Bending austerity rules to go abroad

As if acting in cahoots, State Cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats have come up with a brilliant idea to go on foreign junkets without appearing to violate austerity regulations that came into effect for the first time in 2008 and followed by a second Finance Department circular in 2009.

The plan adopted by the Cabinet ministers and senior officials was to use government boards and corporations, that they head, to bear their expenses for the foreign tours. The total expenditure incurred by the ministers for foreign travel is estimated at Rs 30 lakh and that of the officials at Rs 1 crore.

As many as 10 Cabinet ministers, including Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, and 42 senior IAS and IPS officers have gone globe-trotting at an astronomical cost between April and November 2009.

Documents in possession of Deccan Herald show that the powers-that-be have also resorted to subterfuge to suppress the facts.  On record, only nine officials have been shown to have undertaken foreign travel during this period. That the very people’s representatives swore in October last year, when the State was hit by calamitious floods and a severe cash crunch, to follow austerity in government bent the rules became evident in a written reply to Congress MLA Ramalinga Reddy’s unstarred question during the Assembly’s winter session.

In its reply, the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR) stated that the government granted permission to only nine officials to proceed on foreign travel for administrative purposes. The DPAR also said that no minister toured abroad.
In reality, no less than 42 ministers and officials went abroad by using the money drawn from a host of government-owned corporations and boards that function under their departments.

The rationale behind using these boards and corporations was that they are autonomous bodies and expenditures incurred by them are not shown against their respective departments.

While Yeddyurappa, Revenue Minister Karunakara Reddy, IT and BT Minister Katta Subramanya Naidu and Industries Minister Murugesh Nirani visited China, Japan, Germany and Austria on the account of Karnataka Udyog Mitra, Transport Minister R Ashok and Co-operation Minister Lakshman Savadi went to Sweden, Japan and Korea under KSRTC’s and Karnataka State Cooperative Apex Bank’s account, respectively.
Curiously, the source of the foreign travel expenses of former Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Shobha Karandlaje, who toured Washington DC, and Labour Minister Bacche Gowda, who spent time in Geneva, were not shown by DPAR.

Nearly a dozen senior IAS and IPS toured various countries on expenses borne by BMRCL, KSRTC, KUWASIP, KSTDC, KSCAB and KSFC.

At the same time, the expenditure of Chief Secretary Sudhakar Rao, who accompanied the Chief Minister on his China tour in September 2009, has been shown to have been borne by the Government of Karnataka.

Each of these government officers spent Rs 2 lakh on average.

*Ministers use govt boards and corporations to bear their expenses for foreign tours
*The total expenditure incurred by ministers is estimated at Rs 30 lakh and that of the officials at Rs 1 crore
*10 Cabinet ministers and 42 senior bureaucrats have gone globe-trotting between April and November 2009.
*On record, only 9 officials have been shown to have undertaken foreign travel

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