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  1. Content copied from an article here: Paper power | Society | Times Crest Paper power by Rukmini Shrinivasan | April 13, 2013 For common people, especially slum dwellers, RTI applications have become a means to access basic government services. One morning recently, Vikas Kumar, 20, stood in the courtyard of the sub-divisional magistrate's office in Mehrauli in the shade of the Qutub Minar with his paper arsenal. Originals and photocopies, attested and stamped, Vikas was armed with the inch-thick paper trail that he has accumulated in his year-and-a-half-long battle to wrest from the Delhi government a certificate that would acknowledge that he was the backward caste he said he was. On the top of the stack was a response to a Right To Information (RTI) application he filed one year ago, an application for information he already had, yet suddenly, all important. As the citizens of India get on with their daily wrestling match with the bureaucracy to get services they are legally entitled to, the 2005 Right To Information Act has emerged as an important weapon, despite the fact that information is not strictly what they need. The relatively well-functioning Act has provided citizens their first and often only chance to generate a paper trail that they can use in future entreaties or, for the more empowered, in legal action. "We are finding that the bulk of RTI applications that common people, especially in slum areas, file are simply ways to get in writing the fact that they have not yet received the service they applied months or years ago for, " says Anjali Bhardwaj, director of the Delhi-based Satark Nagarik Sangathan. The actual problem of a person walking in to the SNS office on a recent morning might be that she hasn't received her BPL card, is not getting the ration she is entitled to, has not been receiving her water bill or has applied for an income certificate and not yet received it. In addition to helping her approach the right authority, she is also told to put in an RTI application. "Pehle aap ek RTI daalo (First you should put an RTI), " is the most common advice that consumer forums and NGOs now give to citizens who come seeking help in accessing services. Former Central Information Commissioner and the indefatigable Mumbai-based RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi, says that the penalty provision of the RTI Act has allowed the citizen to entertain a "reasonable expectation of a response in a situation where he or she cannot reasonably expect a reply from the government on anything else. " Added to that is the RTI's robust appellate mechanism. The paper trail that the RTI generates is as important to the citizen as it is to the government servant. "If you go in person, the official can just dismiss you by saying 'Application nahin aaya (the application has not come), ' says Gandhi, "but he'd be scared of putting it in writing that he hasn't done anything. " This fear of admitting one's inaction in writing is possibly driving a remarkable phenomenon observed by consumer activists and scholars: the immediate impact of the receipt of an RTI Act on service delivery. Public finance watchdog Moneylife recently reported the case of a Pune resident whose passport police clearance was instantly processed when he tried to submit an RTI application on the reasons for the delay. In 2010, Leonid V Peisakhin and Paul Pinto, both PhD candidates at Yale University's department of political science, conducted a field experiment in a Delhi slum that scientifically established this ability of the RTI Act to prod officials into action. The subjects, all of whom were poor slumdwellers, did not have a ration card but wanted to apply for one. They were randomly assigned to one of four experimental groups. The first applied for the ration card and then did nothing more about it, the second attached a letter of recommendation from an NGO to their ration card application, the third paid a bribe after putting in their application, and the fourth enquired about the status of their ration card application through a RTI request shortly after the initial application. Peisakhin and Pinto found that the group that paid a bribe was by far the most successful, in that its application was processed faster. But interestingly, the group that put in an RTI request was almost as successful. Hardly anyone in the other two groups received their ration card during the eleven-month duration of the study. None of this means that the RTI Act is functioning impeccably. The RTI response to Vikas Kumar's application came late and was hand-written on a plain white sheet of paper, with no stamp, seal or letterhead of the SDM's office. The reply is sketchy at best;it answers some of Kumar's questions but chooses not to answer others, it answers with a yes/ no questions that included a request for a document. The RTI response does not mention, as it is required to, the name of the first appellate authority. Yet in Vikas' neatly flattened suitings-shirtings plastic bag, the RTI response occupies pride of place.
