Central univ imposes fine on KPMG, partner now acting V-C

A partner with KPMG, the project management agency facing Rs 1.18 crore in penalties imposed by Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University (RGNAU), a Central university under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, for absenteeism and delay of work, was appointed acting Vice Chancellor of the university – and two years on, the fine is yet to be recovered from KPMG.

In September 2019, KPMG partner Amber Dubey was inducted into the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) as Joint Secretary on a three-year contract under the parallel entry scheme. Two months later, he took charge as Acting V-C of RGNU. Since then, the recovery of Rs 69 lakh Central univ imposes fine on KPMG, partner now acting V-C in penalty and Rs 49 lakh as forfeiture of bank guarantee from KPMG has been hanging fire.

This was among a series of alleged irregularities flagged by the latest CAG report on the university submitted to the Ministry this January. It noted that the file for appointment of the KPMG as project management agency was “called for but not furnished to audit”.

The report also highlighted delays in formulating recruitment rules for various cadres in RGNAU, no regular hiring even after rules were framed in August 2021, “compromise in transparency” in hiring manpower through outsourcing agencies and “undue favour” in direct appointment of consultants under Dubey’s watch.

Asked about these allegations and the potential conflict of interest regarding KPMG’s non-payment of penalties, Dubey told The Indian Express: “The allegations are baseless and the matter is sub-judice. We politely decline any comment.”

That “sub-judice”refers to a case filed by RGNAU registrar Jitendra Singh who was sacked in January 2020 in what Allahabad High Court subsequently called “punitive and stigmatic orders”. Following this, Singh was reinstated on December 31, 2021, only to be suspended the same day. This February, the Allahabad HC issued a notice to Dubey under the Contempt of Courts Rules Act, 1971.

Incidentally, as RGNAU registrar, it was Singh who chaired the Contract Monitoring Committee (CMC) that imposed the penalty on KPMG in 2019.

KPMG’s association with the university goes way back. In 2013, the government decided to set up RGNAU land available with IRGUA in Raebareli. KPMG was hired as the project management agency in August 2016 for Rs 4.89 crore. The first phase of establishment was to be completed by 2019.

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In September 2017, KPMG furnished the mandatory performance bank guarantee after 11 months instead of within two weeks and after a payment of Rs 1.96 crore was already issued by the RGNAU. In October 2021, a CAG report described this as “highly irregular”.

In January 2019, the CMC of RGNAU fined KPMG Rs 20.09 lakh due to absenteeism and Rs 48.99 lakh for delay in work.

In March 2019, records show, it was Amber Dubey himself who told the CMC that KPMG representatives had met various officers in the MoCA and claimed they were willing to take “a lenient view” on the issue of delay.

The CMC asked him to get that in writing, reiterated its decision to recover Rs 69.08 lakh from KPMG, and recommended a performance review after completion of the pending tasks to decide whether to forfeit KPMG’s performance bank guarantee — another Rs 48.99 lakh.

In July 2019, RGNAU again rejected KPMG’s request for taking a lenient view of the delay. Dubey joined the MoCA as joint secretary in September 2019 and was allotted RGNAU in the ministry’s work allocation.

In November 2019, RGNAU’s vice chancellor Air Vice-Marshal (Retd) Nalin Tandon resigned citing personal reasons, and Dubey took over as the Acting Vice Chancellor.

The Secretary, MoCA, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls.

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