have entrusted additional categories of persons eligible to have their pensions authorised by the Accounts and Entitlement (A&E) offices under the CAG. Almost all State Governments have adopted the New Pension Scheme after 2004, consequent to which employees recruited after the crucial date will not be eligible to pension authorised by the Accountant General.
Pension authorisation by the Accountant General is a service rendered to retired/ retiring Government servant. Such service necessitates inculcation of a service mentality within the Accountant General’s organisation. The Accountant General’s mission statement in respect of pensioners should not be merely limited to authorising pensions that reach the office in complete shape within a specific time period. The Accountant General should take a far more proactive role, to ensure that pension authorisations are accurate and complete, and timely, whereby all retiring State Government employees receive their pension authorisations by the dates of retirement. The case study of the office of the Principal Accountant General (A&E) Andhra Pradesh is a step in this direction.
The office of the Principal Accountant General (A&E), Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, processes approximately 25,000 pension cases annually. Over the years, ban on recruitments and staff shortages due to retirements, deaths and compulsory permanent transfers with no replacements, have levied a heavy toll on quality and output. To counter this undesirable trend, commencing from January 2010, the office is progressively introducing a series of structural changes in the pension group. These changes have not only helped the office to forestall the decline, it has enabled us to improve on standards set in more favourable years. Consequently, there has been a noticeable increase in customer satisfaction as evidenced from the spontaneous feedback received from pensioners.
The thread of quality control runs consistently through the entire restructuring process, from the stage of application to despatch of the authorisation and transfer of the case file to old records for future reference and use. Another noteworthy feature is the constant feed-back to the pensioner to enable him to rectify defects in the pension application and to keep him informed of the stage of processing of his case.
Just In Time (JIT) management
Integration of databases so that Accountant General is aware of impending retirement of Government servant.
The Accountant General integrates pension database with following databases of his office:
Since, some information contained in these databases, like government servant's name, employee ID, date of birth and name of department are common, database integration facilitates simultaneous initiation and processing by sections of retirement entitlements of the government servant and enables recovery of overpayments etc.
In addition, Accountant General also integrates the Human Resources Management System (HRMS) of the State Government which is used by departments and treasuries to prepare and pass pay bills.
Online application form
The Accountant General's website enables retiring government servant to access an online form for Pension and GPF. This has the following advantages:
(A) Access the electronic form (by using employee ID allotted by Director of Treasuries and Accounts (DTA) and which will be printed on the application); electronically fill in portions pertaining to the department; and print completed form for signing and affixing office seal;
(B) Make necessary entries on the printed form, carry out calculations manually and then sign and affix the office seal on the form.
Single Source of Truth
Ensuring that no data entry occurs more than once in the entire chain.
Accountability levels have been established with one checking level and one verification level. This has been reinforced through appropriate checklists.
Inward section has two parts:
Receives and registers all letters and pension proposals. Pensioner's name, employee ID, department, address, mobile number and email address are either captured from the electronic version of the application downloaded from AG's website or entered manually. The system generates SMS and email acknowledgements to pensioner and department. Inward letters are sent to centralized correspondence sections and pension proposals to Inward (Pension) section. From this stage onwards, pensioner is able to track progress of his case by accessing the AG's website
Online tracking of pension processing
Immediate return of incomplete proposals
Extensive use of Checklists that are part of the computer system
Task of Inward (Pension) section
To return immediately the entire proposal, along with a standard printed forwarding letter signed by Section Head:
Dealing Hand uses checklists to scrutinise proposals and thereby:
Section Head does the following with the use of a checklist and makes necessary changes in the system:
After Section Head presses the key to "Accept" the case, the system uses the round robin method to identify the pension section which will be responsible for processing the case. However, revision cases are sent to the same section that authorised the case originally. The system generates printouts of captured information and these are attached to the case sent to pension section
Distribution of cases through round-robin method ensures equitable workload. Where the pension case is to be processed differently due to department specific variances, the concerned section uses electronic checklists to guide the process.
Due to incorporation of system-driven diarising, changes in work processes, and authorisations on A4 security paper, the post of Sectional Clerk has been abolished.
Detailed check of service books by AG's office has been dispensed with:
Important Development in Andhra Pradesh
At the instance of the Accountant General, State Government has issued orders:
Verification of non qualification service by AG's office has been dispensed with. This was the result of post-facto scrutiny of over one lakh pension cases processed by the AG between 2007 and 2012, whereby it was established that, after incorporating benefit of five years additional service provided by State Government, in no case did modification of non-qualifying service by AG's office lead to modification of pension finally authorised.
Unnecessary withholding of gratuity has been dispensed with. Gratuity is now withheld only at the request of the department or when GPF and LTA sections intimate exact amount of overpayment.
