Innovations in Pension

Innovations in Pension

Shri V. Ravindran, IA&AS
Ms. Parveen Mehta, IA&AS

Introduction:

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.

Innovations in Pension Authorisations in Andhra Pradesh - a case study:

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.

Innovation # 1

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:

  • VLC (Voucher Level Computerisation) database containing electronic information downloaded from treasury database and validated by AG's in-house check of physical vouchers;
  • General Provident Fund (GPF) database containing debits and credits in individual subscriber accounts and
  • Database of Long Term (house building, motor car, motor cycle and personal computer) Advances containing details of advances availed of by Government servants and their repayments.

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.

The following additional initiatives also enable the Accountant General to complete information in his database:

  • Accountant General has recently ensured that treasuries mandatorily incorporate employee ID details in pay vouchers of March. These fill the gaps in HRMS.
  • Accountant General's website containing annual statements of GPF and Long Term Advances can only be accessed after the Government servant enters his employee ID, date of birth, email address and mobile number.

Innovation # 2

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:

  • By automatically populating fields common to both pension and GPF (like employee ID, name, date of birth, department, address for communication etc.), the online form saves data entry effort for the pensioner, department and AG’s office
  • Joint photographs and signatures of the pensioner and spouse (part of the descriptive rolls required by the treasury when paying pension) can now be electronically uploaded along with the application. The Accountant General prints the photographs and scanned signatures in colour on the pension authorisation, dispensing with sending descriptive rolls to the treasury for verification of identity of pensioner.
  • The common Pension-GPF application form can be printed as separate pension and GPF forms to be processed by concerned wings of AG's office.
  • The printed forms can be signed and submitted to the department, which can either:

       (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.

  • Employee ID can subsequently be used by pensioner to track progress of his case in the AG's office. He can also pursue matters with Pension Sanctioning Authority (PSA) in case there is delay in submission to AG.
  • Printed application forms from AG's database ensure that forms contain standardised information and are of uniform size, thereby facilitating easier processing and eventual storage.
  • Since the website is dynamically linked to Accountant General's data base, information typed in the online form is instantly captured on an interim database of the AG. Various sections in AG's office are also electronically alerted: for instance, Old Records section is alerted to retrieve the original pension files (in case pensioner is applying for revision of pension); and GPF and Long Term Advances sections are alerted to verify the accounts for missing credits and debits and take action for expeditious closure of the accounts immediately on receipt of signed application forms; and in case, missing credits and overpayments of GPF cannot be reconciled, to alert pension database to arrange recovery from gratuity.
  • Dynamic linking of AG's website with its database ensures that once signed pension application reaches the AG's office, it can be verified against the electronic copy of application available on AG's interim database and finally integrated with minimum data entry.

Innovation # 3

Single Source of Truth

Ensuring that no data entry occurs more than once in the entire chain.

  • This is ensured by integrating all external (Treasury) and internal (Accountant General) databases to the extent possible. State Government is introducing a Comprehensive Financial Management System (CFMS) which will link State Government's databases to relevant databases of the Accountant General and Reserve Bank of India.
  • The integration of databases ensures that if the pensioner and department use online web application process, then, Inward (Dak) section, Inward (Pension) or Inward (GPF) section, Section Head of the concerned pension section, Accounts Officer authorising the pension, EDP (Pension) section, Old Records section and Outward Despatch section can populate their computer screens automatically and perform verifications through a check box or with minimal data entry.

Innovation # 4

Accountability levels have been established with one checking level and one verification level. This has been reinforced through appropriate checklists.

Accountability levels

  • Section Head of Inward (Dak) section is solely accountable for all data entered on the system by his section
  • Section Head of Inward (Pension) section is solely accountable for all data entry and processing work done in the section.
  • Section Head of pension section is solely accountable for all data entry and calculations on the system; movement of files in complete and timely manner from the section to the Accounts Officer.
  • Section Head of EDP (Pension) section is solely accountable for ensuring that authorisations approved by the Accounts Officer are accurately printed and sent to the Accounts Officer.
  • Accounts Officer is accountable for verifying work of Section Heads of pension sections under his charge by using a system generated checklist; monitoring performance of Multi Tasking Staff (MTS) attached to him; signing treasury copies of authorisations; and, ensuring that approved authorisation with enclosures are sent to Outward (Despatch) section and concerned pension section appropriately.
  • MTS is required to: attach the DRs to treasury copies and SBs to department copy of the authorisation, obtain signatures of Accounts Officer on treasury copies, hand over prints in Outward section, sort cases as per list given by EDP (as fully issued / partly issued / VR issued); send completed cases to Old Records section and cases where action is still incomplete to Pension Library.
  • Section Head of Outward (Despatch) is accountable for ensuring that approved authorisations are correctly linked with concerned enclosures, that the Accounts Officer has signed at appropriate places in treasury copies etc.
  • Section Head of Old Records section is accountable for receipt of records in their custody, and timely supply to sections, when requisitioned

Composition of the Inward section in AG's office

Inward section has two parts:

  • Inward (Dak) section, which is manned by general staff without subject area expertise under a Section Head and
  • Inward (Pension) and Inward (GPF) are manned by Dealing Hands and Section Heads who have subject area expertise of pension and GPF processing work respectively: these constitute the technical staff of Inward section.

Task of Inward (Dak) section

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

Innovation # 5

Online tracking of pension processing

Innovation # 6

Immediate return of incomplete proposals

Innovation # 7

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:

  • When the Service Books do not contain mandatory certificate from the department that, entries have been updated, verified and corrected.
  • When pension proposals do not contain mandatory signatures of pensioner and PSA (with seal).

