The Central Information Commission (CIC) has "strongly recommended" to legislature parties to ensure "100 per cent proper utilisation" of Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds by each of their MPs and voluntarily appoint officials to answer Right to Information (RTI) queries on the issue from the public.
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu also said that every political party with a presence in the legislature should introduce financial transparency regarding their sources of income, including donations and names of donors, expenditure during elections and non-election period.
"Those parties should make suo motu disclosure at regular intervals on their official websites. Their legislature parties should voluntarily appoint a Public Information Officer (PIO) and First Appellate Authority (FAA) to answer about works under MPLADs, utilisation and non-utilisation of funds, and criteria for recommendation of works, as soon as possible," he said.
The commission had in 2013 declared six political parties – BJP, Congress, CPI(M), CPI, BSP and NCP – as public authorities answerable under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Every Member of Parliament gets Rs 5 crore under Members of Parliament Local Area Development funds annually. An MP has the discretion to fund any work in his area which is executed by the district authorities concerned.
The CIC recommendation came on a plea of an RTI applicant who had sought to know the progress and status of works under Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) in Khatauna block in the parliamentary constituency of Madhubani in Bihar.
"The representatives of the (statistics and programme implementation) ministry say that actual progress on the field could be ascertained by the local authorities like District Magistrate and his subordinates," Acharyulu has pointed out.
He also noted when questioned how the works were chosen, the officers said that it was totally at the discretion of the MP concerned and no authority could intervene in it.
"From the records, files, websites and responses, the commission found that the MPs are not fully utilising the funds available to them under MPLAD scheme along with a mechanism of recommendation of works release of funds and implementation of schemes by different authorities, as explained above," Acharyulu said.
He said when each MP is given Rs 5 crore for development of their constituency, it is the right of the citizen to demand why funds were not utilised.
"As per the MPLAD scheme, neither the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation nor the district administration of the MP concerned can answer the questions about non-utilisation of funds," he said.
He said there is no answerability of MPs in using their discretionary power in accepting certain requests and rejecting the other regarding development works in their constituencies.
"There is men, money and machinery but MPs do not have the will to use all the money for the people of their constituency. In spite of having system, mechanism and funds, most of the MPLADS funds are lying un-utilised or underutilised. Does it not amount to abdication of responsibility by elected representatives?" he asked.
He said it was pathetic that certain Rajya Sabha MPs did not even choose the area where they could have spent money for development and thus there was no utilisation of funds at all. PTI
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