Except when the department specifically requests the AG's office to issue Verification Reports, in all other cases authorisations are straightaway issued, with a direction to the treasury officer (in respect of advance cases) to pay only after retirement.
Processing and verification at various levels is captured by the system, dispensing with the need to affix initials in different places.
Carbon-backed three-ply computer stationery containing 21 pages and requiring 17 full signatures of Section Head and Accounts Officer, has been replaced by A4 sized security paper from India Security Press, containing six pages, on which only three signatures of Accounts Officer (and no signature of Section Head) are required. This has resulted in enhanced security, considerable saving of stationery, non-omission of essential signatures, abolition of post of Section Clerk, lesser work for Dealing Hand, quicker despatch and ease of filing.
Processing of pension cases by Pension Section
Dealing Hand uses a checklist for:
Section Head uses a checklist to verify the output of the Dealing Hand and incorporates on the system, changes flagged by the Dealing Hand on the printouts and Input Sheet and submits to the Accounts Officer.
Accounts Officer performs the following tasks:
EDP (Pension) section is responsible for printing treasury, department and pensioner copies of authorisation and sending them to the Accounts Officer for signature and despatch.
Collect prints from Pension (EDP) and approved pension cases from Branch Officer, and hand them to despatch accountant of the section concerned.
Preserve cases received from despatch accountant in section and name order. Process indents received from Correspondence Cell for cases.
Pension file is maintained in a box cardboard file and is not stitched, saving considerable effort.
Task of Outward (Despatch) section
To despatch pensioner's copy by ordinary post and treasury and department copies (with enclosures) by speed post. Since multiple authorisations (including GPF authorisations) pertaining to the same treasury are consolidated (to save postal costs), the system generates a covering letter containing names of all pensioners whose cases are enclosed. The post office collects the speed-post letters and transmits them to their sorting office. The AG's office provides an electronic copy of addresses to the postal department to avoid manual entry of addresses at their end.
Introduction of bar code scanners has ensured that the 13-digit speed post numbers are effortlessly captured on the system in an error free manner. These numbers are uploaded on AG's office website with a link to the postal department's website to facilitate easier tracking of delivery by pensioners.
Since Pension Payment Order (PPO) number is the key link used to access the database of pension cases and their despatch, the pension authorisation contains PPO number in both, normal and bar code format, thereby facilitating its scanning by Outward (Despatch) section and its linking with speed post number.
Computer system specifies order in which Old Records section wishes to receive pension files. This list is printed by EDP (Pension) section and used by the MTS while sending pension files to Old Records section.
Task of Old Records section
This office maintains records of all pension cases processed since 1965. Computerized data of over 2,50,000 pension files pertaining to the period 1997 onwards are available. Bar coding of all these files will ensure easier storage, access and retrieval.
Communication of pensioner's copy
Since pensioners' copies of authorisations are sent by ordinary post and are often delayed or not received, Treasuries have been directed not to insist on the pensioner producing his copy and to act on the treasury copy alone. Pensioners can also download authorisation copies from the AG's website.
Single authorisation to Director of Treasuries to release differential gratuity.
Periodic Government orders enhancing payment of Dearness Allowance to its employees are also applicable to pensioners who were in service during the effective period. Previously, on receipt of pensioner's application, AG's office would issue differential gratuity orders. Now, AG's office computer system automatically calculates the differential gratuity payable to each eligible pensioner and EDP (Pension) section prints a combined authorisation letter to Director of Treasuries, which is sent after approval by the designated Accounts Officer, for payment.
Once security of the treasury Virtual Private Network (VPN) and database is assured, manual printing of authorisations will be dispensed with and treasury will receive the authorisation through VPN and copies of the department and pensioner will be sent by email.
Post payment process
Electronic integration of authorisation details with first payment of pension
This is done in the following manner:
Efficient grievance redressal mechanism
Efficient management of correspondence received
A centralized correspondence cell manned by two Assistant Accounts Officers and a dedicated team was formed to handle influx of enquiry letters and complaints from pensioners.
RESULTS OF INNOVATIONS
Average time taken for authorisation has come down from 65 days in August 2011 to 39 days in April 2012. This has been due to eliminating redundant processes and streamlining, whereby number of processes has come down from 16 to 9. For instance, the earlier method required five different print stages covering 21 printed pages on three/ two ply pre-printed computer stationery for each case; this has been reduced to one print stage covering six pages of A4 sized security paper. This has resulted in considerable saving of labour involved in tearing, removing carbon paper and segregating pre-printed stationery. For the future, the Accountant General may need to explore with the State Government whether pension authorisation can be electronically disbursed to the bank where the pensioner has an account, and authorise the bank to pay the pensioner directly. This will significantly reduce pensioner grievances.