Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spendthrift Government

We have a State government in Assam that constantly complains of paucity of funds at the drop of a hat — when it has to pay the salaries of school teachers or government employees. However, the same government has no problems finding money to squander. For the present, just three examples of waste of public funds should suffice, since they are directly attributable to ministers and senior bureaucrats who ought to be the most accountable entities in a ‘transparent’ government. The first is the Chief Minister’s travel expense — mainly outside Assam and more particularly to Delhi. Since coming to power during his second innings, he has spent the impressive sum of Rs 32,63,872 on 64 domestic trips and Rs 9,51,407 on his six trips abroad. In addition, he has spent Rs 2.115 crore on helicopter travel. All this is quite remarkable in an age when one has the most excellent communications facilities including tele-conferencing. Is it ethical or justifiable for a chief minister, who cannot even ensure regular salary payments, to spend over Rs 2.5 crore in a little more than three years solely on his travel? Then there is the money spent on the security of VVIPs and VIPs of the State. The total annual expenditure on the security of 1,687 people is around Rs 23.53 crore. And there can be no doubt that the lion’s share of this goes in ensuring the Chief Minister’s security, with a large number of vehicles and security personnel. We are not sure whether this obsession with sheer numbers ensures any security at all or merely provides salaries to a whole lot of people. Finally, there is the expense on renovating State Guest House No. 1 at Kainadhara which was turned into the Chief Minister’s official residence. The total expense on renovation, construction and furnishing was Rs 2.2147 crore. The cost of improving the road to the guest house was a further Rs 2.85 crore. A total of over Rs 5.06 crore on doing up the official residence of the Chief Minister! Someone should be calculating how many rural schools could have been built out of this money or how many rural health centres maintained with such a sum. THE SENTINEL

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