  2. Copied from the article here: http://m.economictimes.com/news/news-by-industry/jobs/not-happy-with-your-performance-appraisal-join-the-government/articleshow/19520037.cms: Not happy with your performance appraisal? Join the government NEW DELHI: Imagine an appraisal system where you are certain to score 9 out of 10, where you don't even need to meet your appraiser face-to-face, and where you are pretty sure your pay packet is going to be largely untouched. Such is the process that evaluates India's top bureaucrats, and it has all the ingredients that go into the making of the much-reviled Indian 'system' - red tape (literally), long delays, and of course, a generous serving of political interference. So every April, as KRAs, perks and promotions dominate the chatter in corporate hallways, this silent yet mammoth process of assessment starts in the corridors of power. The Annual Performance Assessment Report (APAR) for the last fiscal has just begun, and is expected to conclude by December. "Virtually everybody gets 9 out of 10 points. Effectively, performance and appraisal are de-linked," says KM Chandrasekhar, former cabinet secretary, in a scathing indictment of an appraisal system that he had tried to streamline without much success. Actually, APAR is the post-RTI avatar of the earlier ACR (Annual Confidential Report). Under the new system introduced in 2006, an officer gets a copy of what his superior has written about him, and if he is rated poorly, he is allowed to write a counter-note challenging the original assessment. In reality, for the appraiser and appraisee, the APAR sheet is yet another 'nada-wala' file being carried by peons from one room to another. After about five months, the file comes back to the officer under review, when he can read his boss' comments. But there are many instances of missing appraisals that delay the empanelment and promotion processes of bureaucrats. Poor Rating may Affect Promotions The empanelment is a process under which officers of the same seniority are assessed on whether they are suitable to be appointed at the level of joint secretary and above, as well as equivalent posts in the government. Once the appraisal is done, the files need to be kept safely by the cadre-controlling authorities and respective states, but a few files do disappear because of negligence or foul play. If two appraisals of an officer are missing in the previous 10 years, the average of the remaining eight years is factored in for promotion and empanelment. Also, no officer, whether from the IAS, IPS or IRS, will get any pay hike despite filling a long form with rules running into 150 pages that even describe what "state government" or "promotion" mean. Annual hikes in a Group A officer's salary are limited to the increments in dearness allowance (adjusted to inflation), and a basic salary hike happens only when they are promoted - that may even be 10 years in coming and is dependent on a number of factors, including the numerical strength of the cadre batch. Nor is there any chance that an officer will get less than 9 points on a scale of 1-10, unless he had fought with his superior. Yet, for each of the 20,000-strong Group A officers, the appraisal remains critical as a poor rating may deny them a foreign posting, and even impact any promotion that may come 10 years down the line. Even 7 out of 10 points are considered quite damaging. Chandrasekhar, who was India's top bureaucrat for four years between 2007 and 2011, says he had attempted to bring about a few changes during his tenure as cabinet secretary. He had submitted a revised system to the Prime Minister's Office, where he had suggested that the grading of an officer should not be done by his immediate boss, but by a committee of officers including recently retired officers and experts. Further, he suggested that over 20% of officers should not get an outstanding rating under any circumstances. The current process goes through three layers. A director-level officer, for example, needs to submit his self-appraisal form to a joint secretary, who is his immediate boss. After recording his comments, the JS sends the form to the reviewing authority, in this case an additional secretary. The additional secretary forwards it to the secretary, who is the accepting authority for a director-ranked officer. By the same formula, all appraisals of joint secretaries and above reach the minister's table. "I think a complete overhaul of the present system is essential and that too, without delay," Chandrasekhar adds. "If you play ball with the system, you get an outstanding rank, and also plump postings. If you raise questions, disciplinary action will follow," says former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, who had served under three prime ministers - Atal Bihari Vajpayee, HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral. "Political interference in appraisal and empanelment has always been there. But it has increased 10 times during the past 10 years," Subramanian adds. Post the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, the government initiated a plan to make the appraisal process more meaningful by proposing monetary incentives for high performers. But it has remained a non-starter. "The Performance Evaluation and Management System was introduced primarily to facilitate such qualitative measurement on the basis of which an incentive system could be built. However, this system can work only if there is strong commitment at all levels, including the political level," Chandrasekhar says.
