Wednesday, June 14, 2017

State legislature secretariat not transparent, alleges RTI activist

The Hindu: Belagavi: Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
The state legislature secretariat is not working in a transparent manner, charged Bheemappa Gundappa Gadad, an RTI activist.
He told presspersons here in Belagavi on Tuesday that there was no response to several of his applications for information on issues like the winter session of the legislature held in Belagavi in 2016, despite several reminders. “I had sought information on the cost incurred for the Belagavi session. While the Belagavi district administration has promptly responded, the state legislature secretariat still has not,” he pointed out.
Mr. Gadad said that around ₹8.2 crore was spent on the session. Of this, various government agencies are yet to settle bills amounting to ₹2.2 crore. “What is worrying is that the state government has exempted the expenses of VIPs, including logistics and transport arrangements, from the Karnataka Transparency in Public Procurement Act,” he said.
Responses to some his RTI applications about the session have revealed some interesting facts. A total of ₹57.99 lakh was spent by VIPs to book hotel rooms and on food. Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T.B. Jayachandra spent around ₹1.92 lakh on lodging and ₹47,000 on food. Those who spent above ₹1 lakh for rooms, include ministers K.R. Ramesh Kumar, H.K. Patil, Tanveer Sait, Umashree, A. Krishnappa and H. Anjaneya, former minister H.Y. Meti, MLAs Channabasappa Shivalli and Ivan D’souza.
Several VIPs stayed in star hotels in Hubbali, despite Belagavi having some of the best hotels and government accommodations, Mr. Gadad remarked.
The RTI response claims former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar has spent just ₹50 on food. Among those who spent the most on food are former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, minister M.R. Seetharam, and Mr. D’souza.
Among the other expenses incurred by the district administration was ₹10.22 lakh paid to farmers, who let out their lands so that the government could prepare a place for organisations to stage protests while the house was in session.
Mr. Gadad also alleged that the legislature secretariat that hosted a workshop to train journalists and had refused to part with information about the amount spent on buying souvenirs for the delegates. “The officers are only saying around 350 journalists were given mementos, but are declining to give the details,” he said.