Government may rationalise 120 autonomous bodies
The Centre is considering rationalising over 120 autonomous bodies of more than 23 government ministries and departments following a review of 231 such entities by the Department of Expenditure, officials aware of the development said.
In a slew of recommendations to the cabinet secretariat, a copy of which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times, the department has suggested that 83 of the 231 autonomous bodies be retained and 117 merged into just 29. It recommended that the Centre disengage from 20 entities. The department also proposed that seven autonomous bodies be closed, After the rationalisation is completed, 111 autonomous bodies would remain.
The purpose of the exercise is “to make specific and actionable recommendations for rationalization of Autonomous Bodies in these Ministries/Departments, with a view to furthering the aim of minimum government, maximum governance, and economical, efficient use of public funds,” the department said
In the 2016 Union budget speech, then finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that a task force had been constituted for rationalisation of human resources in various ministries. He also contemplated a comprehensive review and rationalisation of autonomous bodies.
In 2017, following the recommendation made by the Expenditure Management Commission (EMC) in its report submitted to Centre, the ministry of finance had requested NITI Aayog to undertake an in-depth review of the autonomous bodies of the Union government. The policy think tank had constituted a committee in January 2017 under the chairmanship of the principal adviser, NITI Aayog to review the autonomous bodies and make recommendations for enhancing their functioning.
In its draft interim report, the committee recommended setting up umbrella structures of autonomous bodies wherein a group of similar institutions may be brought together under an overarching framework. The objective of this approach is to bring about greater efficiency, better oversight, standardization and mentoring support, without losing the plurality of disciplines or identities of individual bodies, it noted.
In 2018, the Union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the proposal for closure of two autonomous bodies, namely the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi and Jansankhya Sthirata Kosh.
“The main concern of the Government is that ABs are required to be reviewed and rationalised with a view to improve their outcomes, effectiveness and efficiency, utilisation of financial and human resources, synergy, governance and relevance in current policy and programme context, with improved monitoring and oversight. The Committee had recommended closure of RAN and JSK and their functions to be vested in the Ministry,” the Cabinet said in a statement in 2018.