In the wake of the alleged leak of official documents from some ministries, the government has begun collecting details of all consultants who work in its departments and ministries but draw salaries from external agencies.
These details are being examined by a three-member committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary. The other two in the panel are the Secretary, Finance and Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs.
The Indian Express has learnt that all ministries and departments have been sent a 24-point questionnaire on the consultants and told to explain “the need/justification for external support”.
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Several consultants are funded by external agencies including UN bodies under bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Queries being asked include whether the consultant reports to the ministry or directly to the bilateral/multilateral institution; and, whether the work of consultant is also shared with the bilateral/multilateral institution.
The information collected is being compiled by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and is being examined by the three-member committee.
These consultants are attached to ministries and departments including the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, Social Justice and Empowerment, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Science and Technology, Rural Development, Panchayati Raj, Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog), and missions/directorates under them.
The exact count of these consultants is still being tabulated but sources pointed out that there are over 100 working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare while another 80 are attached to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Sources in the DEA said that ministries and departments were sent the questionnaire on July 23 following a decision taken by the committee on July 16.
A DEA letter stated: “Committee has now directed to obtain detailed information about engagement of consultants/advisers from each ministry/department.”
The questionnaire sought to know at what level was the decision taken to engage the consultants; whether the position was advertised; whether an interview was held; whether the selection was made by the ministry or by the bilateral/multilateral institution; whether the consultant had prior experience of working in the ministry/bilateral-multilateral institution; the salary structure; terms of reference; and, whether feedback on quality of output is considered prior to release of payment.
While several have furnished the details, others are still in the process of submitting their replies.