Saturday, 20 August 2011

Sycophancy at taxpayers' cost

Today’s newspapers are full of huge advertisements on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Shri Rajiv Gandhi. In the two newspapers itself that I read I see huge advertisements from the Government of India’s various ministries - Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Steel, Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, Ministry of Power, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Then there is the Delhi Govt through its Directorate of Information and Publicity, Govt of Rajasthan through Dept of Information and Public Relations, besides various autonomous bodies such as Navodaya Vidyala Samiti and Coir Board. And while 20th August is already called Sadbhavana Divas, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy went a further step ahead and also called it the Rajiv Gandhi Aksay Urja Divas. 

Similar advertisements would have appeared across the across other newspapers both national and local and also in vernacular languages, each ad costing in crores.

Why have these ads been brought out? Was there a diktat issued? Or did the concerned just feel the urge to celebrate this day? Do they do so on the birth anniversary of all the erstwhile Prime Ministers of our country? How far will this sycophancy last and when if ever will it end?

For some time now we have also been seeing that photographs of other leaders – the Chairperson of the UPA, the Prime Minister, Central Ministers and Ministers of State, Chief Ministers, State Ministers , Chairmen, Secretaries  etc. have started featuring in Govt. Advertisements – whether in newspapers or public hoardings.

While political parties doing this out of party funds is unexceptionable, is this legitimate publicity expenditure for government departments and agencies? The National Commission for Women was intelligent enough to use the occasion to advertise the rights of women, most are just blatant shows for a vested interest. Is anybody questioning these huge expenses from the taxpayers’ money which could better have been used by each ministry and office to improve their own activities for the welfare of the public which they profess to look after? 

Is this also not a matter for CAG or CVC to look at suo moto? The Mission Statement of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India which is the Supreme Audit Institution of India states its Mission to be

MISSION: Our mission enunciates our current role and describes what we are doing today: Mandated by the Constitution of India, we promote accountability, transparency and good governance through high quality auditing and accounting and provide independent assurance to our stakeholders, the Legislature, the Executive and the Public, that public funds are being used efficiently and for the intended purposes.

Looking at this, does CAG find such expenditure to be within the scope of public funds being used efficiently and for the intended purposes? And what about the Internal Finance Divisions (IFD) of various departments – what are they doing when such bills come to them for approval?

The ads shown above do not talk of any activity of the concerned government authority nor do they draw attention to any scheme prepared for the welfare of the public. Are the amounts spent for purposes for which they are authorised? Are such huge advertisements, which actually aim at the publicity of some individuals or groups, not a misuse and a form of corruption?  Which offices issued such ads and which did not? Which officials who authorised these gain from such wasteful expenditure of the exchequers’ funds and which officials went out of favour because they did not?  Surely this is a matter for the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to look at?

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