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Chapter 14 - Indian Railway Account Service (IRAS) Notes | Study A Bouquet of Services by IPS Lohit Matani and IPS Vishal - UPSC

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Indian Railway Account Service (IRAS)

Contributor:  Mr. Neelanshu Shekhar, IRAS 2014 Batch

14.1 Cadre Structure and Overview

When Railway Board was reorganized in 1921, a post of Financial Commissioner for Railways was created and railway finances were separated from the General Finances of the Government of India. The function of Auditing and Accounting of Railways was also shifted to the Finance Commissioner of Railways. This marked the beginning of the IRAS, as a cadre distinct from the Indian Audit and Account Service.

The Financial Commissioner (head of the IRAS) for the Railways represents the Ministry of Finance on the Railway Board and also functions ex-officio as Secretary to Government of India in the Ministry of Railways in financial matters.

Organizationally, the Finance and Accounts functions are integrated with the executive at all levels in the Railways. At the apex policy formulation level, Financial Commissioner aids and guides the Ministry of Railways (Railway Board). At the Zonal Railways level, Financial Adviser and Chief Accounts Officer aid the General Manager. Similarly, at the Divisional level, IRAS Officers aid the Divisional Railway Manager in finance and accounts matters. Apart from these, the Accounts and Finance Organization is directly associated with decision making process in almost all spheres of Railway activity.

In addition, IRAS officers also occupy management posts such as Divisional Railway Managers, Additional General Managers, etc.

14.2 Roles and Responsibilities

As explained, IRAS Officers are responsible for Finance and Accounting functions of the Railways. The normal job profile of an ICAS officer includes the following:

I.    Financial Management

  1. Scrutiny of Railway Proposals: IRAS Officers lead teams involved in scrutiny of all investment and expenditure proposals of various executive departments relating to the areas of transportation, personnel, motive power, rolling stock, railway electrification, workshops, signal and telecommunication, civil engineering, commercial, medical, safety, security, and so on.
  2. Financial Control: Officers work in maintaining control over plan expenditure, revenue expenses and revenue receipts.
  3. Budgetary Function: IRAS officers prepare the Railway Budget as well as budget of its various offices. They examine/ control the budget and exercise budgetary controls as per the procedure laid down.
  4. Financial Reviews: Officers carry out periodical financial reviews so as to monitor both the expenditure and receipts, and tender appropriate advice to Railway Administration so as to arrest any budgetary deviations.
  5. Project Reports: IRAS Officers associate with survey teams and prepare project reports for new capital investments in the Railways.
  6. Project Review: They do midlife review of the railway projects and revise the cost estimates involved in them.
  7. Tenders and Contracts: They are associated with the tenders and contracts processes to get the work done in a swift manner.
  8. Productivity Tests: They carry out productivity tests so as to determine the extent of the projected benefits accruing to the system.
  9. Manpower Planning: They also associate themselves with manpower planning in railways and are associated with creation or surrender of posts.
  10. Funds Management: They are also a part of funds management and are involved in raising of funds from the market for the railways. They find ways and means to finance Railway Plans, through conventional and non-conventional sources, such as commercial exploitation of land, Joint Venture and SPV, BOLT Scheme, leasing, and so on, to meet and finance the investment requirements of Railways particularly concerning replacement of aged assets, safety works and network expansion.

II.  Accounting Functions:

  1. Book Keeping: IRAS Officers are responsible for maintenance of Books of Accounts, involving booking of all expenditure and earning to correct heads of accounting.
  2. Internal Check: They carry out internal checks of all transactions affecting receipts and expenditure on the Railways. All claims against railways, whether commercial claim for loss of material, contractors’ bills, suppliers’ bill or establishment claims are required to be checked in accounts department with reference to rules or orders before the claims are settled.
  3. Inspection: The responsibility of IRAS Officer encompasses inspection of station accounts to ensure that the accounts submitted by the stations in respect of earnings are not only correct but that all the prescribed initial records are being kept and the transactions are carried out as per the extant rules and procedures. Similarly, while inspecting Store Depots, they verify that stocks as seen in the books are actually available in depots or not. Apart from these inspections, accounts officer also inspects the initial records being maintained in various executive offices.
  4. Claims Settlement: IRAS Officers are responsible for settlement of claims and recovery of Railways dues.
  5. Officers are involved in control of Stock inventory.
  6. Cash Management: Officers do the task of management of cash and pay office and co-ordination with RBI and other banks.
  7. Assets Register: They also maintain the assets register/ block accounts necessary for determining the dividend liability and depreciation.
  8. IT Reforms: They are responsible for creating an environment for new IT reforms and doing work related to Electronic data processing and Management Information System.
  9. Finally, they also do all works relating to Management Accounting.

14.3 Normal Growth Profile

We will be discussing about the various career opportunities an IRAS Officer has in a separate topic. However, this topic only deals with various positions an IRAS Officer holds during his professional life. These positions are held when he/ she is working in his/ her main line departments.

