Saturday, May 1, 2010

Letter to CM on Ombudsmen

01st May 2010

Sri K. Rosaiah
The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh

Dear Sri Rosaiah garu,

This communication is regarding the recent decision of the AP Government to appoint ombudsmen to go into irregularities in the implementation of NREGS (AP GO Ms No. 142, dated 21-4-2010 and the Government of India (Ministry of Rural Development)’s Order dated 7-9-2009).

Lok Satta Party has always been a strong advocate for establishing independent, fully empowered and statutorily-constituted ombudsmen at the district-level as effective instruments of transparency and accountability in public service delivery and the implementation of various government schemes. While we welcome your government’s recent step towards constituting the body of ombudsmen under NREG Act at the district level, the present scheme of their powers and functions would not serve the required purpose. It is evident that there is an urgent need to duly reconstitute this ombudsmen mechanism.

We therefore request you to examine and act upon the following critical issues:

  • At present, around Rs.2000 crore a year is being spent directly at the district-level, under various schemes. Therefore, the powers of the ombudsmen must not be limited only to the implementation of the NREGS, but should be enlarged to cover any instances of corruption and irregularities in all schemes at the local government-level.

  • At present, the NREGS ombudsmen’s powers are limited only to inquiry into irregularities thrown up by NREGS social audit. The scope of their powers must be expanded to enable them to take up and act upon complaints of corruption and mal-administration against both elected members and officials at the local government-level. This would enable them to:

    • lodge or take up complaints (suo motu) against erring parties
    • conduct investigations
    • initiate proceedings on any related grievance, and
    • award and implement redressal, disciplinary and punitive actions against erring parties.

    Ombudsmen must be made autonomous and powerful – under the existing provisions of law, to ensure that guilty elected public representatives and local government officials are removed from service and duly punished.

  • The AP Government has prescribed that retired judicial personnel who have served not below the rank of Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) be appointed as district ombudsmen for the NREGS. Instead, persons of the rank of District Judge should be selected as district level ombudsmen to ensure that the expanded powers and functions over various aspects of district-level governance are exercised, as recommended above.

  • The remuneration awarded to the ombudsmen too should be enhanced to accordingly. In any case, the present notified sitting fee of Rs.500 a day allowed for an ombudsman is too low and impractical an amount, and therefore would not attract talent. Instead, a permanent Ombudsman monitoring and investigating complaints relating to all government schemes at district and sub-district levels or for metropolitan cities should enjoy the status, rank, salary, allowances and privileges of the sitting judge of the same rank. Since there will be one Ombudsman for all programmes including NREG Act, it will be cost-effective."

  • Finally, multiplicity of agencies dealing with wrongdoings of public servants should be eliminated by integrating the functional jurisdiction of various such agencies. To this extent, the district-level ombudsmen mechanism should be integrated at the State level, under an appropriate, independent framework.

The Sixth Report of the 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) of India also emphasized upon these issues (subsequently echoed by the 13th Finance Commission, 2010 - 2015), which are integral towards establishing an independent and fully empowered Ombudsman mechanism at the district level to ensure due accountability and transparency in governance at the third tier of the government.

I therefore urge you to act immediately to create a body of effective, independent, empowered Ombudsmen – one per district on the lines suggested above.

With warm personal regards,


Jayaprakash Narayan

No comments:

Post a Comment