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INSIGHTS CURRENT EVENTS: 22 OCTOBER 2014

Spending reforms

Union Finance Minister has rolled out reforms aimed at the efficient management of government expenditure through speedy project approvals, decentralisation of more financial powers to Ministries and reduced transaction costs.

Now, the Ministries have got a four-fold increase in the powers for approving expenditure without seeking the Finance Ministry’s nod. The Secretary of an administrative Ministry can now approve schemes and projects that cost up to Rs. 100 crore, up from the present Rs. 25 crore. The Union Cabinet’s approval will be needed only for those that cost more than Rs. 1,000 crore, not Rs. 300 crore.

The proposals attempt to address the issue of quality of government spending through the stipulation that all schemes and programmes be monitored and evaluated in terms of “measurably defined” outcomes.

The administrative Ministries are beginning to take advantage of the new rules that have been in place for about a month now.

The Finance Ministry estimates that the resultant savings on time and cost overruns could lift the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth by 0.5-1 percentage point.


Sources: The Hindu.

India wins another term at UNHRC

India received the most number of votes in the Asia-Pacific group of the U.N. Human Rights Council, winning a second consecutive two-year term at the world body.

162 of 190 countries voted for India. Three other countries including Indonesia, Bangladesh and Qatar were elected. This was a reflection of India’s standing in the world.

About UNHRC:

The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office at Geneva.

The Council is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly. The Human Rights Council replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights and is a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly. The council works closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and engages the United Nations’ special procedures.

The General Assembly established the UNHRC by adopting a resolution on 15 March 2006, in order to replace the previous CHR, which had been heavily criticised for allowing countries with poor human rights records to be members. One year later, the Council adopted its “Institution-building package” to guide its work and set up its procedures and mechanisms.

The Human Rights Council also works with the UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights and now assumed by the Council. These are made up of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts and working groups that monitor, examine, advise and publicly report on thematic issues or human rights situations in specific countries.

The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms.

The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership. The suspension process requires a two-thirds majority vote by the General Assembly.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, http://www.ohchr.org/.

 

Revised protocols for health workers caring for Ebola patients

Tightening previous infection control guidelines, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) revised the protocols for health workers caring for Ebola patients.

Under the new guidelines, health workers are required to wear waterproof fabric and boots and leave no part of the skin uncovered. Every step of putting on and taking off equipment must be done under the supervision of a senior medical professional to reduce the margin for error.

Hospital workers treating Ebola patients should wear double sets of gloves, disposable hoods with full face shields and special masks.

These procedures are based on the stringent protocols used by Doctors Without Borders for years while caring for Ebola patients.

Meanwhile, India has put in place the same surveillance and tracking systems that Nigeria used to check the entry of infected patients into the country.

In India, all international airports and sea ports will soon be equipped with thermal scanners and other Ebola detection equipment. These scanners, which resemble the radar guns used by police officers to catch speeding motorists, can detect high body temperature among people queued up before immigration counters. Fever is one of the commonest symptoms of EVD (Ebola virus disease).

Sources: PIB, The Hindu.

 

Project Report on “DRISHTI” Submitted

The Government constituted High Powered Committee on “DRISHTI” -(Driving Information System for Holistic Tax Initiatives) has submitted its Report to the Finance Minister. The Report, after examining the existing business processes and the current status of IT Systems in CBEC (Central Board of Excise & Customs), has highlighted the areas for improvement. The recommendations of the Committee aim at leveraging IT for improving the quality and extent of taxpayer services, encouraging voluntary tax compliance and detecting tax evasion.

The Strategic Recommendations of the Committee include the following:

  • Creation of National Taxpayer Services Directorate, National Assessment Centre for Customs & National Processing Centre for Central Excise & Service Tax Returns, National Targeting Centre & Directorate of International Customs
  • Setting up of specialised function-based units for Data Analytics & Business Intelligence, Tax Dispute Resolution and Litigation, BPR, etc
  • Leveraging Service Oriented Architecture for IT Applications
  • Merging different Customs IT Applications into a Single System
  • Enabling Mobility solutions in Business Workflows
  • Introduction of Entity-based Risk Management System
  • Introduction of IT Centric HR Policy

 

The Committee also examined the suitable options for an appropriate IT Governance Model for CBEC. The recommendations have been classified as Short (upto 2 years), Medium (2 to 4 years) and Long Term (4 to 6 years). The Committee has also suggested steps for overseeing the implementation of the above Recommendations.

Sources: PIB.