Foreign travel by bureaucrats is set to become a touch tougher. In a new set of instructions, the government has made it mandatory for all ministries to prepare a quarterly rolling plan of proposed visits and upload them on the Foreign Visit Management System (FVMS). The details will be reviewed every month.
According to the fresh guidelines, no officer can undertake more than four foreign visits in a calendar year, each less than five working days. For any additional trip, secretaries and officers of equivalent rank will have to get a clearance from the Prime Minister through the Screening Committee of Secretaries. For officers junior to that, proposals are to be submitted to the committee.
A minister and the secretary of that department cannot be on tour simultaneously – in case it is inevitable, it has to be cleared by the Prime Minister. The only exception that may be made for foreign visits of officers of the rank of additional secretary and above of getting the screening committee’s nod is if they are visiting SAARC countries, including Myanmar.
In the instructions issued on January 5, the Department of Expenditure has laid down that an outgoing Indian delegation should not have any official from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Instead, services of officers of the Indian mission in the destination country should be used. The host mission cannot mobilise officials from other missions, as is currently done, without the Cabinet Secretary’s approval.
“Participation of officials in international fairs/exhibitions/workshops and conferences shall be discouraged. If considered essential, only the officer directly dealing with the subject shall be deputed,” according to the instructions. “In such international events, if required, a coordinated presence and projection of ‘Brand India’ should be attempted instead of individual departments/ministries setting up individual stalls.”
Proposals to the screening committee have to be submitted at least 15 days before the scheduled departure.
If officers get foreign invites due to their expertise in a field, and if there is no scope of any government business to be transacted during such tour, these should be treated as personal visits, according to the instructions.
The government will not pay for such visits and officers will have to take leave for that period.