Officials enjoy junkets on taxpayer’s money

Jul 27, 2018-Defying the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) explicit order, many ministry officials continue go on foreign junkets funded by taxpayers’ money.

Sixty officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Management and Cooperative visited India on July 18.

Prime Minister’s Agriculture Modernisation Programme picked up the expense tab for their junket. This junket clearly violates the PMO’s Foreign Visit Directives-2075 BS.

While the PMO directive indicates austerity measures, the Cabinet has approved over one dozen visits of officials including ministers and vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission. The Cabinet approved these visits in its meeting held between June 10 and July 4.

Every Cabinet meeting approves, on an average at least three foreign visits of senior officials. Similarly, the Parliament Secretariat handles foreign visits of lawmakers and approves them.

Another long list of foreign visits is pending at the PMO, awaiting Cabinet approval. Another list is pending with Ministry of Local Development by the chief and deputy chiefs of local bodies.

Prime Minister’s Press Adviser Kundan Aryal said, “Visits of only those who MUST go abroad are approved. Unnecessary visits are not approved.”

He claimed the number of foreign visits has dropped significantly compared to those approved by the Cabinet of the previous governments.

“I can say numbers of visits undertaken by the senior officials has come down,” said Aryal. “During the same period last year, average cabinet approval for foreign visit was five where as between June 10 to July 4 this year it is four.” The private secretariat of the Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has recently summoned details of the visits of secretaries and senior officials.

After the new government took charge, the PMO and ministries issued several directives to their sub-ordinate offices to trim foreign visits, but it seems it is much water off a duck’s back.

Although officials say the government policy discourages foreign visits and junkets, there is no perceptible change in last five months after Oli government took charge. Procedures to obtain diplomatic and official approval for lawmakers, chiefs and deputy chiefs of local bodies are now strict to discourage foreign visits.

On June 12, the federal government made it mandatory for officials and staff of local governments planning foreign visits to obtain the approval of Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA).

The MoFAGA said officials travelling abroad without approval, would not get recommendation for visa from the Department of Consular Service under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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