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No place for netas in govt’s attendance register

RTI report reveals unlike govt officials, ministers do not have to maintain a record of working days; on paper, they work 24-7.

delhi Updated: May 24, 2012 00:06 IST
Chetan Chauhan

While the leave and attendance records of the salaried class in the present government are maintained meticulously, no such thing is being done for ministers in the Union cabinet.

The Central Information Officer of the Cabinet Secretariat informed Hindustan Times in a RTI reply that it does not possess the leave or attendance records of the Union council of ministers.

The Prime Minister’s Office, where the RTI application was first filed, had transferred it to the Cabinet Secretariat, which it said was the nodal office for the council of ministers.

“The information sought by the application is not maintained, and is not required to be maintained by the government,” the Cabinet Secretariat’s reply said.

Why the exemption for ministers?

Ministers are apparently exempt from rules on leaves and attendance to grant flexibility at work to the ones who have more than one portfolio to handle.

On paper, they function on all working days.

The salaries and allowances of ministers are defined under the Salaries and Allowances of Ministers Act-1952. According to it, the ministers are entitled to a monthly salary of over Rs 50,000 plus a daily allowance, as specified for MPs. They are also entitled to constituency allowance and other perks.

The law provides the government with powers to formulate rules, but the Cabinet Secretariat says there are no rules pertaining to leaves and attendance of ministers. And because of this, the ministers are not required to inform the Cabinet Secretariat when they go on holiday or turn up for work.

When a senior UPA minister was asked about the last time he had gone on holiday, he quipped: “We are always at work.”

In countries such as the United Kingdom and United States, there is a provision allowing political functionaries to avail paid leave for a certain period every year – on the lines of any salaried person. UK Prime Minister David Cameroon took paternity leave in August 2010. In 2011, US President Barack Obama availed of his leave for holidaying in Hawai.

India – on the other hand – has rules on leaves and attendance for all its employees, except for ministers. Even commissions appointed by the government are covered under them.

The Cabinet Secretariat, in its reply, also admitted that it has no information on the number of days Union ministers attend office, or details regarding their travel within India.

“All ministers are required to inform the Prime Minister’s Office or take prior approval of the Prime Minister only for foreign tours,” the PMO said in another reply to the RTI application.

The government is also in the dark over how many ministers work from home, and the number of days they spend in the national capital.