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Kerala: Finance Dept needs to assert itself on spending proposals, says expert

Vinson Kurian

Thiruvananthapuram , Dec. 2

THE State Finance Department has not been asserting itself in recent years in dealing with spending proposals, according to Mr K. P. Joseph, former Accountant-General and an expert in public finance.

"I feel that the Finance Department can make itself heard in a more assertive manner but with minimum fuss," Mr Joseph told Business Line here. He had suggested a few modifications to existing rules that the Finance Department could consider even as it went into a huddle preparing the next Budget.

For instance, the Technical Inspection Wing needs to be strengthened. All those who help detect fraud and waste should be given cash awards in line with the practice prevalent in other countries. This, according to Mr Joseph, will produce dramatic results.

The present procedure of disbursement of salaries and calculation of leave are all totally out of date and can be simplified in a short time. This will only prove popular with the employees.

"The Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Modernising Government Programme (MGP) is trying to do this but from what I have been able to understand, much more needs to be done," Mr Joseph had said in his letter to the Government.

Printing work: The Finance Department will be well advised to reflect on the manner in which it went about printing the Budget documents, he said, and added that thoughtful changes made to conventional practices could lead to saving of precious money otherwise wasted on avoidable printing work.

For instance, there is a Budget volume in 350 pages giving full details of works for which there is no administrative approval or funds. No other government publishes such a volume. Mr Joseph suggested that this could be discontinued with effect from the next Budget. The information was best kept in the computer if Members of the Legislative Assembly so wish.

The volume giving details of staff has about 450 pages. In comparison, the Central Budget has only three pages for the same purpose. It is ideal that the Central Government procedure is followed and the information given briefly in a much thinner volume.

Standard practice: The figures in columns 1 and 2 of the Demands for Grants and other volumes need be given only in "thousands of rupees" and not printed in full. This is the standard practice in the Budget documents of all States and the Centre. The suggested change does not need any approval of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG).

Statements B and C in the Annual Financial Statement volume (pages 16 to 48 in the volume for 2004-05) are difficult to read as they are spread out in two pages and figures are given without being separated suitably by commas.

The corresponding volume in the Karnataka budget, for instance, is much better arranged. Kerala can follow the Karnataka model.

Last but not the least, there is a revenue surplus of Rs 73 crore in this year's Karnataka budget but Kerala's shows a revenue deficit of Rs 4,707 crore, higher than that of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

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