Rocked by the recent spate of scams, the government is all set to reduce or even abolish most of the discretionary powers that central ministers and chief ministers presently enjoy.
Arbitrary use of these powers, many of which are loosely defined, has been largely blamed for the some of corruption scandals in high offices.
Appointments and transfers of bureaucrats and top executives of public sector undertakings (PSUs), quiet instructions to change file notings on important policy prescriptions to favour industry houses, power to make discretionary allocations such as coal linkages, power to decide how the lands that fall under his ministry's ambit should be utilised and sanctions and approvals of projects are among the undefined powers that ministers presently enjoy.
Most of these are set to be done away with.
"The process to curb the discretionary powers of ministers has started," a top government official said.A senior bureaucrat, who had served as a principal secretary to a chief minister, said ministers do not hesitate to exploit discretionary powers for populist gains.
"The chief minister ordered purchase of power at rates as high as Rs 12 per unit, just days before the Assembly elections were notified. In normal circumstances, the state was struggling to even buy power at nominal rates of Rs 2 per unit," the bureaucrat said.
The GoM headed by the finance minister will meet next week to begin discussions to recommend doing away with these powers and suggest measures to tackle corruption in public offices.
The department of personnel and training (DoPT) has written to all ministries seeking details of discretionary powers enjoyed by the respective ministers.
"It is requested that a list of discretionary powers enjoyed by your minister as also the views of the ministry/department on relinquishment of the same be conveyed to us," the DoPT said in a letter to secretaries of all central ministries and departments.
The eight-member GoM, which has been asked to submit its report within 60 days, was set up in the backdrop of the five-point plan of action outlined by Congress president Sonia Gandhi last month to tackle corruption "head-on".
The GoM's terms of reference also include state funding of elections, ensuring full transparency in public procurement and contracts and enunciation of a new public procurement policy and introduction of open and competitive system of exploiting natural resources.
The government has been facing an onslaught from the Opposition over a series of scams, including the 2G spectrum allocation, CWG and Adarsh Housing Society.