AAO ANC: Blazing the trail in Digital India mission

Report by: 
ROOPA LALL
Port Blair
11 Sep 2017

When one seeks to bring in changes in an administrative system that prevailed for decades, stiff resistance from certain sections is bound to happen. Though the end result of such reforms make  the system more robust and proactive, some with vested interests continue to create hindrance. R Arulanandan, IDAS, was no exception! In January 2016, when R Arulanandan assumed charge as the Joint Controller of Defence Accounts (JCDA) of the Andaman and Nicobar Command here, he had a definite objective in mind - to make the accounting system more transparent, efficient and stamp out corruption using technological interventions. But he too faced challenges in the initial days. While the larger segment was excited with innovative initiatives, some of his subordinates conspired and coaxed a section of the local media to plant concocted stories to tarnish the repute of the Defence Accounts Department in general and R Arulanandan in particular. A reality check stands testimony that the proficient headship of R Arulanandan dawned a new era in the functioning of the office of Joint controller of Defence Accounts also known as Area Accounts Office (AAO) of the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC).
According to reports, Area Accounts office presently operates on an automated system with role based access. The department inked an MoU with the State Bank of India on pan-India basis to reduce reliance on physical cash handling and movement of cheques.  Poor internet connectivity notwithstanding, the agency presently transacts through an online portal on real time basis for reimbursement of telephone bills, ration money etc. directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries, which earlier was paid through their Unit’s Fund Account.
In line with the government  policy, Direct Bank Transfer (DBT) System was introduced in April 2017 to pay advances to Coast Guard Personnel on account of Transport Allowance, Leave Travel Concession, Sea Passage Concession and Emergency Sea Passage Concession and was formally inaugurated by the Commander, Coast Guard, A & N Region and the Controller of Defence Accounts (IDS), New Delhi. The initiative has drastically reduced the quantum of physical cash handling and facilitated easy payment to personnel serving far flung units located in Diglipur, Mayabunder,  Kamorta, Campbell Bay, Little Andaman etc. “The launch of DBT system has become a blessing for the Coast Guard personnel. The system enables us keep records updated and monitor pending claims with the click of a mouse. Moreover, the system ensures timely disbursal of payments and advances in time. The cashless transfer system besides saving time is safe and secure as well and beneficial for both the individual and the office concerned,” said some Coast Guard personnel speaking to EOI requesting anonymity.
Sources further claim that following office automation, physical visits by Navy and Coast Guard personnel to office for ascertaining status of claims have been reduced significantly. “Under the new system of digital transactions, all requisitions and claims are settled with 7 to 10 working days reducing pendency which was massive under manual mode earlier. Moreover, we are kept updated by cheque slips dispatched to us through posts to our respective addresses. Further, the Touch Screen Kiosk installed in the office premises provides detailed information pertaining to the status of bills, date of receipt of claim, date of disposal, amount passed and DV No., PA /Rec Memo No., disallowance details etc and serpentine queues at the office for the purpose are gone days now. Even the Coast Guard and Naval Component Commander have expressed interest to have similar Kiosks at their respective places.”
“All information pertaining to bills of vendors engaged by the Defence agencies can be obtained from the reception counter besides postal communications sent to them on a daily basis. The prompt system has generated massive satisfaction among vendors as the touch screen kiosk has resulted in overall improvement in services and transparency. Despite poor internet connectivity, Biometric Attendance system has been implemented in the Sub Offices located at Minnie Bay, Prothrapur, Brichganj, Haddo -all under the Area Accounts Office (ANC).  Installation of the system is also underway at Car Nicobar. Overall, the Area Accounts Office has not only complied with the Digital India initiative of the government, but also bettered its services to clients in a time bound and transparent manner,” said some Navy personnel.
The office of Joint controller of Defence Accounts (ANC) also known as Area Accounts office, Buniyadabad, Port Blair functions under the aegis of Defence Accounts Department (DAD), Ministry of Defence (Finance).  The department, one of the oldest of the Govt. of India, with 256 years of glorious history, was renamed as Defence Accounts Department on 01.10.1951, which was earlier known as Military Accounts Department (MAD).