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Signaling his government’s commitment to strengthen accountability and transparency mechanisms in the sphere of governance, Finance Minister Shri Chidambaram said this year’s Union Budget will explicitly budget for corruption. Accordingly, an additional segment under the major head ‘Corruption’ has been introduced into the 7 segment classification in the public accounting system. This means in addition to classification by scheme type, function (economic services or social services etc), and economic segment ( capital vs revenue), all budgeted items will also be slotted under ‘Leakages’ and ‘Non-leakages’.
The Ministry of Finance has also proposed major sub-heads under corruption such as magnitude (high level or petty), recipient (NGO, contractor, bureaucrat, Minister), and mechanism (through under-invoicing, tender violation etc) to develop a comprehensive taxonomy of leakages out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
Shri Chidamambaram said the new public accounting system will enable the government to track leakages out of the Consolidated Fund of India as a percent of GPD just like fiscal deficit and set rolling targets for it. “This year, we have set aside 30% of planned outlays, or approximately Rs.5 lakh crores, for purposes other then what they were intended for,” he informed us. “We hope to cap it at 5% of GDP and try to bring it down to 3% of GDP over a 3 year period. I hope we don’t exceed the target and invite a rap on the knuckles by the CAG.”
Shri Chidambaram said such a policy innovation was long overdue. “With so many scams tumbling out, it was only right that corruption was given its due place in official documents. Of course, we will be no where closer to knowing who the recipients are, but at least we will know how much is leaking out,” he noted with satisfaction.
The Finance Minister’s innovations have been well-received by the polity. Dr. Manmohan Singh was the first to give his thumbs-up to the proposals, saying, “By budgeting for scams in advance, I don’t have to rely on news channels to know when they break out.” Planning Commission Chairman, Shri Montek Singh, added that the data on corruption will lend itself to ‘sexy economic analysis.’
The only Minister who has given a thumbs-down is Shiri Kapil Sibal. “Chidambaram’s gimmick only adds up to a big ZERO,” he fumed.