Prime Minister Narendra Modi has frowned at unnecessary foreign tours by secretary-rank officers and told them to step out only if absolutely necessary.
In a message sent out to all secretaries last week, cabinet secretary Ajit Seth told them that the PM had “observed” that foreign and domestic tours of the secretaries should be planned “only if additional secretary or joint secretary-level officers are not likely to address the needs”.
A government official said Modi’s stress on unnecessary travel by secretary-rank officers could be linked to the view that department heads might not encourage unnecessary travel if they did not benefit from the practice.
It would also help the exchequer save money.
Since officers are entitled to spend money on travel according to their position in the pecking order, the foreign travel by junior officials turns out to be comparatively cheaper.
For instance, when three officials from the department of personnel & training travelled to Vienna, Austria for a conference in May last year, the exchequer ended up shelling out a whopping Rs. 3.14 lakh for the secretary’s four-day travel. In contrast, the joint secretary’s travel bill came to Rs. 2.1 lakh and the deputy secretary’s bill was a modest Rs. 95,000.
Seth said the observations made by Modi — who never travels with an entourage of officials — would apply when ministers are leading the delegation too.
In a separate circular, the government — which has been tightening norms to cut down on unnecessary foreign junkets — has also asked states to get all clearances for their chief minister and minister ahead of foreign travel.
The states have also been told to keep the centre informed if the trip was eventually made or not.