On Monday evening, when the Group of Ministers (GoM) on corruption, headed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, meets, it is likely to decide to make a recommendation to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to end all discretionary powers enjoyed by Ministers, informed sources have said.

This comes in the wake of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) submitting to the GoM a list of 38 departments in the government, where Ministers enjoy discretionary powers: these include the key Ministries of Petroleum and Natural gas, Finance, Urban Development, Railways, Human Resource Development and Health.

Discretionary powers

Last month, DoPT Secretary Alka Sirohi wrote to all the Ministries asking them to provide a list of the discretionary powers the Ministers had, as well as instances of such powers being used by the Ministers and senior officials. The DoPT recently submitted this information to the GoM, which has now decided to recommend that the discretionary powers enjoyed by Ministers be withdrawn.

The sources added that the GoM might also recommend that administrative departments must decide requests from investigative agencies for prosecution sanction within three months, as well as suggest that the DoPT amend the All-India Service Rules, which govern civil servants, to provide for summary dismissal of corrupt government officials.

Systemic changes

Encircled as the UPA is by a ring of scams, the government is keen on demonstrating its willingness to make systemic changes and streamline the process of punishing Ministers and officials involved in cases of corruption.

At the Congress' plenary session in December at Burari, Congress president Sonia Gandhi directed her party's Union Ministers and Chief Ministers to set an example by reviewing and relinquishing powers related to land allocation and other discretionary powers. Ms. Gandhi followed this up in early January, by writing to the Union Ministers and the Chief Ministers, asking them to give up their discretionary powers.

The members of the GoM, apart from Mr. Mukherjee are: Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and Fertilizers Minister M.K. Alagiri.

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