‘Rationalization of autonomous bodies’

  • Category
    Governance
  • Published
    2nd Nov, 2020

Context

In a report on the rationalization of 109 autonomous bodies under Central government ministries, the finance ministry’s department of expenditure recommended that the environment ministry disengage with 23 bodies, merge 109 into 26 bodies and close six to reduce expenditure.

Background

  • Based on the recommendations of Expenditure Management Commission, NITI Aayog had undertaken a review of the Autonomous Bodies, under the DoHFW, that have been formed under Societies Registration Act, 1860 (SRA).
  • The Interim Report of the Committee for the Review of Autonomous Bodies with recommendations to rationalize them was prepared.

Analysis

Autonomous Bodies

  • An Autonomous Body(AB) is set up by the government for a specific purpose.
  • It is independent in day-to-day functioning, but the government has some control over ABs.
  • Autonomous Bodies are set up for some of the functions which need to be discharged outside the governmental set up.

Functions

  • These bodies are involved in activities such as formulating frameworks for policies, conducting research and cultural aspects.

Legal Status

  • They are mostly registered as societies under the Societies Registration Act and in certain cases they have been set up as statutory institutions under the provisions contained in various Acts.

Finance of Autonomous bodies

  • The government funds ABs in some ways such as revenue expenditure, capital expenditure, or both.

Objectives behind their formulation

  • The objective is to give them flexibility and independence in the functioning.
  • Some of the autonomous Institutes impart technical, medical and higher education also.

Governance of these bodies

  • The governing council or governing body,which is chaired by the minister or the secretary of the respective ministry, governs the functioning and existence of these bodies.

Accounting and Auditing procedure

  • These Autonomous Bodies are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the annual report is presented in the Parliament every year.

Shortcomings of Autonomous Bodies

  • Disparity in the methods of accountability:These bodies are not accountable to the government as other government departments are. So a demand comes for their finance mechanism as they are finance by the taxpayer money though they are capable of doing so.
  • High number of bodies:The high number of Autonomous bodies and their higher number of employee count is also one of the reasons behind their rationalization.
  • Non-uniformity in the functioning: There exists the non-uniformity in the recruitment process of the employees as different institutions have different procedures for the recruitment.
  • Lack of proper audit mechanism: The lack of accountability is also an issue in terms of decision making and audition by CAG as some of the bodies are also audited outside the CAG.
  • Lack of proper framework: It lacks a proper framework to describe an Autonomous Body which defines the working capacity, its autonomy and policies it follows.
  • Ambiguous and obsolete bodies: Some of the bodies have become obsolete in terms of their functioning and tasks. So a complete closer and merger of some of these bodies is required.
  • Non-uniform policies:There is a lack of uniformity in the policies and functioning of these bodies. So a structural overhaul is also necessary to make them functioning in an efficient manner.
  • Authoritarianism in decision making:A lack of consensus in decision making is also observed during the official meetings.

Expected outcomes of the rationalization

  • Enhanced effectiveness and efficiency:The main concern of the Government is that ABs are required to be reviewed and rationalised with a view to improve their outcomes, effectiveness and efficiency, utilisation of financial and human resources, synergy, governance and relevance in current policy and programme context, with improved monitoring and oversight.
  • More devolution of powers:One of the aims behind the rationalization process is to enhance the ‘minimum government, maximum governance’.
  • More autonomy:It is done to push the autonomous bodies to be more self-dependent in terms of finance and be less dependent on government grants.
  • Efficient research and innovation:The rationalization of these institutions would boost the research work and innovation in terms of working capacity.
  • Reduction in ambiguity:The rationalization would avoid the duplication of activities and would help in attaining economies of scale.
  • More collaboration at governance: It would help in making a cooperative governance system.

Conclusion

The merging and abolition of the autonomous bodies is expected to lead the enhanced efficiency and governance mechanism. The reduced level of ambiguity of functioning is expected to yield better results. It would also help in reduction of burden over the government exchequer as the salaries given to the employees and officers were driven from the government. The autonomous bodies would continue to give support to government on the issues concerned and being asked by the government. The more of the powers devolve would bring the better research and results analysis. This process of rationalization would help in better resource utilization and management of the country by bringing the research collaborations on the table.

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