PM's deadline for ministers on assets

PM's deadline for ministers on assets

Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrashekhar has sent identical letters to ministers on June 2 setting a deadline of August 31 to comply with the prime minister’s directive to them, issued in accordance with the code of conduct for ministers.

“I have been directed by the prime minister to apprise you of the declarations required to be made by a member of the Union Council of Ministers in accordance with the code of conduct for ministers...,” Chandrasekhar has said in the letter.

The directive requires the ministers to declare their assets as also those of their spouses and dependents along with any business interests.

“In this connection I am to inform you that in terms of the code of conduct details in respect of assets, liabilities business interests conduct and management of any other business and employment of spouse and dependents under a foreign government or organisation are required to be disclosed by the Members of the Union Council of Ministers,” the Cabinet Secretary said in the letter.

Chandrashekhar had sent out a similar letter to central ministers and chief ministers in 15 months ago on an instruction from the Prime Minister. Obviously, not all ministerial colleagues of Singh had taken the instruction seriously.

Annual statements sought
The UPA government had assumed office in May 2004 with a promise to introduce transparency in governance and the Prime Minister had instructed all ministers to submit annual statements to the Prime Minister’s Office providing details of their assets and liabilities as required under the Code.

However, the ministers have tended to treat the prime minister’s instruction as a matter of routine and not bothered to comply with it.

Indeed, the PMO instruction has been circulated among the ministers each year.
Most of the ministers have never submitted the required statement to the PMO over the last seven years of UPA rule.

In November 2007, Singh had apparently conveyed his annoyance to his ministers over their repeated failure to comply with his instructions.

The June 2 letter has drawn the attention of the ministers to the paragraphs 1(a), 2(a), 2(e) and 3.2 of the Code. Under relevant parts of these paras, among others, the ministers are required to “disclose to the prime minister, or the chief minister, as the case may be details of the assets and liabilities, and of business interests, of himself and of members of his family.

What the code says
Paragraph 1(a): “The details to be disclosed shall consist of particulars of all immovable property and the total approximate value of (i) shares and debentures, (ii) cash holdings and (iii) jewellery. Such a Statement of assets and liabilities could be in respect of the financial year for which the income tax return has already been filed by the Minister”.
The paragraph 2(a) states: “After taking office, and so long as he remains in office, the Minister shall furnish annually by the 31st August to the Prime Minister, or the Chief Minister, as the case may be, a declaration regarding his assets and liabilities for the previous financial year.”

The paragraph 2(e) states that a Minister should “report the matter to the Prime Minister, or the Chief Minister as the case may be, if any member of his family sets up, or joins in the conduct and management of, any other business.”

According to paragraph 3.2 “A Minister, including the Union Ministers, the Chief Ministers and other Ministers of State Governments/Union Territories, should not permit their spouse and dependents to accept employment under a Foreign Government, in India or abroad, or in a foreign organisation (including commercial concerns) without prior approval of the Prime Minister.

“Where the wife or a dependent of a Minister is already in such employment, the matter should be reported to the Prime Minister for decision whether the employment should or should not continue. And as a general rule “there should be total prohibition on employment with a Foreign Mission”.

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