In its draft report on a three-year action plan, the Niti Aayog has set the laudable target of full digitisation of the government by the end of 2019. It has also argued to induct specialists into the system through lateral entry. Specialists could be brought on three to five year contracts as such a system will bring top talent and energy into the government system and lend new dynamism to ministries, the panel has suggested.
The Niti Aayog evidently wants the government to reduce dependence on the administrative machinery for the delivery of services. It also favours a longer tenure for secretary-rank officer in government departments. At present, by the time officers are promoted from additional secretary to secretary level, usually they have two years or less left before retirement.
Though these recommendations have been put for debate, sources say that not all the elements dealing with bureaucracy will be taken well by Indian Administrative Service officers, since suggestions like hiring specialists from outside, could result in severe depletion of their clout within the government. Still, a healthy debate on these would surely be welcome.
GST: Challenging time ahead
In the run-up to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) roll out, the Central Board of Excise and Customs, now renamed as Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) is set for a major revamp.
While the number of commissionerates would be cut by a fourth to 101 for the GST, as against 141 for Central excise and service tax, the number of directorates will go up under the GST regime. But there is a yawning gap at the top. At present, the board has only two members against the sanctioned strength of six. At present, senior Indian Revenue Service officer, Vanaja N. Sarna, is CBEC chairperson.
There are only two members in the board — Ananya Ray and S. Ramesh — leaving four vacancies when a member Ram Tirath retired last week. Given that the board and its officials are key stakeholders in implementation of the GST, which will be rolled out from July 1, there are concerns whether the depleted board will be able to handle the coming changes.