Most MPLADS funds unutilised
Every minister either at Centre or in states takes oath: -'I, [the name], do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will not directly or...
Every minister either at Centre or in states takes oath: "I, [the name], do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person or persons any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as a Minister for the Union except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as such Minister."
Similarly, every MP or Legislator in State Assemblies takes oath: "I, [the name], having been elected (or nominated) a member of the Council of States (or the House of the People) do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter."
The Ministers and the legislators have a duty to reveal that information which may be required for the due discharge of their duties as minister. The information like progress of works under MPLAD scheme shall be disclosed as that would be required in due discharge of the duties. They have to uphold integrity of India, which cannot be done without integrity of individual members of legislature, and if the anti-corruption measures including transparency are not ensured.
The Supreme Court in many of its cases has declared that the Right to Information (RTI) is not just a legal right under RTI Act, but also a fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under the Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, to which the members have taken oath to bear true faith and allegiance.
A voter-appellant wanted to know the progress/status of developments in the Parliamentary constituency of Madhubani under Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) in Khatauna block of Madhubani district in Bihar. A voter has every right under the RTI to know about selection of works, progress, incomplete works, delays, reasons thereof and possible time of their completion. The CPIO and First Appellate Authority failed to respond. The appellant urged the CIC to impose penalty against refusal. He asked if the CPIO of the Ministry did not respond, whom he should ask: “Whether MP or his party would answer me?”
It is pertinent to note that from the tax payer’s money, each parliamentarian is getting Rs 5 crore per annum, and all his primary and VVIP standard facilities were taken care of. Each Member of Parliament is privileged to allocate from his Rs 5 crore annual fund for the developmental activities in his constituency which is called “Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS)”. Under this scheme, each MP has the choice to suggest various works in his constituency to the District Collector to the tune of Rs 5 crore per annum.
The representatives of the Ministry concerned stated that actual progress on the field could be ascertained by the local authorities like District Magistrate and his subordinates. Regarding how the works were chosen, the officers said that it was totally at the discretion of the concerned MP and no authority could intervene in it.
The voters also should know how the works were selected. This information is partly held by the Ministry for programme implementation, District Collectors/Magistrates in the Constituency, the MP, his legislature party and the original political party, if they have any guidelines or policy regarding allocation of funds for the works in the constituencies. All of these authorities have a duty to answer to the voter-citizen.
As the BJP Parliamentary Party, the ruling party of the Government of India, proclaimed its commitment to transparency and clean government, the Commission recommends to voluntarily disclose the criterion for selection of works under MPLADS along with constitution-wise works list and their progress with regular updating, on their official website/websites of the party or Legislature Party or individual MPs, if they have any, to fulfil their democratic obligation to inform the voters of India, within reasonable time.
The Commission invited the views/contentions of the Government Chief Whip, the Leader, and Deputy Leader (LS) of BJP, or any other authorised representative as to why the BJP Parliamentary Party should not be declared as ‘public authority’ under 2(h) of RTI Act, 2005. This invitation was extended to all political parties and public-spirited bodies. While people unanimously wanted them to be public authorities, the political parties chose to be silent.
In principle, every legislature/parliamentary party shall be considered as public authorities. Either because of RTI Act, or because of their Constitutional obligation to give good governance or because of their oath under the Constitution, every legislator and their group called “Legislature/Parliamentary Party” or their “Original Political Party” as defined under the Constitution (Tenth Schedule) have moral, legal and constitutional obligation to disclose at least the MPLADS-related information on their own under Section 4(1). The Commission recommended to every legislator to fulfil this obligation as they have promised this nation to work as per the Constitution.
Following the CIC intervention, the Ministry and other offices gave appellant a bunch of papers. However, the CIC directed the Ministry to pay a token compensation of Rs 1000 to the appellant for depriving him of his rightful information and compelling him to file a second appeal. The Commission referred to the status of funding in Bihar from the website concerned and sought submissions. As on 16th October 2017, in the year 2017-18, among Bihar Lok Sabha constituencies, Rs 12.5 crore was used out of Rs 200 crore entitlement and among Rajya Sabha MPs, Rs 5 crore was released out of Rs 80 crore. In 2016-17, Rs 87.5 crore was released out of Rs 200 crore entitlement for Lok Sabha MPs, and for Rajya Sabha MPs, only Rs 25 crore was released out of Rs 80 crore entitlement.
In Delhi, the utility of MPLADS by the MPs of both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha is ‘zero’ in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 as on 16-10-2017, against entitlement of Rs 35 crore for Lok Sabha and Rs 10 crore for Rajya Sabha MPs. Rs 1,620 crore was released/utilised out of total fund of Rs 2,725 crore entitled under the MPLADS for MPs in Lok Sabha, while Rs 673 crore out of Rs 1,225 crore was released/utilised for MPs in Rajya Sabha in 37 states/UTs in 2016-17 as on 16.10.2017. Rs 370 crore was released/utilised out of total fund of Rs 2,725 crore entitled under MPLADS for the MPs in Lok Sabha, Rs 162 crore out of Rs 1,225 crore was released/utilised for MPs in Rajya Sabha in 37 states/UTs in 2017-18 as on 16.10.2017.
The tables given in the official website of MPLADS reveal the utility of the funds by MPs and need for their accountability and answerability. All district authorities shall also disclose the progress reports of the works in terms of percentage of completion, the work left out, and possible date of completion, in their respective websites to give effective meaning to the voters’ (including this applicant) right to know the progress of works in their constituency. In fact, this information forms part of the Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act.
As per the MPLADS, neither the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation nor the district administration of the MP concerned can answer the questions about non-utilisation of funds. In the interim order it was explained that there is no answerability for MPs’ discretion power in accepting certain requests and rejecting others regarding development works in their constituency. There are men, money and machinery but MPs do not have will to use all the money for the people of their constituency. In spite of having a system, mechanism and funds, most of the MPLADS funds are lying unutilised or underutilised. They spend hundreds of crores to get elected but surprisingly do not spend Rs 125 crores of MPLADS for those elected them. It’s pathetic that certain Rajya Sabha MPs did not even choose the area where they could have spent money for development and thus there was no utilisation of funds at all.
The Commission strongly recommended that the legislature party of original political party having elected MPs in either of the houses should own up the duty of 100% proper utilisation of MPLADs funds by each MP besides being accountable and answerable to the voters under RTI Act.
(See decision dated 18th October 2017 in CIC/MOSPI/A/2017/176195, Vishnu Dev Bhandari v. PIO, M/o Statistics & Programme Implementation)