Ministry Spent Just 6% in First 9 Months

Most ministries complain of inadequate allocation of funds from the Budget. It’s, therefore, likely that many of them would be living hand to mouth as the financial year draws to an end and the Budget for 2016-17 is presented. But a look at spending patterns in the first nine months presents a different picture. Ten ministries had not spent even half of what was given to them last year till December 2015, that is, in nine months. At the other extreme are seven ministries that had spent over 90% of their funds although one-fourth of the year was still remaining. These figures refer to Plan spending, which does not include payments of salaries, pensions and other recurring expenditures. It includes all capital expenditure.

It is expected that ministries would spend their funds roughly proportionately to time. Not doing so implies rushing through huge spending in a couple of months as the financial year ends, with scant regard to efficacy or delivery. This has been a problem with various bodies and ministries and even the CAG has underlined this in the past.

But some of the minis tries with very low amounts spent by December include those in charge of piloting highly publicised and favoured programmes of the Modi government.

For instance, the skill development ministry is in charge of the Skill India programme meant to train 400 million people by 2022. This is also a key element of the Make in India initiative. But in its first year, the ministry had spent just 33% of its funds with only three months remaining before the year ends.

Similarly, upgrading urban centres through the Smart Cities programme is another key goal of the Modi government. Although this is nodalised by the urban affairs ministry, the complementary ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation has spent just 18% of its funds. The key department of food and public distribution under the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, responsible for implementing the Food Security Act, is lagging with only 44% of its funds spent. Others with significant lags include the ministry of minority affairs which has spent just 38% of its funds. This ministry is directly responsible for implementing welfare schemes for minority communities which suffer severe economic and social deprivation. Plan expenditure in some big, crucial ministries like the ones in charge of defence and heavy industries are highly deficient -just a quarter has been spent.This may reflect on core strengths of the country. The ministries which have spent nearly all their funds, and the four ministries which have spent more than their allocation already, also represent a problem. What are they supposed to do for the next three months? Or are they going to demand some more?

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