As part of a larger tightening of wasteful spending on social welfare and subsidy programs, Finance Secretary TV Somanathan last month wrote to states warning that action would be taken against Indian Service agents if they provided erroneous information to the Department of Finance regarding center-sponsored programs.

“It has come to light that in recent times there are instances where the factual information provided to the center is incorrect in material respects, even though it is certified by competent officials of the state governments, in a manner indicating either a tampering, or gross negligence,” Somanathan in his letter dated April 21.

The letter was sent to all chief secretaries of states and union territories and also to state finance secretaries. He said there was a case where misinformation led to massive borrowing by an unnamed state during a government’s tenure, which led to the amount being deducted when the government came in. next.

Somanathan reminded his state counterparts that under the Rules of Conduct of All Indian Services 3(2B) and 3(3), officials are required to provide proper and factual advice and are required to sign certificates and provide information truthfully and correctly. .

The letter stated that if falsification of information is detected, the names of service officers across India would be forwarded to the Personnel and Training Department by the Ministry of Finance. Negligence or tampering will enter into their service records and impact their constitution and deputations.

“The issue can also be taken up with state governments to initiate disciplinary proceedings. With respect to Central Service Officers on deputation to State Governments, the matter shall be brought to the attention of their Central Executive Control Authorities for such action as they deem appropriate, including recall of the deputation from the ‘State and/or disciplinary proceedings,’ the letter states. , adding that minor or honest errors will not result in such action.

Somanathan’s letter comes at a time when the Ministry of Finance is cracking the whip on the inefficiencies of various welfare and subsidy schemes. He called on line ministries and entities responsible for program implementation to rapidly reduce unnecessary expenses, even as the center faces a higher-than-expected burden of food subsidies and fertilizers due to the current geopolitical situation.

On the food subsidy front, Food Corporation of India and the Department of Food and Public Distribution have been urged to eliminate efficiencies up and down the value chain.

Similarly, in flagship programs such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) and PM Kisan, line ministries have been instructed to expedite the identification of phantom beneficiaries, fake accounts, etc. Of particular concern to central policymakers was the fact that the number of NREGA beneficiaries was about 50 million before the Covid-19 pandemic, rose to about 70 million as the economy collapsed, but did not return to the pre-pandemic levels.

Apart from that, the Ministry of Finance also plans to cross-check taxpayer income data with data from welfare scheme recipients such as Prime Minister Kisan. Such elimination of fake accounts and phantom payees will also involve the cooperation of state governments, officials say.

The Center has already issued a series of notices to states to weed out ineligible farmers from the PM-KISAN program, most of which are cases where one or more family members are taxpayers.

Also in the case of NREGA, the Center has previously expressed concern about incidents of theft under the programme. Officials believe that the revised estimates were significantly higher than the budget estimates and this could be partly due to intermediaries taking money to register the names of fake beneficiaries under the program, and that officials could also be involved

In the case of PM-KISAN, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told parliament a few months ago that since its launch, it was found that more than Rs 4,350 crore had been transferred to ineligible farmers and that notices had been issued to the states for refunds.

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