  3. RTIFED News TOMORROW NEWS TODAY CHANDIGARH: 10 DECEMBER 2011 ]ACCOUNTANT GENERAL (AUDIT) REPORT LAMBASTS PUNJAB MINISTERS ON DISCRETIONARY GRANTS In response to a PIL filed by RTI Activists-cum-Advocate, H.C. Arora, praying for issuance of direction to the State of Punjab to introduce some effective safeguards against misuse of discretionary grants by CM/Ministers and Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, the Accountant General (Audit), Punjab has filed its affidavit through Sh. Raghubir Singh, Deputy Accountant General (Inspection Civil and Administration), clarifying the manner in which the audit of discretionary grants disbursed by Punjab Chief Minister and Cabinet Ministers, including Parliamentary Secretaries, are audited. The AG (Audit) Punjab, alongwith its affidavit has enclosed “Theme audit report” which states that AG (Audit) Punjab is not authorized to audit the accounts of the, Clubs, Colleges or other NGOs to whom the grants are issued by the State Government out of public funds. However, under “The Comptroller and Auditor General Duties/Powers and Conditions of Service Act, 1971”, the Governor can direct the audit of the accounts of such NGOs also. The AG, Punjab (Audit) has further stated in its audit reports that under Punjab Financial Rules, Volume-I, discretionary grants can be sanctioned only upon satisfaction of certain conditions, including the requirement to submit the audited statements of accounts before the sanction of such grants so that the grant may be justified by the financial position of the grantee, and to ensure that the previous grants, if any, given for the purpose had been utilized for which those were given. Besides, the beneficiary of discretionary grant has to execute a bond that it shall abide by the conditions of grant and shall refund the grant in case of breach of terms and conditions of the bond. This condition is also required to be incorporated in the sanction letter. The aforesaid provisions of rules are not being complied with while sanctioning discretionary grants in Punjab. In the “theme audit report” for the period 2009-2010 of the discretionary grants, it is stated that under the guidelines for disbursement of discretionary grants by Cabinet Ministers, a Cabinet Minister cannot sanction discretionary grants exceeding 50 per cent of the quota in his own constituency, however, “Sh. Manoranjan Kalia sanctioned grants of 80 per cent approximately in his own Constituency, during the period 2009-10, which is irregular”. The audit report states that although the grants can be sanctioned for repair, maintenance and renovation of school buildings, such grants are not permitted for construction of rooms of the school building. However, during the year 2009-2010, an amount of Rs. 63.90 lacs in 21 cases was sanctioned and disbursed to the colleges and school management for construction of rooms in contravention of the approved guidelines. The audit report further discloses that while under the guidelines, the discretionary grant cannot be sanctioned for the same purpose during the same year, and a certificate is required to be obtained from grantee/institutions specifying clearly that said institutions has not been sanctioned any grant for the same purpose by any other departments during the same period, “yet an amount of Rs. 65.50 lacs by way of discretionary grants has been sanctioned and disbursed in the same financial year, which reveals that undue favour was given to the beneficiary.” As the requisite certificate was not obtained from the grantees, in the absence of which it could not be ascertained whether any such beneficiary had not obtained any monetary benefit in the shape of grant during the same period. The audit report also gives some instances of issues of misutilisation of discretionary grants by the beneficiaries, and it has been pointed out that a grant of Rs. 10 lacs was released in September, 2009 to “Chandigarh-Punjab Union of Journalists” for overall social development works. However, an amount of Rs. 2.30 lacs was used for the purposes not covered under the social works, and an amount of Rs. 7.70 lacs is still lying unspent with the aforesaid association. “This had resulted not only into the misutilisation of Government funds, but also resulted in blockade of Government money without any requirement.” The audit report further points out that a discretionary grant of Rs. 5 lacs was sanctioned in favour of “Indian Media Centre” (IMC), Ludhiana, during 2009-2010 for construction of new shopping complex”. However, the IMC is operating its office in a rented building and construction was not allowed therein. It was further revealed through discussion that money was lying unspent with IMC till June. This shows the callousness attitude of DDO as he should verify the facts about the beneficiary to whom the grant was released. The affidavit points out that huge amount out of sanction grants are being disbursed with an inordinate delay by the concerned officers. The audit report, however points out that utilization certificates were not being received from the departmental officers. It is pointed out that as on June, 2010, utilization certificates for Rs. 8.86 crores in respect of 459 grants released upto November, 2009 had not been received till June, 2010. Thus, the utilization of grant for intended purpose could