Transparency needed

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The Planning Commission is so frustrated with the workings of one of its attached departments, the National Logistics Cell, that it has suggested to the Cabinet Division to place it under the control of the communications ministry. This information came out in a meeting of the public affairs committee in which the secretary of the Planning Commission expressed his inability to “rein in” the NLC because it did not share details even about audit-related paras in meetings of the departmental accounts committee. The secretary also admitted that the NLC management was unable to explain its position over audit paras and that the NLC neither observed procurement rules nor did it safeguard public money. In the PAC meeting it also emerged that the NLC had apparently given out some contracts worth millions of rupees to single bidders without advertising it according to rules.
These are serious charges and deserve to be explained in detail by the NLC, especially since it was admitted that two officials had been dismissed because of them. The NLC is a taxpayer-funded organisation and therefore it must display standards of transparency and accountability that apply to all government organisations. It is disappointing that matters have come to such a stage where the supervising department — in this case the Planning Commission — has to express its inability to enforce rules and demand answers from the NLC. The public has a right to know what is the mandate of the NLC, and why it feels that it does not have to share its financial details with the supervisory authorities. It should be a matter of concern for the government that the NLC is providing scant information for the departmental accounts committee as is the norm for all other official bodies. The secretary of the Planning Commission has done well to raise this issue at the PAC so that higher authorities can take note and order remedial action. The secretary has also informed the defence ministry and it is expected that the NLC management will now cough up the answers it has been so reluctant to share. This is yet another test case for the PTI government that claims to have made transparency a cornerstone of its governance. The Prime Minister’s Office may want to look into the matter raised by the Planning Commission and resolve it so that the NLC starts behaving like an accountable organisation that it is.