In a landmark judgement that will ensure transparency in the utilization of MLA local area development funds, the Central Information Commission has ordered the Delhi Government to put up information on utilisation of these funds on its website.
Taking strict notice of the Delhi Government’s non compliance with the provisions of Section 4 of the RTI Act which requires the Government to proactively provide information on utilisation of public funds to citizens, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has issued a show cause notice to the Public Information Officer of the Urban Development Department, which is the nodal agency for disbursement and monitoring of funds under the Delhi MLALAD scheme.
In his order issued on September 2, the Commissioner noted that “the PIO is guilty of not making any effort to meet the Section 4 requirements (of the RTI Act)”. The PIO has been ordered to ensure that this information is put up on the website of the Delhi Urban Development Department within 15 days.
The CIC ordered this disclosure in response to a complaint filed by Satark Nagrik Sangathan, an NGO that works towards promoting transparency in the functioning of elected representatives.
Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) had developed Report Cards on the performance of all Delhi MLAs prior to the Delhi Assembly elections in December 2008. In the report cards, SNS had provided information on how MLAs had allocated their development funds.
As they faced many difficulties and delays in obtaining this information, SNS filed a complaint in August 2008 with the CIC, demanding that information about MLA funds should be made available in the public domain in compliance with the provisions of the RTI Act. In the complaint, SNS had sought that project-wise information about MLA Local Area Development Scheme should be put up on the government’s website and on boards in each constituency.
“Over Rs. 700 crore is allocated under the Delhi MLALAD Scheme over a five year period, yet the Government has not taken any steps to proactively inform people about the existence and utilization of these funds. As a result, these funds are often spent on non priority works while basic development needs of people remain largely unaddressed. Information accessed using the RTI Act shows that in many constituencies funds have been allocated for constructing fountains while residents face acute water shortage”, said Anjali Bhardwaj, who filed the complaint on behalf of SNS.
The order of the CIC will ensure that MLA local area development funds are utilized in a consultative, participatory and accountable manner. Having access to information on these funds will enable people to meaningfully engage with their MLAs to ensure that funds are spent on their area’s most pressing development needs.