Minor fincial powers of State departments curtailed, all powers vested in Fince department
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, July 7: With the Central government tightening its purse strings and the economy of Assam in parlous condition, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has begun a move to centralize all fincial powers in the Fince department directly under his charge. The burgeoning revenue deficit and huge salary burden may have left him with no other option, but the curtailing of government departments’ minor fincial powers has cast a pall upon all departmental activities in the State.
In happier times, Gogoi had taken credit for giving a modicum of fincial independence to State departments, under which the departments could fix ceilings for expenditure up to Rs 1 crore for minor works and release funds accordingly, without needing to put up the proposal to the Fince department and get its approval. This measure was supposed to have cut red tape in State departments and help speed up minor works. But now in changed circumstances, the Chief Minister has started tightening the screws.
In a recent notification to all State departments issued by the Fince department for the year 2015-16, it has been specified that no department can fix ceiling for any expenditure on its own, however minor, and neither can they release funds. This means that for every minor work or expenditure requiring small funds, departments will have to put up proposals to the Fince department and run from pillar to post for obtaining its sanction. With the glacial pace of works in most State departments even in the best of times, one can imagine how much departments can accomplish for even minor works in the time remaining for the Tarun Gogoi government.
The question making the rounds in State departments is — is the Chief Minister centralizing all powers in the Fince department he controls? Despite Gogoi’s bravado about continuing with his pet schemes, carrying on recruitment for government posts in some sectors and paying salaries timely to State government employees, the actual finces of the State tell a dismal story.
The revenue deficit of the State is growing bigger, as government figures umbiguously show. In 2013-14, the revenue deficit was Rs 222.91 crore . The projected revenue deficit figures for 2014-15 was Rs 661.56 crores, while that for the year 2015-16 stands nearly double at Rs 1,201.25 crores. This implies that the Assam government’s own revenue is insufficient to meet its expenditures on regular and recurring functioning of government departments. This in turn puts the government in a tighter corner, to either curtail its expenditure in an election year, or increase revenue which is not easy with limited revenue sources.
The salary burden of the State has become alarming too, with government sources attributing the higher bill to the provincialisation of schools and teachers’ posts. In 2013, the Assam government spent Rs 14,841.44 crores under the salary head. Its projected salary expenditure in 2014-15 stands at Rs 16,325.58 crore, which is set to increase to Rs 17,958.14 crore in 2015-16.