Time Scale

Position in Railway Board

Position in Railways

Duration

Junior Time Scale

NA

(a)   In HQ Office- Assistant Financial Adviser/ AFA

(b)   In Division- Assistant Divisional Financial Manager (ADFM)

(c)   In Workshop- Assistant Workshop Accounts Officer (AWAO)

(d)  In Traffic Accounts Office- Assistant Financial Adviser, Traffic (AFA-T)

3 years

 

 

(e)   In EDP Centres- Assistant Electronic Data Processing Manager/ AEDPM

 

Senior Time Scale

Deputy Director

(a) Senior Assistant Financial Adviser (Sr.AFA)

(b) Divisional Financial Manager (ADFM)

(c) Workshop Accounts Officer (AWAO)

(d) Senior Assistant Financial Adviser, Traffic

(e) Electronic Data Processing Manager (EDPM)/ Senior System Analyst (SSA)

2-3 years

Junior Administrative Grade

Joint Director

(a)   Deputy Financial Adviser (Dy.FA) and Chief Accounts Officer (CAO)

(b)  Senior Electronic Data Processing Manager (Sr. EDPM)

6-7 years

Selection Grade in JAG

Director

Deputy Financial Adviser (Dy.FA) and Chief Accounts Officer (CAO)

6-7 years

Senior Administrative Grade

Executive Director

Financial Adviser (FA) and Chief Accounts Officer (CAO)

5-6 years

Higher Administrative Grade

Adviser

Principal Financial Adviser and Chief Accounts Officer (CAO)

Depending on Vacancies at HAG+

HAG+

Additional Member

General Manager/ Director General

 

Apex Level

Financial Commissioner

 

 

14.4 Recruitment

The recruitment into IRAS happens through two channels:

  1. People are inducted into IRAS after qualifying in the Civil Services Exam conducted by UPSC.
  2. The Group B Accounts Officers working on Zonal Railways are promoted to the IRAS grade after 8-10 years of service. Ratio 50:50.

14.5 Training

IRAS officers undergo a training of 90 weeks before induction into service on various railway zones and other offices. The training program includes training at National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR), Vadodara, National Academy of Direct Taxes, Nagpur, National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), Faridabad, Railway Staff College, Vadodara, and other specialized training institutes, as well as filed training on zonal railways, divisions, construction organizations and manufacturing units of Indian Railways.

Also there are provisions for mid career and in service training for IRAS officers spread across the entire service span.

14.6 Variety of Opportunities for IRAS Officers

Apart from the cadre posts, officers of IRAS also serve in the General Administration posts of Indian Railways. The opportunities they get are as follows

International

National

State/ Sub National

  1. United Nations Institutions.
  2. World Bank
  3. International Monetary Fund
  4. In development project of developing countries. E.g. Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs) of Government of Bhutan.

 

  1. Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT)
  2. NTRO, DGDA
  3. Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL)
  4. Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA)
  5. Indian Railway Construction Company Limited (IRCON)
  6. National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR), National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM)
  7. Indian Railway Financial Corporation (IRFC)
  8. RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. (RCIL)
  9. Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS)
  10. GM, Zonal Railways
  11. Railway Recruitment Board
  12. Vigilance Department of Railways
  13. Ministeries (through Central Staffing Scheme)
  14. Finance Portfolio in PSUs
  15. Educational Institutions like IISc and IITs
  16. Industries like Centrral Silk Board, Bengaluru
  17. National Productivity Council (NPC)
  18. Indian Port Rail Corporation Ltd. (IPRCL)
  19. Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India (DFCCIL)
  20. Central Ministires through Central Staffing Scheme (CSS)
  21. Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN)
  1. Divisional Railway Manager
  2. Metro Rail Corporations of different cities.
  3. State Ministries through State Staffing Scheme
  4. State PSUs like Central
  5. State level Railway Organisations like Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC)

 

 

 

14.7 Perks and Privileges for IRAS Officers

IRAS officers enjoy the following advantages:

  1. IRAS officers get an unique opportunity to work in the financial as well as accounting domain.
  2. As the cadre of IRAS is small, the promotion opportunities are good.
  3. The amount of political interference is very less in this service.
  4. IRAS officers enjoy the facilities of colossal and first class infrastructure of Indian Railways.
  5. IRAS is the only railway service in which the officers get an opportunity to undergo foreign training in the railway institutes of advanced countries.
  6. IRAS officers have huge avenues of deputation within Railway PSUs, Metro Rail Corporations and other departments of railways. In this manner, they enjoy a high diversity in work.
  7. The other government account services participate in governmental accounting only. However, IRAS officers participate in both governmental as well as commercial accounting.
  8. Due to specialization in commercial accounting as well, the exit options (to private industries) for IRAS officers are very bright.
  9. The cadre of IRAS is less rigid and informal. It allows open communication and interaction between officers at all ranks and posts.
  10. The service provides ample opportunities to maintain a good work life balance. If the spouse of an officer is also working in Indian Railways, the department tries to adjust him/ her in the same place.

