Politics

Days Before Deadline, Public Servants in No Hurry to Declare Assets

With the April 15 deadline looming, neither the central government nor officials themselves are showing any urgency.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

There appears to be no urgency among government officials to file details of their assets and liabilities. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: With just three days to go for the April 15 deadline for public servants to file the details of their assets and liabilities, and those of their spouses and dependants under the Lokpal Act, there appears to be no urgency on the part of the central government to spread the word, or among the officials to actually file their declarations. The scheme has already been extended four times so far.

What seems to escaped the attention of many is the fact that there is no official word from the Centre yet on any extension of the deadline this time. In fact, the joint secretary at the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions had sent a reminder on April 2 to all the secretaries of the union government, stating that the declaration of assets under Section 44 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, by public servants should be accorded due priority as it is mandatory.But this message has not been spread by most ministries and departments.

An official in the health department told The Wire that while officials had heard about this initiative two years ago, there had been no further information on it. “We have not received any circular, order or official mail on the subject. So in all probability the scheme may be extended this time as well,” he said.

A Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service cadre official also confirmed that there has been no word on the new mandatory filing so far. “Probably the officials are not so bothered because they file a return of their properties at the time of joining the service as it is, and then subsequently submit details of all immovable property purchase, acquired or inherited by them within months of the acquisition, and of all movable properties worth over 15,000 rupees within a year of their purchase. So even if an officer purchases a mobile phone of 20,000 rupees he or she is required to declare it.”

The repeated extensions – the deadline was extended for six months in October 2015 – are the primary reason for the lackadaisical approach of the officials.

Some officials are also not too concerned because they are already filing returns under various service rules. But under the Lokpal Act, all Group A, B, and C employees are required to submit a declaration of all movable and immovable properties in their own names, as well as in the names of their spouses and dependants.

The new rules under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 require the filing of returns of assets and liabilities at the end of every financial year, by the end of July 31 the same year. The April 15 deadline covers the filing of the first return of assets and liabilities as on March 31, 2015. The annual return for the year ending March 31, 2016 would have to be filed by July 31, 2016.

The personnel ministry had also specified that to facilitate the smooth compliance of the provisions of section 44 of the Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act, 2013, it has already placed in the public domain all the rules framed under the Act and the forms required to making the declarations.

What needs to be declared

A look at the forms, which are also available online, reveals that all public servants are now required to make detailed submissions of assets and liabilities through four forms.

The first form asks for the name of the public servant, the names of his or her family members, the public position held by them, if any, and whether the returns are being filed separately.

The second form is the most crucial, and deals with movable property on the first appointment or as on March 31 of the previous financial year. This form seeks from the public servant details of cash and bank balance, and investments in insurance, fixed deposits, shares, bonds, mutual funds, pension schemes, provident fund and others. It also has a column for personal loans or advances given to any person or entity or amounts receivable from debtors. Public servants are also required to provide the details of motor vehicles they own.

There is also a column in which they have to give details of the jewellery they own, including gold (plus or minus 10 grams), silver (plus or minus 100 grams), precious metals and stones and composite items.

In the category of other assets, the form requires the submission of details of items, including furniture, fixtures, antiques, paintings and electronic items valued at over one lakh rupees or exceeding two months basic pay of the assesses.

This forms says that the details of deposits in foreign banks have to be provided separately and investments of over two lakh rupees in insurance et al will have to be reported individually.

The third form deals with immovable property. Here too, the Lokpal Act now demands a detailed submission of properties owned by the public servant, his or her spouse and dependant children. It seeks the description of the property, the precise location and address, the area of land, nature of land in case of landed property, extent of interest, the name of the person in whose name the title of the property exists, the date of acquisition, whether the property was acquired through purchase, mortgage, lease, inheritance, gift or otherwise, the present value of the property and the total income from the property.

The last form pertains to statement of debts and other liabilities. From the point of view of curbing corruption, this information is equally important because besides showing the various loans and advances taken from banks, companies, financial institutions, central and state governments, it also shows if any money has been raised from other individuals.

Note: The deadline for central government employees to file details of their assets and liabilities, along with that of their spouses and dependent children, as part of mandatory obligations under Lokpal Act was extended for the fifth time until July 31 this year, according to PTI. This information was received after the story was filed.