Indian Express: New Delhi: Monday, March 20, 2017.
The Central government claims to have focused on ensuring transparency in governance and official schemes, but it has neglected appointments in the Central Information Commission (CIC), one of the bodies that ensures transparency. A Parliamentary report has now pulled up the Centre for failing to fill 73 per cent vacancies in the commission and has directed it for urgent appointments. The CIC is headed by R K Mathur.
The report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice headed by Congress leader Anand Sharma observed that posts in the CIC are vacant even after 12 years of its establishment in 2005.
Against a sanctioned strength of 160 staff, only 43 are regular employees, and the rest are on ad hoc basis, consultants and are outsourced. Moreover, even after Recruitment Rules were framed, appointments have not been made.
Expressing its dismay over manning of the Commission’s Secretariat through temporary appointments, the committee recommended that regular employees be hired so that its working is made more responsive and accountable.
“Institutions like CIC are of national importance and play a crucial role in personnel management and governance of the country. If these organisations are under staffed, they cannot be expected to impart their responsibilities efficiently,” the committee said.
Emphasising that vacancies in institutions under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) are a persistent problem and it cannot escape its responsibility of ensuring adequate staff in these institutions.
The RTI Act 2005 provides for setting up a practical regime of right to information for citizens to access information held by or under government-controlled authorities. The CIC is the apex appellate authority under section 12 of the RTI Act.
The CIC was provided a budgetary allocation of Rs 45 crore, which was spent in 2016-17. For 2017-18, Rs 40.37 crore has been sanctioned.
Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said the huge vacancies in CIC is worrisome and the Commission lacks investigative staff that can prepare the background of a case based on quality research.
“Contractual staffers are paid very little and hiring is done by a private agency without any consideration for expertise needed in the commission. The government should ensure that people with expertise are hired,” said Nayak.