14.8 Occupational Hazards

IRAS,UPSC,Public Service Commission

IRAS suffers from competition within the different departments and services of Indian Railways. It is often complained that different departments interfere with the daily work of IRAS officers. Secondly, in usual course, the amount of public interaction is very less in the work profile of an IRAS officer. Thirdly, at the JAG rank, the work of an IRAS officer is not diversified if an officer is posted only in railway divisions. At this rank, the work becomes monotonous at times.

14.9 Case Studies indicating the work life of an IRAS Officer

14.9.1 Laying Railway Track through Naxalite Areas

Indian Railways is a self sustaining and a profit making agency. It is the duty of IRAS officers to ensure that all the railway projects are profit making and don’t need any external monetary help for their sustenance. They are responsible for studying the costs and returns of all the projects before giving them financial approval. The rate of return for all the projects individually must be greater than 14%.

Mr. Anant Sajan was posted as Deputy Financial Manager at Vishakhapatnam. The rail connectivity in some of the areas of Chhattisgarh was very poor. There were economic as well as security difficulties in constructing railways over there. He got a proposal to construct two additional 

railway tracks from Vishakhapatnam to Chhattisgarh. The new tracks were to pass through dense forest area.

On studying the proposal, Anant found that only two passenger trains ply daily through this region presently. Moreover, the tribals residing in this 100 km region were not much interested in moving to different places. Moreover, the new railway track was supposed to pass through around 80 tunnels in the forests. Thus, the cost of construction was very high. This proposal was economically unviable.

However, the Ministry of Home Affairs pushed for the construction of this track as is would help in the easy movement of police parties in the naxal areas. This would improve the efficiency of police forces in fighting against naxalism.

Q. What were the ethical dilemmas and challenges in front of Mr. Anant in this situation? How should he overcome them? Please suggest a suitable strategy for him to follow.

 

14.9.2 Voluntary Retirement Due to Political Pressure

The whole railway fraternity was shocked on the decision of Financial Manager Mr. Shashank Rastogi. He took voluntary retirement only 3 months before his retirement. The reasons for such a drastic decision were many. The important ministers from the Ministry of Railways and other ministries were putting pressure on him to artificially inflate the profits of Indian Railways. Indian Railways has traditionally been a loss making agency and showing profits in Indian Railways is a populist measure adopted by many Ministers of Railways.

Before 6th Central Finance Commission (6th CPC), the operating ratio of Indian Railways was 0.75 ( that means 0.75 paisa were spent by Indian Railways in order to earn Re. 1 in return). However, due to increase in salaries after 6th CPC, the operating ratio increased to 0.95. The then Railway Minister was thus under pressure to increase the profits of Indian Railways. The Minister guided Shashank to decrease the amount of funds deployed under the head of ‘Depreciation Reserve Fund’. The yearly amount deployed under this fund is used for tasks like repairing of railway tracks. This amount is deposited annually and used after many years once the existing infrastructure gets damaged.

The Minister asked Shashank to deploy Rs 2,400 Crore in place of designated Rs 10,000 Crore in the ‘Depreciation Reserve Fund’. This would help in increasing the profit of Indian Railways. Shashank did not want to take this decision and thus he decided to take voluntary retirement from Indian Railways.

Q.    What were the ethical dilemmas in front of Shashank in taking such a decision? Was the Minister right in giving such a direction to Shashank? Was Shashank right in taking voluntary retirement? What would have been your course of action in place of Shashank? Analyze the situation in light of the work profile of IRAS and comment.

14.9.3 Wrong Means to Earn Profit

Today, the most pressing need of Indian Railways is to earn profits and work as a self sustaining agency. Therefore, IRAS officers look for more avenues to earn profit. They also take maximum measures so that the earlier sources of revenue do not decrease. However, there are instances when the existing sources of revenue starts decreasing. This happens due to changes in technologies and government policies.

In one such instance, the oil and gas companies wanted to transport oil and gas through pipelines. This would have decreased the revenue of Indian Railways as earlier oil was transported using the railway route. These oil and gas companies wanted to lay down pipelines through the areas where the railway tracks were passing. For this they required permission from Railway authorities to lay down pipeline beneath the railway tracks. Designated IRAS officers wanted to use this opportunity in saving a amount of their existing profits. They made an alternative deal that the permission will only be granted when only 50% of the total oil will be transported using pipeline and the rest 50% using the railway route.

In a similar instance, many power plants were being shifted towards the place of coal mining. The distance between coal mines and power plants decreased from 100s of kms to 10s of kms. For one such power plant in Bokaro, the distance from mine decreased from 500 km to 10 km. Earlier this coal was transported using railways. Thus shifting of power plants near the coal mines led to a huge loss for Indian Railways. The IRAS officer posted in Bokaro made an alternative deal with the power plant company. According to this arrangement railways will serve the new power plant in transporting coal only when at least 30% of the coal is still transported to the old power plant. He wanted that the old power plant should still remain functional and should consume at least 30% of the total coal bought by the power company.

Q. Is the behavior of officers in making such an alternative arrangement right? Comment separately on the intention and subsequent action of the officers. What would have you done in this situation?​

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