iconimg Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 30, 2014
The government will seek comprehensive information about all properties, investments and liabilities from every government official and place it on a website once the new anti-graft ombudsman, the Lokpal, starts functioning. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has circulated a new disclosure format which seeks details of movable, immovable and liquid assests of every government official.

It also wants officials to disclose liquid assests such as insurance premiums and loans on an annual basis after the law comes into force.

Non-disclosure may invite disciplinary action against the official, the department has warned in a draft disclosure format circulated by the department for comments. The new norm also requires the officials to inform whether necessary permission from the government was sought before making a purchase or taking a loan.

It also seeks more detailed information about financial deals made by any public servant.

In all, an officer will have to fill four to five disclosure forms every year and update information about the properties inherited by them.

The Lokpal law requires an official to declare his or her assets and liabilities within 30 days of joining the office and every year by July 31. The declaration will have to be made to a designated officer in each department, who would then forward the same to the Lokpal.

The information from a clerk to cabinet secretary will be available on a web portal to be designated by the Lokpal, the department said.

Such elaborate information is being sought to help the Lokpal in investigating cases of corruption against public servants across central ministries. The new norm, however, fails to explicitly seek asset and liability details of the spouse and dependent children of an official.

“This is not with the letter and spirit of the Lokpal Act and it has been seen that many times officials make investments in name of their wives and children,” said Ventakesh Nayak, a transparency campaigner with Delhi-based advocacy group the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

He suggested that the template used by the Election Commission to seek affidavits from candidates contesting elections to Parliament and state legislatures may be used as a model.