New Delhi: Even as the Centre is struggling to kickstart its ambitious National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) project amid the Coronavirus pandemic, where it plans to provide world class infrastructure by 2025, a key component of Prime Minister’s Office’s (PMO) think tank Niti Aayog – the Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office (DMEO) – which performs the critical function of evaluating 125 Central sector schemes, is currently struggling to manage its daily functioning as more than 100 of its positions at different levels are lying vacant.
According to highly placed sources, out of DMEO’s sanctioned strength of 157, more than 100 positions or 60 per cent of its total capacity, are lying vacant, which are acting as an impediment to its role of monitoring all central scheme, which also include the flagship infrastructure programmes of the NDA government like the Smart City project among others.
Some of the important positions which are lying vacant include that of a joint secretary, a director as well as an under secretary and assistant section officers, among scores of others. The DMEO has approached the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) for the filling up these posts, through the Central Staffing Scheme and the Central Secretariat Services. However the recruitment process is also getting hampered due to the prevailing Coronavirus pandemic.
Out of the sanctioned strength of 157 of DMEO, 53 are regular officials and 25 are contractual employees. It is trying to function on a daily basis by engaging consultant firms, due to which, sources further informed that the desired level of evaluation is not taking place, thus defeating the very purpose of setting up the body.
It has been more than five years since the DMEO was created by the NDA government after merging the Projects Evaluation Office (PEO) and the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), both of which were part of the Planning Commission, yet the vacancies remain.
Sources pointed out that before the NDA regime had discontinued with the Planning Commission on January 1, 2015 and replaced it with Niti Aayog, it had already scrapped the IEO in August 2014 (which had been set up by the deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia in October 2013 and had a conflicting role with that of PEO) and later in 2015, created the DMEO in place of PEO.