The Prime Minister’s Office has brought so-called “private trips” by Union Ministers under its scanner to curb their frequent foreign jaunts, apart from tightening the rules for the official ones.
In a fresh, confidential directive sent by the Cabinet Secretariat on August 26, all ministers have been told to keep the PMO informed of their “private” foreign visits in advance.
Chief ministers and ministers in the states shall also follow suit.
The move comes in the wake of the PMO noting “deviations” from the rules in frequent trips undertaken lately by some ministers such as M.K. Alagiri, Sharad Pawar and Anand Sharma, among others.
The new directives require that ministers obtain “mandatory” political and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act clearances for private trips just as they do for official ones.
“No official or member of their personal staff of the Minister or from the Ministry/ Department should accompany the Minister on his private visit,” the directive says.
Most importantly, the Prime Minister wishes to know the exact departure and return dates.
During Parliament, ministers must take the PM’s approval to make ‘private’ foreign trips. On official trips, the PMO is particular that ministers stick to the finance ministry’s orders on expenses. They have to adhere to the ceiling on gifts, class of travel and hotel accommodation.
Besides, a copy of the previous tour report of the minister concerned and information regarding funding of such tours will have to be attached each time they seek the PMO’s clearance.
The PMO is also keen that the ministers do not take a jamboree abroad.
Their delegation should not be more than five members (inclusive of their personal staff), except in the case of joint working groups.
Under the new directive, all visits will have to be coordinated through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). No minister should finalise travel plan with any foreign government or international organisation directly without the MEA clearance.
The ministers are also not free to attend international conferences either. The MEA will certify whether attendance at such meets is going to be at the level of ministers.