Signalling a break from the past, the Narendra Modi government on Saturday announced 'abolition’ of all Group of Ministers (GoMs) and Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoMs) 'for greater accountability and empowerment’. At present there are nine Empowered Groups of Ministers (EGOMs) and 21 Groups of Ministers (GOMs), which were set up by the previous UPA government to take decisions on various matters before bringing them for the Cabinet's consideration. During UPA-II regime, 27 GoMs and 24 EGoMs were appointed. Former Defence Minister A K Antony was heading most of the EGoMs. The panels were formed to take decisions on issues like corruption, inter-state water disputes, administrative reforms and gas and telecom pricing.
A press statement issued by Mr. Modi’s office termed the initiative as a `major move’ to empower the Ministries and Departments. It is to be seen against the backdrop of Prime Minister in allocation of portfolios to the council of ministers had specified that 'all important policy matters’ would be his domain.
“This would expedite the process of decision making and usher in greater accountability in the system. The Ministries and Departments will now process the issues pending before the EGoMs and GoMs and take appropriate decisions at the level of Ministries and Departments itself. “Wherever the Ministries face any difficulties, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office will facilitate the decision making process”.
The Ministries and Departments will now process the issues pending before EGoMs and GoMs and take appropriate decisions at the level of Ministries and Departments itself, said the statement. The announcement came two days after Mr Modi unveiled his 10-point agenda with a directive to the Ministers to prepare a list of issues that they will take up in the first 100 days in office, with a focus on efficiency, delivery systems and implementation.
Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is a Group of Ministers (GoM) of the Union Government are also authorised (empowered) by the appointing authority to take decisions in such matters after investigation. While a GoM investigates and reports to the Cabinet, which takes the decision, an EGoM additionally takes decisions on matters it is authorised for, and such decisions have the force of the Government decision.
Both EGoM as well as the GoM get appointed under the Government of India’s Transaction of Business Rules 1961, which at para 6 (4) provides that ‘Ad hoc Committees of Ministers including Group of Ministers may be appointed by the Cabinet, the Standing Committees of the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for investigating and reporting to the Cabinet on such matters as may be specified, and, if so authorised by the Cabinet, Standing Committees of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister, for taking decisions on such matters.’
Rule 6(6) further provides that ‘any decision taken by a Standing or Ad hoc Committee may be reviewed by the Cabinet’. Therefore decisions in a matter taken by EGoM remain subject to review by the Cabinet at the latter’s discretion. Former Minister and Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that the system of GoMs and EGMos was meant to operate as a single window clearance on issues related to various ministries with the objective of expediting policy making.