Political parties often shy away from informing their donors or the public about the party expenditure. No wonder, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its alliance partner, the BJP, have been silent for the past five months over the money spent on the 'chintan shivir' at Goa, as asked by an NGO under the Right To Information (RTI) Act.
On Wednesday, the State Information Commission, Punjab, revised its notices to both parties for not responding to the RTI applicant, the Human Empowerment League of Punjab (HELP), a Hoshiarpur-based NGO, which had also sought party-wise share in the expenditure, besides the money spent on transportation, board and lodging, entertainment and leisure activities during the April 4-7 sojourn in Goa.
The SAD had taken the initiative to hold the "brainstorming session" on the beaches of Goa, taking along more than 100 delegates, mainly legislators, MPs and other office-bearers of both parties.
The NGO had also asked for the list of donors who funded more than Rs 20,000 each to the SAD and copies of the party's income tax returns, besides asking the two ruling allies to provide details of respective expenditure during the Goa trip.
The commission, in its reminder notices to the respective public information officers of both parties, has fixed January 23 as the next date of hearing.
A representative of the SAD on Wednesday appeared before information commissioner Surinder Awasthi, saying that the party had hired a lawyer who would be present at the next hearing. The BJP neither attended the commission hearing nor sent any communiqué to the commission or the applicant.
When contacted, SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra said the Goa camp was "the party's internal affair" in which no government money was spent.
"It was not a public event but somewhat like our usual closed-door meetings," he added, justifying the SAD's silence on providing information. He, however, said both the BJP and the SAD had paid for the camp.
The opposition Congress in Punjab had then criticised the ruling coalition for holding the event, dubbing it a mere 'leisure and merry-making event at a place like Goa".