not be ascertained. Coming to the grants sanctioned out of the Small Savings Schemes, it is pointed out that scrutiny of records in March, 2010 of the Director Small Savings Punjab, revealed that the net savings collections mobilized during the year 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 was minus (negative). However, at the instance of the Chief Minister and Finance Minister, annual budget of grants from Small Savings Scheme was sanctioned at Rs. 3 crores and Rs. 2 crores each for discretionary use of CM and FM respectively, for the year 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. This was done in the face of guidelines of the department of Small Savings Punjab, that only 1 per cent of the Net Saving collections mobilized in the preceding year in the Small Savings Schemes launched by Government of India is to be used by CM and FM every year as Prize money. It is pointed out that out of the discretionary grants given from Small Savings Schemes, an amount of Rs. 10 Crore was sanctioned and disbursed between 2008 -2010 by the District Small Savings Officers in disregard of the provisions contained in rules, and without satisfying the requisite condition of submission of audited statement of accounts and execution of a bond for re-fund of the grant in the case of breach of terms and conditions of sanction of grants. l As regards the receipt of utilization certificates against grants out of small savings, it is stated that the utilization certificates for an amount of Rs. 7 crores (out of total amount sanctioned/disbursed as Rs. 9.7 Crores) are yet to be received pertaining to the years 2008-2010. Indicting, though without naming the CM, it is stated in the audit report accompanying the affidavit that in violation of the finance rules, and even without stating clearly the purpose for sanctioning the grant, an amount or Rs. 1.50 crore was sanctioned/released to the Deputy Commissioners of Muktsar and Bathinda Districts, out of Small Savings Schemes, without specifying the purpose, and that too at the fag-end of the year, and those grants were latter disbursed to the beneficiaries without obtaining the requisite documents and execution of bonds. The aforesaid PIL is now scheduled to be listed for further hearing before the Punjab and Haryana High Court on12 December next. ________________________________________ – As reported by Advocate H.C. Arora, Petitioner In Person. He is a practicing Lawyer at Punjab & Haryana High Court at Chandigarh.
  4. As reported by UNI in newkerala.com on 09 Dec 2011: Tripura Central University mulls to introduce multiple choice question in consequence of RTI [newKerala.com News # 123217] Tripura Central University mulls to introduce multiple choice question in consequence of RTI Agartala, Dec 9 : Tripura Central University (TCU) has decided to modify the question pattern at graduate level. Vice Chancellor of TCU Prof A Saha told UNI here today after a detailed discussion with the college authorities and higher education department of the state, the university had decided to introduce multiple choice question (MCQ) in environment science in foundation course, which was mandatory for graduation students of all stream. He said the decision to modify of question pattern had been mulled over following the latest verdict of the apex court which allowed students to get the corrected answer script under RTI Act and followed by the judgement the universities of the country had been receiving a huge number of RTI application seeking evaluated answer scripts. ''Not only TCU, but all the universities of the country were now facing a problem in managing flood of RTI applications. Universities do not have any problem to provide evaluated answer script but the issue of the security of the evaluators are now at stake since identification of evaluators would not be a problem in small state like Tripura,'' Prof Saha attributed. However, since the decision has come from the apex court, the university authorities did not have any other alternative but to go for modification of the examination pattern, where student himself/herself could evaluate his answer script but this system has not yet been formalised. ''As part of the exercise, we are thinking to eliminate descriptive part and introduce MCQ in all the papers in both graduate and post graduate level,'' Prof Saha said. Most of the competitive exams in India have MCQ pattern to maintain transparency in the system and fair evaluation of the answer script, he stated. Referring to the latest decision of TCU on MCQ pattern in compulsory environment science paper at graduate level exam, Prof Saha said, ''Foundation paper evaluation had been taking longer time and that caused delay in result declaration; so MCQ in foundation would help us speed up scrutiny answer scripts and later, it would be implemented in other subjects.''0 Commenting on the consequence of RTI Act, Prof Saha attributed, ''It has definitely brought transparency in the system but two other vital component of good governance-- efficiency and pace of the administration were affected severely because no officer has taken the risk to write on the file and everything they are referring to the highest authority, which has appeared to be a big problem in service delivery mechanism in the system.''
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