The Telecom Department has made it clear to MTNL and BSNL managements that it will no longer accept any claims raised by them for their staff working in DoT offices on an 'informal' or 'loan' basis, without proper sanction or approval.
Saddled with past claims and HR-related bills from the two cash-strapped firms, DoT has now shot-off letters to the two ailing corporations asking them to withdraw such employees.
DoT has also written to its own field units and offices asking them to ensure that no such staff is retained unless strictly in compliance with the rules, that is, on deputation basis against sanctioned and vacant posts.
The move assumes significance as both Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) have approached Department of Telecom (DoT) seeking payments and reimbursements for cases where their staff worked in the Department on 'loan' basis.
Alarmed by the claims, DoT has issued fresh instructions to its various units to avoid a similar situation in future, citing a notice issued earlier this year that such arrangements would not be allowed to continue after March 2019.
DoT sources told PTI that the idea is to ensure that these employees - engaged in the Department on informal basis - return to their offices in BSNL and MTNL. There is also no clear estimate on how many such employees are working in DoT, at present, they said.
Sources said payment issues have cropped up even for past reimbursement claims filed by BSNL and MTNL pertaining to such 'loaned' staff (without approvals) as neither Ministry of Finance nor Department of Personnel support such payments.
The past claims by the two telecom corporations in this regard, adds up to almost Rs 300 crore, sources pointed out.
"Even the past claims are stuck, so DoT is trying to avoid a similar situation in future," one of the sources added.
Distressed telecom PSUs MTNL and BSNL have been incurring losses and have been facing problems in clearing staff salaries on time in recent past. The massive cash crunch has prompted the two organisations to chase outstanding dues and receivables from all avenues.
The loss-making telecom firms have also approached the Telecom Department for immediate help to tide over their financial crisis, that was aggravated due to sustained competitive heat in the market following entry of Reliance Jio.
A revival plan - that entails components like Voluntary Retirement Service (VRS) and allocation of 4G spectrum - for the state-owned telecom firms is under active consideration.
The employee cost of BSNL is 75.06 percent and that of MTNL is 87.15 percent of their total income, while the same for private telecom companies varies between 2.9 percent to 5 percent.
According to data shared in the Lok Sabha in June this year, the market share of MTNL in the two circles where it operates (Mumbai and Delhi) has declined to 6.95 percent at the end of 2018-19 from 7.37 percent in 2016-17.