To ensure that government decisions do not remain confined to paper, the cabinet secretariat has directed all ministries and government departments to include specific time lines with all their fresh policy proposals.
The cabinet secretariat, a nodal agency that coordinates functioning of all ministries, has asked ministries to ensure that proposals for new policies, or changes in existing ones, are accompanied by “an action plan” as well.
Confirming the order, cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi told Mint: “The order is a step to improve and give more concrete shape to government proposals. We are prescribing it to give more strength to proposals of ministries.”
The new directive implies a shift in policymaking at large, so that ministries and departments can be held accountable not only for the decisions they take, but also for how well they are implemented.
Proposals sent to the cabinet as well as to cabinet committees will need to include a time line and “appropriate” action plan with milestones for specified activities, according to the order dated 6 February 2007.
“It has been felt that sectoral policies, if accompanied by an action plan, will bring greater clarity as regards policy aims and objectives. This will also help in effective monitoring of implementation,” the order says.
The directive could significantly revamp the way government conducts its business, since it binds ministries and departments with a specific time-frame that they themselves must commit to, right at the time of proposing a policy.
While the government is inclined towards monitoring outcomes of its decisions regularly, some outside the government say they see the new order as a useful accountability tool to make governance more people-friendly.
“The order may prove useful to ensure greater accountability in governance. India needs to measure government not just by decisions announced, but also by the outcome of those decisions. It will be useful if the government also starts listing the outcome it expects from policy proposals,” said Ramesh Ramanathan, who runs Janaagraha, an non-governmental organization promoting citizen-centric governance.
In a similar order issued last April, the cabinet secretariat had driven home the importance of a minister in the process of government decision-making. Taking strong objection to departments that were bypassing ministers in charge of projects, the cabinet secretariat had made it clear that even if a proposal has been sifted through by a committee of secretaries, it must go to the minister in charge before reaching the cabinet.