SHILLONG, Jan 1 – Meghalaya’s political appointees have turned into white elephants for the State’s Finance department as disbursement of their honorariums has gone largely unattended from March last year.
The financial health has come to such a sorry state that over 20 Garo National Liberation Army cadres who surrendered before the State police have threatened to take to the jungle if they don’t get the promised financial assistance from the government. The militants surrendered in April last year.
Meanwhile, several of the political appointees, including the advisor of the Chief Minister – DD Lapang – have gone without their honorarium from March last year, sources said.
During former Chief Minister DD Lapang’s tenure, there were 116 political appointees. Sangma brought in a breath of fresh air after taking over in April 2010 by de-notifying all the 116 political appointments. He promised of having a “fresh look at the manner in which public money was being exhausted through such political appointments.” But later, he went back on his words and made 85 political appointments.
These political appointees are the Chairmen, co-Chairmen, vice-Chairmen and deputy-Chairmen of different boards and Corporations and also that of posts such as advisor to the Chief Minister and others.
The trend of political appointments set in after the 91st amendment of the Constitution that downsized the Cabinet to just 15 per cent of the Assembly’s strength to cut wasteful expenditure of public money. However, the purpose of the downsizing exercise was defeated with such backdoor political appointments.
Some of the political appointees who wished not to be quoted seemed somewhat upset that their honorarium was held up since March. “It is true that my honorarium was not released from March last year. I made some informal inquiry and I was told that there isn’t adequate fund for release of the honorarium,” a member of a Board said.
During Lapang’s tenure, the political appointees cost the State exchequer Rs 3.29 crore during 2009-10. All these expenditure comes from the State’s non-plan outlay.
During this fiscal, Rs 2,835 crore has been earmarked for non-plan expenditure, an increase of 18.70 per cent from 2010-11. But about 80 per cent of this outlay is earmarked towards payment of salary of the State’s burgeoning government employees.
It is unclear at this juncture how much the 85 political appointees are costing to the State’s poor financial health. Sources said that the honorarium of the political appointees varies to a large extent as per their classification of A++, A+, A, B, C.