JKSSB blacklists Merittrac for 2 years

Agency will be debarred for another one year if convicted by CBI
[Representational Image]
[Representational Image]File/GK

Jammu, Sep 1: Jammu and Kashmir Services Selection Board (JKSSB) has blacklisted M/s Merittrac Services Private Limited agency for conducting any examinations in the Union Territory for a period of two years.

As per an order issued by Controller of Examinations, JKSSB, the period of blacklisting will be “extendable by a period of one year in case the Agency is convicted in the ongoing investigation by the CBI.”

Board had placed a work order with this Bangalore based agency Merittrac for the conduct of Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) based written examination including for the posts of Accounts Assistant (Finance) scheduled on March 6, 2022, posts of Junior Engineer (Civil) scheduled on March 20, 2022 and posts of Sub Inspector (Police) scheduled on March 27, 2022, as per the specified rates.

The examinations for selection against these posts were held on the scheduled dates, through OMR mode. In the examinations for the posts of Sub Inspector (Home Department); Accounts Assistant (Finance Department) and Junior Engineer (Civil), certain irregularities were reported and consequent upon which the Government of Jammu & Kashmir cancelled these examinations.

“The same was conveyed to the Board vide Letter No GAD-MTGORBIV/135/2022-09-GAD, dated July 21, 2022 and No GAD-MTGORBIV/135/2022-09-GAD-(Part-l), dated August 31, 2022, of the General Administration Department (GAD). These examinations were cancelled by the Board vide notification No. SSB/Sel/Secy/2022/5387-95 dated July 22, 2022 (Sub Inspector), No. SSB/CoE/2022/5847-61 dated August 31, 2022 (Junior Engineer, Civil) and No SSB/CoE/2022/5832-46 dated August 31, 2022 (Accounts Assistant, Finance). The matter was also referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the government for further enquiry,” the order mentioned.

The CBI registered FIRs in the matter and the Agency M/s Merittrac figured as one of the accused in FIR No. RC0042023A0001 dated January 9, 2023 while the officials of Merittrac in FIR No RC0042022A0008 dated August 3, 2022.

“The Agency was entrusted with the conduct of examinations for various posts by adhering to the terms and conditions of the work order dated February 17, 2022, ensuring safe and secure conduct of the examinations and it was under obligation, in terms of the conditions stipulated in the work order, to maintain 100 percent secrecy and security of the whole examination process. Hence the matter was placed before the Board in its 226th Board meeting held on May 16, 2023 and a decision was taken thereof,” Controller stated in the order.

“The Board observed that the Examination Conducting Agency viz; M/s Merittrac Private Limited has failed in maintaining 100 percent secrecy and security of the question papers or examinations for the post of Account Assistant (Finance Department), Junior Engineer, Civil (Jal Shakti Department) and Sub Inspector (Home Department) conducted during the month of March, 2022 which were Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) based. This led to the cancellation of these examinations. The Board, accordingly, decided to initiate punitive action against the Agency for violation of the conditions of the Work Order placed upon it after following due procedure, including the opportunity of being heard to the Agency. Based upon the response of the ECA to the Notice, the matter will be further deliberated in the Board for appropriate action,” the Controller said, referring to the decision of the Board.

He said that in the interest of fairness, transparency and adherence to the principles of natural justice and as per the decision of the Board, an opportunity of being heard was afforded to the Agency vide notice issued under endorsement No. JKSSB-ADM/15/2023-06 (E-7129476) dated May 17, 2023 to show cause as to why punitive action be not initiated against it for failing to conduct those examinations smoothly to the satisfaction of all stakeholders including the JKSSB.

The agency furnished its reply to the show cause notice on May 22, 2023. The reply of the Agency was placed before the Board in its 228th meeting held on May 26, 2023. The Board deliberated upon the issue and, after taking into consideration the reply by M/s Merittrac Services Pvt. Ltd, observed that the Agency failed to take adequate steps to ensure 100 percent sanctity and security of the examination process.

Accordingly, the Board, taking note of the lack of adherence to ethical practices and failure of the Agency to meet the mutually agreed-upon terms and conditions as contained in the Work Order, concluded that the Agency “be blacklisted in terms of the conditions of the Work Order No SSB/COE/W.O/2022/01-05 dated February 17, 2022 by way of a speaking Order.”

“It is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the Agency has failed to comply with the terms and conditions of work order placed with it by the Board and has sublet the work of highly serious, sensitive and confidential nature to another agency that has led to its leakage which is unacceptable. The action on part of the Agency for allowing compromise of purity and integrity of the examination process has far-reaching consequences for the Board and other stakeholders. As such, the reply furnished by the Agency on May 22, 2023 is not tenable and cannot be accepted. Against this backdrop, the Agency attracts punitive action,” JKSSB decided.

The matter was again deliberated upon by the Board in its 230th meeting held on August 3, 2023 with regard to the period of blacklisting of the Agency.

"The Board deliberated upon the matter and taking note of the instructions of the General Administration Department and opinion of the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, noted that M/s MeritTrac Pvt. Ltd. had failed to hold the examinations for the posts of Accounts Assistant (Finance), Junior Engineer, Civil (JSD) and Sub Inspector (Home) held in March, 2022 in a fair and transparent manner and its response to the Show Cause Notice dated May 17, 2023 is not convincing/in line with the terms and conditions in the relevant work order,” Controller of Examination, JKSSB mentioned.

He said that accordingly, it was decided that, in terms of the relevant provisions of the GFR-2017, the Agency would be debarred or blacklisted for conducting any examinations in the Union Territory of J&K for a period of two years.

“The Examination Section shall, accordingly, process the case for issuance of a speaking order in this regard,” the Board directed.

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