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NDA's anti-corruption plan missing even on paper

By Arijit Paladhi & Nitin Sethi
February 19, 2015 08:36 IST
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Out of the 73 ministries and departments, only 32 had prepared and submitted 'corruption mitigation action plans' by February 1

The plans of Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government to bring in a transparent, corruption-free system might take longer than expected, even on paper. In August 2014, all ministries and departments were instructed by the cabinet secretariat to prepare their ‘Corruption Mitigation Action Plans’ or CMAPs. But out of the 73 ministries and departments, only 32 had prepared and submitted these plans by February 1.

Such an action plan is not a new concept in itself. It was required of the ministries previously too. But upon taking office, the NDA government revived the process afresh making it mandatory for each central ministry and department to prepare fresh and detailed anti-graft action plan.

This was to be sent to the Cabinet Secretariat’s Performance Management Division. Several officials in different ministries said the move had the approval of the prime minister’s office though this could not be verified independently.

The CMAP forms part of another report called the Results Framework Document or the RFD which each ministry prepares. A model CMAP or anti-graft plan essentially entails listing out steps that can be taken to negate potential chances of corruption in each and every ministry or department of the union government.

Business Standard reviewed one of the CMAPs and then inquired through RTI about the status of others.

A typical CMAP identifies specifics targets, the action required to achieve those targets, the steps taken, the expected deadline, method of achieving target and the expected output.

The mother document - RFD - itself is a mandatory requirement for all ministries. Prepared at the beginning of each fiscal year it comprises of priorities outlined by the concerned ministry, agendas of the ruling government’s manifesto, announcements by government and how these would be achieved. After six months, the list of objectives achieved is analysed and targets reset. At the end of the financial year, a consolidated report is prepared that lists all achievements of the concerned ministry or department for that year.

But, in a response to the RTI, the cabinet secretariat said that less than half the total central government bodies - only 32 ministries and departments - had submitted their plans by November 10, 2014. Business Standard inquired about the status yet again in January 2015 and was told the status remained the same by the end of the month.

Some of the big ministries which were yet to submit their plans include civil aviation, telecommunications, coal, power, steel, environment and forests, education, women and child development.

A review of government websites showed that none of the ministries or departments had put their revised CMAPs or the anti-graft plans in public domain. One ministry displayed the plan from the previous year 2013-14 prepared under the UPA term.

Even in the response to RTIs, it took several iterant rounds for the government to reveal just this data. Through the RTI it was asked, which all ministries were asked to prepare a corruption mitigation action plan and which ministries had submitted these plans so far.

The RTI was originally filed before the cabinet secretariat, which responded to say that the matter pertained to the Department of Personnel and Training and consequently forwarded the queries to the latter. The DoPTin turn claimed that the questions pertained to the cabinet secretariat. Upon inquiring telephonically yet again, the DoPT officials said they would look again at the RTI questions.

In a few days the department replied for the second time. This time it claimed only one bit of the question pertained to the one specific division of the DoPT, and the answer to the query was ‘NIL’.

But then, the cabinet secretariat responded to the query at the end of December 2014 to provide the information detailing how many ministries and departments were yet to get their anti-graft plans in place.

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Arijit Paladhi & Nitin Sethi in New Delhi
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