State clips powers of finance department

Decisions approved by Cabinet do not have to be referred to finance & planning department; Mungantiwar-led department asked to clear Cabinet’s suggestions in 7 days flat

The powers of the Sudhir Mungantiwar-led finance & planning department have been clipped. Bogged down by delays in implementing government decisions that are approved by the Devendra Fadnavis-led Cabinet, the state government has found that the finance & planning department needs to expedite things at its end.

Sudhir Mungantiwar’s finance & planning department is faced with the difficult task of meeting growing expenses of the state in view of Maharashtra’s debt burden of R3 lakh crore and its revenue deficit. File pic
Sudhir Mungantiwar’s finance & planning department is faced with the difficult task of meeting growing expenses of the state in view of Maharashtra’s debt burden of Rs 3 lakh crore and its revenue deficit. File pic

The government has decided that if proposals moved by various departments are approved by the Cabinet, they should not be referred again to the finance & planning department.

According to the decision, the finance & planning department must clear the decision in 7 days if the Cabinet suggests corrections and refers to them for seeking advice on issues related to expenditure and planning.

A directive to this effect was circulated by Chief Secretary Swadhin Kshatriya on Tuesday. Incidentally, the directive came amid a row over purchasing of a London-based bungalow where Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar stayed while studying economics.

The social justice department had blamed the finance & planning department for causing the delay in finalising a deal. Mungantiwar, who was one of the CM aspirants in the BJP, has dismissed the allegations, saying that no such decision was pending at his end. On Tuesday, Mungantiwar and social justice minister Rajkumar Badole continued to debate whether the state government could buy property in a foreign land.

While the finance minister said the ownership of such property would rest with the Union Government, Badole maintained that the Maharashtra Government would be the legal owner after the Centre purchases the bungalow on the state’s behalf.

Need for speed
Kshatriya’s directive did not relate to any particular deal or decision, but it clearly laid down the purpose behind the reform. It said that the decisions approved by the Cabinet are expected to be promulgated for implementation with immediate effect.

“There is a need to change the existing method and hence a meeting of all department secretaries was held on August 12 to discuss the issue in detail,” the directive said, adding that in case of any difficulty that may arise because of police matters and unavoidable reasons, the Chief Secretary must be informed immediately.

Mungantiwar was not available for comment. However, a senior finance department official said his department was faced with the most difficult task of meeting growing expenses of the state in view of a debt burden of R 3 lakh crore and revenue deficits. He said a perennial drought-like situation would need a huge amount of money for mitigation measures.

“It’s our job to scrutinise every proposal for finance and planning purposes. We are paid for doing this job,” he said. The officer said the directive would be followed religiously in matters that can be quickly decided, but the tricky issues and proposals would continue to come under scrutiny and decided in consultation with the Cabinet and Chief Secretary.

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