The Telegraph
Monday , March 10 , 2014
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Fat white elephant doesn’t like work

Have manpower, fleet and phones but can’t deliver?

It takes a brave state government to reflect on this in a double poll year, but the Hemant Soren government-led finance department is asking this question.

The state’s embarrassing third supplementary budget this fiscal fresh in public memory with a little over one-third funds utilisation, the finance department has for the first time in Jharkhand’s history has attempted to link each department’s resources with performance by compiling how many employees, vehicles and telephones each one has.

According to the list released after the main fiscal budget 2014-15 on February, Jharkhand state government has a workforce of over 2.4 lakh employees, excluding contractual ones like para-teachers, MGNREGS workers, sahiyas and anganwadi workers.

It also has a whopping fleet of 8,414 vehicles and 7,093 telephone connections.

In a country where citizens are used to shouldering a white elephant bureaucracy, Jharkhand’s findings are perhaps not surprising.

Also, the workforce strength or number of vehicles and phones has little bearing on the quantum of work done by each department in a number of cases.

To cite an instance, state water resources department is a laggard performer with only Rs 700 crore utilisation this current fiscal of the allocated Rs 1,612 crore. But it has as many as 5,917 employees, 176 vehicles and 154 telephones.

Panchayati raj and NREP (Special Division) department, another poor performer this fiscal with only Rs 133.12 crore utilisation out of an allocation of Rs 1,080 crore, boasts 3,658 employees, 15 vehicles and 37 telephones.

In fact, most departments ran extremely flabby ships (see box).

State finance secretary A.P. Singh told The Telegraph they had listed these details for the first time by compiling data from all departments to streamline their functioning.

One of Singh’s officials voiced the unspoken aim.

“It is evident that huge resources of many departments are apparently not in accordance with the amount of work they do. We have listed them to make everything transparent for the common masses through the media,” a senior finance department official said.

While this transparency from the department led by Congress minister Rajendra Prasad Singh is refreshing, there is not much scope for change in this fiscal.

A March Loot is a foregone conclusion.

In informal bureaucratic parlance, it’s a term that signifies withdrawal of last-minute funds by departments for projects earmarked for the present fiscal but whose execution would spill over to the new fiscal due to lack to time.

Till March 31, 2014, the onus is on departments to withdraw as much of funds as possible. So far, funds utilisation stand at some 36 per cent of the state plan head funds of Rs 16,800 crore earmarked for 2013-14, but Project Building mandarins are aiming at 80 per cent funds utilisation.

Development economist Ramesh Sharan told The Telegraph about the lack of administrative capacity on part of certain departments that led to this scenario.

“Lack of accountability is the greatest boon of government officials,” he said.

And the greatest bane of the taxpayer.

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