Vijayawada: The state government has turned down a Right to Information (RTI) query regarding the expenditure incurred by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his son and state IT minister Nara Lokesh’s frequent state-sponsored foreign tours since they assumed their respective offices.
The information was denied at two levels under section 8 (1) (E) of the RTI Act 2005. This section stipula-tes that information soug-ht can only be given out if the relevant authority is satisfied that the disclosu-re is in the larger public interest.
The query was filed by RTI activist Naidu Nagarjuna Reddy, who sought information from the chief secretary’s office on six po-ints concerning the expenditure on foreign visits, details about who accompanied Mr Naidu and Mr Lokesh, money spent on food, water and other daily expenses, expenditure incurred on Mr Naidu’s official residence, that on official feasts hosted by Mr Naidu in the past four years, details of Telugu Desam’s 2014 election manifesto and its implementation, money spent on security to the Chief Minister and his family and also details of the debts raised by the state government.
In response, the assistant secretary to government (protocol) and public information officer (PIO) at the AP Secretariat’s General Administration Depart-ment wrote, “With reference to your application, I am to inform you that your request has been rejected as it falls under section 8 (1) (E) of RTI Act 2005.”
When Mr Reddy approa-ched the next appellate authority, all other points were ignored and the reply merely asked him to check www.goir.ap.gov.in for deta-ils of the foreign tours. “I don’t understand why my application was rejected. Since public money is invo-lved, the government is bound to provide details. I will approach the relevant court now,” Mr Reddy said.
The Opposition YSR Con-gress was quick to react. “The point is whether the Chief Minister and other ministers are entitled to such expenditure. I believe the Chief Minister takes a chartered flight whenever he goes abroad. If the government is not spending on these flights, who is? If private persons are sponsoring the flights and foreign trips, is that not a conflict of interest? In my capacity as Public Accounts Comm-ittee (PAC) chairman, I sought information about Mr Naidu’s foreign trips, and it’s been almost two months but I haven’t got it. The government is bound to let the public know how their money is being spent. It’s absurd that the RTI application was rejected initially, and then didn’t provide complete information,” PAC chairman and YSRC MLA Buggana Raje-ndranath Reddy told this correspondent....