Panel recommends pro-active disclosure of information about travel of high dignitaries
A two member committee constituted by the Central Information Commission has recommended not pro-active disclosure of expenses incurred on foreign visits of the Prime Minister, Ministers and higher dignitaries and also their regular updating as well. In their report on “Transparency Audit: Towards An Open and Accountable Government”, the committee comprising of former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari and Information Commissioner M M Ansari recommended that the travel information should be updated once every quarter including the details such as places visited and the institutions / individual interacted with. The panel has also suggested that the period of official visit, the number and the names of the members in the official delegation, the mode of conveyance and the expenses incurred including the source of funding and outcome of the visit should be disseminated suo-motu.
The panel says in its report that a democratic government keen on empowering the people and delivering to them goods and services speedily and efficiently, cannot allow walls of secrecy to separate them from the very people they serve. The report further reads “Transparency brings the government closer to its people-– a closeness which underpins good governance. In spite of repeated directions to the public authorities, the results on account of voluntary disclosures have been below par…… One cardinal aspect of the RTI i.e. timely furnishing of quality information to the citizen, became difficult to be adhered to, while the cost for disclosing information, at all levels, kept increasing.”
The panel referred to the DoPT Circular asking all ministries to proactively disclose these details (http://www.rtifoundationofindia.com/dopt/Official%20tours.pdf ) and has observed that there is very little pro-active disclosure. In response to an application filed under the RTI Act, the PMO had refused to disclose information related to expenses incurred on the abroad visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the ground that the records sought for are vague.