S Murthy, the Secretary of the Legislative Assembly in Karnataka, was suspended on Saturday until further notice by Speaker Ramesh Kumar for alleged financial impropriety during the Winter Session of the House in 2016-17. He was also probed by the police in November based on an order by the Lokayukta, after he floated a company in the name of his wife without informing the state secretary.
The decision was based on a report submitted by Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar on December 12, after an enquiry was ordered by the Speaker himself. The report concluded that Murthy misled, or did not inform, former Speaker B Koliwad for getting invoices approved.
An order by M Vidyashri, the Additional Secretary of the Legislative Assembly stated that MK Vishalakshi, the Director of Assembly Secretariat, will take the additional charge of Assembly Secretary during the period of suspension. Murthy claimed innocence, and said that he will contest the order in court.
Allegations against Murthy
Murthy faces allegations of overspending Rs 8 crore for the Assembly sessions in Belagavi for 2016 and 2017. Following complaints filed by RTI activists, he had his financial powers curtailed in July.
Prior to this, Assembly secretaries had the power to approve payments of Rs 1 lakh. In August, his powers other than those related to Assembly session duties and matters related to protocol were stripped off.
He is also accused of sanctioning work without following proper tender procedures, among other irregularities, for work worth Rs 10-12 crore.
One of the irregularities is that he had allegedly prepared bills for melamine polish for all the doors and windows of the Suvarna Soudha, even though the Public Works Department had not given technical permission for the same. Similarly, for painting the walls inside of the Assembly, he went ahead with the work without securing technical permission nor proper selection process for contractors. There were even irregularities in paying bills that were raised for creating makeshift toilets and levelling the ground.
Allegations against Murthy include misrepresentation of service tax and GST under the header of extra service tax. In addition, he failed to maintain a record for spending Rs 36 lakh, allegedly on expenses incurred towards journalists.
There have also been allegations of sexual harassment against Murthy, after then-Secretary of Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) Pallavi Akurathi wrote a letter to the Chief Secretary in November 2017 after Murthy‚Äôs junior filed a complaint with the DPAR. In her letter to the chief secretary, Pallavi has said that it is not only the complainant but at least 20 other female officers, who have been allegedly sexually harassed by Murthy.