The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Babus’ foreign jaunts under scrutiny

New Delhi, Feb. 5: The Centre has launched a fresh effort to stop bureaucrats from wasting the taxpayers’ money on junkets abroad.

Cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi has asked every department to furnish details of all foreign trips that officials have in mind for the calendar year, and reminded them that such tours can be undertaken only for “unavoidable official engagements”.

The senior-most additional secretary and secretary-level officials are allowed four foreign trips a year and can increase the number to six only in “exceptional” circumstances that have to be spelt out in detail.

Chaturvedi’s note to the ministries says officials who have travelled more than four times abroad in a year should be replaced by others if it is absolutely essential to send a delegation on a foreign tour. The size of the delegations must be kept to the “critical minimum”.

“There have been instances of several officers accompanying delegations even when they are not required and these jumbo-sized teams have been revelling in five-star luxury at the expense of the national exchequer,” a senior official said.

Often, however, it’s their ministers who take these officials along on foreign jaunts. Team lists will now be more closely scrutinised before visits are cleared.

The cabinet secretary is believed to be annoyed that many officials are getting their trips sponsored by public sector companies under the administrative control of their ministries. From now on, a detailed explanation will be sought on the reasons why the public sector company is ready to foot the bill.

Sources said the government has been able to stop officials from travelling abroad to attend insignificant seminars and workshops. But the more stringent norms are being ignored.

Although the cabinet secretary has issued a stern note, it still allows officials to make six foreign tours if they can convince their superiors of the necessity of the two extra trips. The austerity drive’s success, therefore, depends on how strictly the requests for permission to travel abroad are scrutinised.

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