March, the month of pointless expenditures!

One wonders why do we compulsively spend our precious capital just to complete the financial year.

During my more than three decades of service with the state government I had great experience of duty, subordination, rights and working of our administration. Inheriting and carrying the British legacy of administrative structure which was more a system of suppression than administration, our system of governance is entangled in a dilemma of running a democracy with iron hand.  In almost all departments the sense and responsibility and subordination varies from person to person and rights—these are never delivered to every ones satisfaction. Working of state governments departments is always governed by a hierarchy and a set pattern of job chart. Unfortunately, there is always a vast gap between Powers assigned and powers derived (exercised to be precise) within the existing hierarchical system. And this flawed balance of power over the period of time has created an inconsistent system that will require huge efforts to reform and balance.During these three decades what has caught my attention more than anything else inside our administrative system is untimely and unjustified allotment of funds and its irrational expenditure. Financial setup of state’s administration is a vast web of planning, allotments and expenditure. British model of checks and balances has particularly made a wreck of our financial system and with our own touch of illusory maneuvering an abusive system of centralization it has become more complicated. Uneven financial allocation, unnecessary delay and most of the times untimely allotment of funds to subordinate offices is a routine now. Most of the time, major part of allocation of funds is made at the fag end of the financial year.  There is something more than administrative hassles that delays timely release of funds. A cursory look on pattern of allocation and release of funds in any government establishment after approval of annual plan and its financial implication will reveal something very unusual. Delay and discrimination will be the right words to define this pattern and such pattern emanates from the administrative departments itself and flows down to the final drawing and disbursing authority. This delay and discrimination syndrome has not caught our administrative system overnight but has crept into our system over the period of time.

 Applying the proverbial ‘charity begins at home’ most of our administrative offices at state, provincial and district level keep major part of financial allocation with their own establishments and allow it to flow downwards only when they feel pleased. At times the nomenclature and title of financial allocation is reinterpreted so as to fit their own scheme of liking and convince. In most of the cases much of allocations under office expenses, infrastructure development, travelling allowances and budgetary provision for transport infrastructure development never percolate down into the field where it is more needed than at headquarters. The latest being the allocation for e-governance, supposed to be used exclusively for purchase and procurement of software and hardware to keep pace with contemporary electronic age. Unfortunately, a bigger chunk of this money is either used to buy office furniture or other peripherals remotely related to e-governance.

Every year the senior officers buy new vehicles and redo their offices and furnishing even if their subordinated down below are suffering for a petty rim of paper and paper pins.  Interestingly, in most of the cases to avoid accountability the higher officers every year buy new and latest equipment and machinery and issue the older and obsolete ones to their subordinates. This irrational distribution of governance support material is one of the most noticeable hurdles in good governance.

The ultimate flaw in our financial system is last minute allocation of funds and resulting compulsive expenditure. A visit to any office in March (last month of the financial year) will tell a unique situation of confusion, especially financial confusion. Allotment of funds at the end of financial year depicts inefficiency and malafide intentions. Last minute purchases with delayed allotments lead to substandard procurement leaving very less scope for quality and choice. Such allotments too encourage centralized expenditures as due to lack of time the funds cannot be passed on to field functionaries well in time in a matter of days. So, in the month of March our entire administration is on the march of delayed allocations and flawed expenditures.