Almost half of the UPA ministers stand in violation of the code of conduct provision that requires them to declare their assets to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by August-end every year.
Six weeks past the deadline, 14 cabinet and 21 junior members of the 77-strong council of ministers are yet to make public the assets held by them and their families.
The prime minister’s office has put out a list — and asset details — of the ministers who have provided the information so far. Defence minister AK Antony, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, finance minister P Chidambaram, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and petroleum minister M Veerappa Moily have provided the information.
The PMO has decided to update the list every two weeks rather than wait for the defaulters which include renewable energy minister Farooq Abdullah, urban development minister Kamal Nath and coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal.
Singh’s council of ministers had declared a combined wealth of Rs. 801 crore in 2012. An analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) indicated that on an average a minister had Rs. 11.6 crore worth of assets.
The long list of defaulters was a sad commentary on the state of affairs, ADR co-founder Jagdeep Chhokar said. “There should be a mechanism to scrutinise the declarations,” the retired IIM-Ahmedabad professor said.
Anil Bairwal, who has spent the last five years campaigning for electoral reforms, said sticking to the code was crucial to accountability and transparency. “If ministers don’t adhere to the code by the PM, who will?” he asked.
Bureaucrats – who don’t file their property returns on time –stand the risk of being overlooked for promotions.
But there no penalties attached to ministers’ violating the code of conduct, a document that was first drawn up in 1964 and treated as a state secret till a few years ago.
The Administrative Reforms Commission that studied the code in 2005 recommended drafting a code of ethics, too. But the home ministry shot it down, saying there was no need for another code.