Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Amid claims of transparency, govt departments remain OPAQUE.

Kashmir Images: Srinagar : Wednesday, May 3, 2017.
More than 3/4th of departments reluctant to share financial info
Srinagar, May 02: Notwithstanding government’s claims about transparency in the system, the public authorities operating in the state are giving a damn when it comes to divulging details about the financial aspect of their functioning.
More than three-fourths (138) of the public authorities operating with websites in Jammu & Kashmir have not displayed budget-related information for the ongoing financial year (2017-18). Six other public authorities have displayed budget-related information for the year 2016-17.
This has been revealed in a study carried out by two lawyers -- Bilal Ahmad Bhat and Syed Iram Quadri. The survey was carried out by the two as part of the internship programme hosted by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) at New Delhi during February.
Both the lawyers are members of Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Movement and School for Rural Development and Environment.
“Only four public authorities have displayed budget-related information for the year 2015-16. These are General Administration Department, Jammu & Kashmir Grameen Bank, Directorate of Accounts and Treasuries and Social Forestry,” reads the study.
It says that the other public authorities have displayed much older information.
They also pointed out that the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) has not updated its financial information after 2008-09.
The study says that only two government departments - Finance department and Directorate of Audit and Inspections -- have displayed financial information for the current financial year.
It says that Directorates of Horticulture and Animal Husbandry, Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Assembly, Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Council, Institute of Management and Public Administration (IMPA) and Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) have displayed budget-related information for the financial year 2016-17.
“The finance section of the RTI Handbook (Manual) of the Governor’s office (Raj Bhavan) has not been updated after 2014-15.The website of General Administration Department, the nodal department for implementing the J&K RTI Act, has not been updated for financial information after 2016. The website continues to display financial allocation details for 2015-16. No information about the budget and expenditure in 2016-17 and the allocations for 2017-18 is available on this website,” reads the study.
It says there is no comprehensive inventory of all public authorities that either the Jammu & Kashmir Government or Jammu & Kashmir State Information Commission has compiled and displayed in the public domain.
If the unlisted public authorities are taken into account, the number of such bodies covered under the J&K RTI Act would increase 7-8 times and the number of public authorities without dedicated websites would be in majority as compared to those with websites, says the survey.
“The authors of this report believe this list (list of public authorities) does not provide a comprehensive picture of all public authorities under the J&K RTI Act because panchayats, courts, government-aided schools and colleges and government hospitals have not been included in this list. They are all public authorities under their own right according to the criteria listed under Section 2 (f) of the Act,” reads the survey.