Stung by the severe economic downturn due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Odisha Government on Tuesday unveiled a slew of austerity measures slashing expenditure on many fronts and banning the purchase of new vehicles for two years and creation of new posts except for the Health Department.
No new state schemes or projects will be taken up except by the Health & Family Welfare Department. There will be capping of expenditure on continuing state schemes for the current financial year except schemes relating to livelihoods in Agriculture and allied sector and expenditure for combating COVID-19.
In a letter to all departments, Finance Secretary Ashok Meena said the state is going through a crisis of unprecedented nature due to the global pandemic COVID-19 which has posed challenges in every sphere of life.
While the State Government has been fighting the pandemic with all its might to minimize the casualty and ensure the minimum spread of the virus, the nation-wide lockdown/ shutdown has interrupted the economic activities which resulted in a shortfall in the realization of resources.
On the other hand, COVID management would require higher expenditure. There would also be higher spending needs for generating employment and livelihoods for the most affected sections of the society.
Therefore, all administrative departments are required to prioritize their expenditure needs in order to limit the expenditure within the resources available with priority to make fiscal space for COVID-19 related expenditure, it said.
Prescribing rationalization of expenditure on travel and vehicle, the government has decided there will be a complete ban on the purchase of new vehicles for the next two years, while travel and official tours have to be avoided in general. Video conferencing, use of IT for meetings and official work should become preferred default mode.
There will be a complete ban on travel outside the country and air travel in business class using government funds. Air journey should be avoided and meetings through Video Conferencing may be preferred. In exigencies, approval of authority one level higher than the present delegation would be required for the journey by air.
There will be a complete ban on journey by train in 1st class AC by Government Officers, while new hiring of vehicles would require the concurrence of Finance Department and no officer while on tour will be allowed reimbursement for occupancy in any hotel in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai except when the Home Department has regretted availability of accommodation in the respective Government Bhawans or Niwas.
Establishment expenditure has also been rationalized and there shall be a complete ban on the purchase of new equipment except medical equipment and equipment required for internal security. However, equipment required for promoting digital communication can be procured with the concurrence of the Finance Department.
There will be a complete ban on expenditure on renovation, remodeling, furnishing, etc and purchase of furniture and fixtures in Government offices. Meetings, seminars, workshops, and hosting of official lunch and dinner in hotels through Government funds will also be banned. Video Conferencing should be the preferred mode for meetings and conferences.
Sanction and drawl of new long-term advances for house building, motor cars, computers, and other advances will be banned. However, if a part of the House Building Advance (HBA) out of the total sanctioned amount is drawn, the balance will be allowed to be drawn, it said adding there shall be a complete ban on LTC for two years till March 31, 2022.
Strict economy should be observed in the use of paper and other stationery articles. Use of electronic mode of communication along-with digital/e-signatures should be the preferred mode instead of physical communication using paper.
Expenditure out of the provision ‘Other Contingencies’ will be kept at the minimum level. Only expenditure relating to COVID management and other essential expenditure like the purchase of office stationeries may be incurred. There shall be no expenditure on the purchase of office furniture/ fixtures and furnishing. Expenditure out of the provision ‘Other Contingencies’ will be capped at 60 percent of the Budget Provision for the whole year.
Austerity measures will also be followed in recruitment and manpower engagement and there shall be a complete ban on the creation of new posts except for the Health & Family Welfare Department. In case there is an absolute necessity for the creation of posts for modernization of administration or effective implementation of development and welfare programs, it will be considered only against the abolition of equivalent posts with the concurrence of the Finance Department.
There shall be automatic abolition of redundant posts which have remained vacant for more than 5 years. New engagement of consultants, outsourcing, and engagement of retired Government employees shall be restricted and prior concurrence of the Finance Department would be required for the purpose.
Regarding the implementation of various schemes, it has been decided that no new state schemes/ projects to be taken up by administrative departments except the Health & Family Welfare Department. However, if any new scheme is essentially required for emergent public service, it can be taken up only after appraisal following the due procedure and with specific concurrence of the Finance Department for any expenditure under such scheme.
There shall be capping of expenditure on continuing State Schemes for the financial year 2020-21 except schemes relating to livelihoods in Agriculture and allied sector and expenditure for combating COVID-19.
Operation and Maintenance expenditure can be incurred only after the approval of the Annual Maintenance Plan (AMP) by the Finance Department. Engineering Departments to prepare their AMP for the year 2020-21 limiting it to a level of 60 percent of the budget provision, in consultation with the Finance Department initially and on availability of resources balance work could start after November-2020. Administrative expenditures, if permitted as part of state scheme guidelines, should be minimized and restricted below 1 percent of the funds in that scheme.
No expenditure for renovating and re-furnishing of offices, guest houses, and Government buildings will be permitted, while expenditure for repair and renovation of the Government quarter should be minimized.
No expenditure should be incurred for the construction of new statues and beautification of parks and public places during this year should be avoided. Expenditures in respect of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) shall be incurred only after receipt of Central Share.