HRD Ministry passes the buck on pressing pause button
Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal might have topped the internal rating charts prepared by government agencies to map individual performance of the members of Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet, but it has found no takers in the Parliamentary Panel headed by BJP MP Harin Pathak.
Sibal had secured over 90 per cent marks in the report card prepared by the Cabinet Secretariat in association with the Planning Commission and Finance Ministry in September 2011. However, the Parliamentary Committee on Papers Laid on the Table of the House has found him guilty of inordinate delays in presenting annual reports and audited accounts of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Lucknow, in Parliament, year after year.
The committee, in its report presented to Parliament last week, also noted with concern that the delay in placing annual reports and audited accounts of the Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE) Mission in Delhi, for the financial years from 2003-2004 to 2010-2011 on the Table of the House ranged from 4 to 43 months. This was not because of any lateness on part of the auditors. The mission could not appoint auditors, submit annual accounts, get documents translated, printed and forwarded to the ministry in time for presenting on the Table of the House.
“If the ministry itself shows an apathetic and indifferent attitude in regard to the significance of the timely placing of documents, no better results can be expected from the institute or organisations there under and bodies which look towards the ministry for guidance in such matters,” the committee observed.
The HRD Ministry has blamed shortage of staff and lack of infrastructure in UEE Mission for the delay. However, the committee is not convinced. It lamented that it “deprecates this attitude of the Ministry and expect from the Mission or Ministry that such kind of casual approach should be avoided in future”. It asked the HRD Ministry to ensure proper monitoring and follow up, timely laying of documents pertaining to all institutions under its administrative control in future.
The committee also pointed out that annual reports and audited accounts are laid before Parliament as a measure of fulfilling accountability and to enable scrutiny of the documents by the House when demands for grants pertaining to the ministry are being considered. Hence, documents laid in the House after the stipulated time lose their utility and relevance and “do not serve any purpose except to fulfill the statutory requirement of laying the Papers on the Table”.
The HRD Ministry has, however, defended its minister by passing the buck on to the CAG’s delay in furnishing the reports along with audit certificates of IIM, Lucknow. According to practice, the onus of ensuring that IIM, Lucknow finalise accounts and audit reports on time lies with the ministry. In turn, the IIM is responsible for pursuing the CAG to submit the audit report on time.
“We take this whole process very seriously. But somehow we have not succeeded in persuading the CAG office, Allahabad, to complete this process in time,” Director of IIM admitted before the committee.
“I am sure, from this year onwards, we will personally send a person to CAG, Allahabad to expedite the work because not once have they given audit certificates before the middle of February or end of January,” Director of IIM assured the committee. The committee asked the HRD Ministry to take up the matter of delay at the stage of auditing accounts with CAG Allahabad.