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Vote-on-account drill

New Delhi, Jan. 2: In the run up to a vote-on-account next month, the finance ministry has asked all ministries and departments to stick to the revised estimates (RE) of Budget 2013-14 while seeking changes in fund use.

A letter sent to all ministries warned them “under no circumstances should the RE ceilings be breached” while preparing supplementary demands for grants. According to officials, this means that ministries can divert funds already voted to them for other use, but cannot ask for any fresh funds.

The rule is being fiercely implemented as the government’s deficit or gap between income and spending has already gone up to 94 per cent of the budgeted figure with only three months left for the financial year to end.

In the letter, the ministry said, “It has to be ensured that the expenditure for 2013-14 has to be contained within the RE level. Instructions relating to 33 per cent and 15 per cent expenditure ceilings in the last quarter and last month, respectively, of the financial year may be scrupulously followed.”

Officials said this ceiling on spending, which was reiterated every year but often breached, would be “ruthlessly enforced” this time. Some believe that among other things, subsidy payments to oil marketing companies may be delayed.

Through the second batch of supplementary demands for grants, the government had got Parliament’s approval for Rs 18,594.27 crore additional spending in this fiscal to meet expenditure, mainly towards petroleum and fertiliser subsidies.

All financial advisers of various ministries will have to give in their requests by January 10. Officials said Parliament might be called by the end of this month to pass the supplementary grants first. The vote-on-account will be passed later in February.

“We will try our best to accommodate requests for changes keeping in view the tight schedule of printing of supplementary demands, which happens to overlap with the work of preparation of the annual budget documents,” the letter said.

Since a new Lok Sabha will be elected by May, the government will not come up with a full-fledged budget. It will present a vote- on-account, which will let the government spend till a new budget is prepared after the elections.

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