Dealing Hand uses checklists to scrutinise proposals and thereby:

  • Verifies if all documentation and information is complete. If not, a standard printed letter is sent to the pensioner and department after approval of Section Head.
  • Flags corrections on printed copies of online generated application forms for verification by Section Head.
  • Where pensioner and department have only used physical application forms and electronic data is partly or wholly unavailable, Dealing Hand gets details on application form captured on the system by Data Entry Operators (DEO) posted in Inward section and prints and verifies them before submission to Section Head.

Section Head does the following with the use of a checklist and makes necessary changes in the system:

  • Checks pension proposals and approves draft letters submitted by the Dealing Hand for returning incomplete Service Books and unsigned proposals, and calling for wanting documents and information
  • Verifies the electronic application form with physical form along with corrections flagged by the Dealing Hand.
  • Verifies printouts of input by the DEO with the pension application.

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

Innovation # 8

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.

Innovation # 9

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.

Innovation # 10

Detailed check of service books by AG's office has been dispensed with:

  • At the instance of the Accountant General, State Government has reiterated to all departments existing instructions on periodic verification of Service Books.
  • State Government has directed that all Service Books forwarded to the AG for pension authorisation invariably contain a certificate that the entire Service Book (including pay fixations) has been verified and found correct.
  • Pension proposals received in AG's office without the above certificate are returned to the department at Inward (Dak) stage itself.
  • Internal Test Audit (ITA) wing verifies pension cases randomly and any instances of incorrect certification by departments are brought to the notice of the Head of Department through a demi official letter from the AG. This acts as a deterrent for casual verification of Service Books by departments.
  • Field audit parties have been instructed to conduct test checks of Service Books in all offices that they audit.

Important Development in Andhra Pradesh

At the instance of the Accountant General, State Government has issued orders:

  • Reiterating the primary duty of Heads of Offices to verify Service Books;
  • Approving AG's proposal not to withhold amounts from gratuity towards overpayments of pay and non receipt of Last Pay Certificate (LPC) etc., and,
  • Refunding amounts earlier withheld.

Innovation # 11

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.

Innovation # 12

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.

Innovation # 13

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.

Innovation # 14

Processing and verification at various levels is captured by the system, dispensing with the need to affix initials in different places.

Innovation # 15

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:

  • Comparing printouts generated by Pension (Inward) section with Service Book entries and flagging discrepancies for perusal of the Section Head.
  • Checking Service Book for accuracy of latest pay fixation and recording it in Input Sheet. In respect of revision cases, linking original file with the present proposal.
  • Where the system, as recorded by Inward (Pension) section, indicates that documents like LPC and No Dues Certificate (NDC) are missing, see whether documents have since been received and make appropriate changes in Input Sheet for incorporation in the system by Section Head. Otherwise, the system will automatically generate, in the printed authorisation, a specific direction to verify these before payment.

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:

  • Verifies work of Section Head by using a checklist.
  • Approves authorisation on the computer system.
  • Signs treasury copy of authorisation (there are normally three sets: pension, commuted value and gratuity; the system records his facsimile signature on department and pensioner copies).
  • Monitors work of e MTS attached to him.

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.

Task of MTS attached to Accounts Officer

Collect prints from Pension (EDP) and approved pension cases from Branch Officer, and hand them to despatch accountant of the section concerned.

Task of Despatch Accountant in section:

  • Put cases in despatch mode (i.e., office copy with Pension Proposals, Service Book with department copy, Descriptive Rolls with Pension Payment Order etc.,) and make entry in service book..
  • Send cases to Branch Officer for signatures
  • Receive the cases with signed prints from Branch Officer
  • Send prints to Outward Section for despatch to pensioner, department, treasury and send fully issued cases to Old Records Section or to Pension Library (if it is partly issued or if only VR has been issued).

Task of Pension Library:

Preserve cases received from despatch accountant in section and name order. Process indents received from Correspondence Cell for cases.

Innovation # 16

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.

Innovation # 17

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.

Innovation # 18

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.

Innovation # 19

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

  • When the pensioner or family pensioner uses the web-based pension application for revision of pension, Old Records section receives an alert, following which old files are retrieved and transmitted to the concerned pension section.
  • On despatch of authorisations, Pension (Despatch) section sends the pension files to Old Records section in the order defined by the electronic list generated by EDP (Pension) section. Old Records section, for convenience, stores files in bundles of 20 and records details electronically.

Innovation # 20

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

Innovation # 21

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.

Innovation # 22

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.

Innovation # 23

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

Innovation # 24

Electronic integration of authorisation details with first payment of pension

This is done in the following manner:

  • Details regarding pension authorisations are transmitted daily from AG's database to Director of Treasuries (DTA) through treasury VPN.
  • This information is integrated on the treasury database.
  • At the time of making payment, treasuries access and upload payment details onto treasury database.
  • Payment details are provided to AG Office daily from DTA database.
  • AG integrates the information into pension database.

Innovation # 25

Efficient grievance redressal mechanism

  • An exclusive email ID has been created for pension related queries. An Assistant Accounts Officer with pension processing experience downloads emails daily, accesses pension database and if details are available, immediately furnishes replies to the pensioner. Otherwise, the mail is sent to the sections with Accountant General's remarks, if any, for disposal.
  • An Assistant Accounts Officer has been designated as Public Grievances Officer and provided with a mobile phone. This information is available on the office website and in the premises of the grievance cell. Calls from pensioners are responded to immediately (if made during office hours) and next working day (if made after office hours).
  • Status of pension cases is also posted on office website.
  • Pensioners can register their mobile number by sending SMS to a designated number and the system generates and sends a status update through SMS.
  • Grievance Cell redresses grievances of pensioners who visit the office.

Innovation # 26

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.

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