Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Foreign trips under scanner: Why fly when you can talk?

Written by Shyamlal Yadav | New Delhi | Posted: July 10, 2014 12:45 am

Officials asking the government for permission to travel abroad on work must now explain why they cannot simply have a video conference with their foreign interlocutors, and why a junior official — with smaller allowances — cannot be deputed to do the job.

The government has revised the format in which officials are supposed to submit proposals for travelling abroad. The old format — last revised on December 11, 2007 — had 24 questions, the new one has only 19.

The Department of Expenditure under the Finance Ministry issued the new format on July 2. The Indian Express has obtained it under the RTI Act.

Para 15 (IV) says: “Justification be given as to why this (videoconferencing) facility cannot be utilised.” Para 15 (i) says: “Why cannot the purpose be served by deputing officers at the functional level viz. Director/Dy. Secretary, instead of deputing officers of higher level(s).”

The government’s intention appears clearly to be to ensure tighter scrutiny of expensive foreign visits by officials, and to discourage them from travelling unless it is necessary.

The new format, issued by joint secretary Sudha Krishnan, begins by seeking details of “Tasks proposed to be undertaken/accomplished and outcome to be achieved by the proposed visit”. It asks officials to “Please indicate exact outcomes and tangible/non-tangible benefits in quantified terms, wherever possible.”

Officials must provide details of “Country/countries to be visited (city/country), all places”, and of all officers “who have been deputed earlier for similar purposes”. A “copy of follow-up action taken” since the earlier visit for the same purpose is to be attached with the proposal. Also, “Justification for participation of each member of the delegation (is) to be brought out in a separate Annexure”.

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