Goa Govt bans foreign tours, new posts to cut expenditure

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Following decisions to hike the value added tax (VAT) on petrol by 6.5 per cent and withdraw the Cyber Student Scheme for middle school students, which was aimed towards providing tablet PCs, the government has now gone further and decided to undertake more austerity measures, including ban on government-sponsored foreign tours and restrictions on sponsoring/ funding events as well as purchases, during the last quarter of the financial year, for tackling the precarious financial condition of the state.

The government has also placed a complete ban on creation or revival of posts on Plan as well as Non-Plan side, and asked for prior approval of the administrative reforms department, personnel department and finance (revenue and control) department, for creation or revival of posts. The austerity measures are expected to save between Rs 500 crore and Rs 600 crore of the public money.

An office memorandum (OM) issued by the revenue and control cell of the finance department in the new year directs a ban on all visits abroad for study tours, seminars, conferences, workshops and so on, including those for promotion of industry, trade, tourism, etc, involving funds of the state government, except those which have been approved as part of the annual calendar of activity of the department concerned. These restrictions on visits abroad would be in place till June 30, 2015, and will be applicable to employees of public sector undertakings (PSUs), and autonomous bodies as well as corporations of the government.

Furthermore, proposals for study tours, workshops, seminars, presentation of papers, etc undertaken at the government cost will not be entertained, except those, which are fully sponsored by the organisers, subject to the conditions as stipulated by the department of personnel.

The OM signed by secretary for finance P Krishnamurthy has also placed restrictions on  organising seminars, conferences, workshops, events, etc, where government sponsorship and funds are involved, and further states that any proposal for organising such events, with full justification should be submitted to the expenditure cell of the finance department, prior to one month of holding the event, and no commitments of organising such events should be given without the prior approval of the government.

The directives also state that travel by air should be undertaken by the government officials, for official purpose, in economy class only. “However, ministers and functionaries of equivalent rank may fly as per entitlement,” it adds, pointing out, “Wherever travel is unavoidable, it should be ensured that the travel of those officers/ officials dealing with the particular subject matter should be sponsored by the department/ office concerned, and the size of the delegation and duration of the event/ meeting/ tour should be restricted within the prescribed limits, and no appropriation/ re-appropriation will be permitted.”

The OM directs the director of accounts not to entertain any bills of purchases made from its date of issue, and even if any department of the government resorts to purchases during the last quarter of the current financial year, and thereafter submits the bills in the following financial year, the same should not be entertained. This directive is linked to ban on purchases of items like furniture, cupboards and office furnishings, electrical and electronic appliances/ fixtures, computers, printers, computer-related peripherals, photocopier machines, Xerox machines, air-conditioners, telephone instruments, fax machines, and finally, office vehicles as well as staff cars.

“For the current financial year 2014-15, every department shall effect a 20 per cent cut in Non-Plan expenditure excluding interest payment, repayment of debt, salaries and pension,” the OM states as it tightens the leash on spending, maintaining that no re-appropriation of funds to augment Non-Plan Heads of expenditure other than salaries and pensions shall be allowed during the current fiscal year. The OM also directs that not more than 1/4th of the budgetary estimates shall be spent in the last three months of this fiscal year, except under the flagship schemes of the government (like Dayanand Social Security Scheme, Laadli Laxmi Scheme, Griha Aadhar Scheme, Kala Sanman Scheme and so on), and wherever possible Non-Plan side expenditure may be reduced by 20 per cent till the financial year-end. “During the month of February and March, the expenditure of each department should be limited to 15 per cent of the budget estimate and in no case should it exceed the limit prescribed,” it directs.

Interestingly, the government has also advocated green measures, stating that there should be a mandatory cut in the purchase of office stationery, besides use of paper, power, water, and fuel consumption. “The department/ offices should reduce their power and water consumption so as to reduce the billing by at least 15 per cent of the previous year,” it directs, observing, “Government departments/ offices should further strive to reduce consumption of fuel for its office vehicles and other vehicles attached by at least 10 per cent of the previous year’s consumption, and wherever possible, try to reduce the number of trips being effected for petty works for running errands and other office work by scheduling the office movement and travel, in one vehicle instead of using multiple vehicles.”

The MO asks the departments/ offices to achieve utmost economy in the use of office stationery and other resources by following ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ procedure.

Ensuring full compliance of these austerity measures will be the responsibility of the secretaries to the respective government departments.


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