NEW DELHI: Several departments under the ministries of Defence and Home Affairs are giving NITI Aayog the runaround when it comes to furnishing details of their spending.
Ever since the Centre abolished the distinction between plan and non-plan expenditure, NITI Aayog has been chasing these departments -- as also others -- to come forth with details of how they have been spending their allocated budgets.
Officials of the planning body say the two ministries have got so used to operating under the garb of secrecy that have been avoiding reporting to NITI Aayog, especially on matters that formerly used to fall in the category of non-plan expenditure.
Some ministries such as Defence and Home Affairs never in the past had to share spending information with any institution other than the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). “They still want to enjoy the same luxury despite the Union Cabinet abrogating the budget distinction," said a senior official of NITI Aayog.
In the former budgetary system, government expenditure was classified as plan or non-plan. All plan expenditure used to be capital expenditure. Non-plan expenditure used to be sub-divided into capital and revenue spending.
Capital expenditure was essentially for asset creation or asset acquisition. In the Defence and Home Affairs ministries, however, all allocations used to be under non-plan expenditure for both capital and revenue spending. That distinction gave them the luxury of not having to go to the Planning Commission for sanction or appraisal of their expenses.
NITI Aayog member VK Saraswat, who was earlier with the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), has been assigned to work with the ministries of defence and home. "He first finvited DRDO official to a meeting and laid out a set of queries. However, the officials of the research organisation were not too forthcoming," a source said.
Incidentally, NITI Aayog has been mandated to prepare by January next year a 15-year vision document for all Union ministries.
"Old habits die hard. But then the mandate of NITI Aayog is also limited. We cannot influence sanctioning or appraisal of projects," said an official. He added that the Prime Minister would have to look into the matter and ask the Cabinet secretary to issue a fresh fiat ordering all ministries to cooperate with the panel.
Incidentally, the NITI Aayog is running against time. The 15-year vision document has be ready well before the last five-year plan comes to end on March 31, 2017, bring to a close the Plan era.
"The lack of cooperation on the part of the two ministries is hampering finalisation of the chapter dedicated to internal and external security," the source said.