The government on Friday described as “defamatory and sinister” media reports that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has withheld funds earmarked for Prasar Bharati in retaliation for the latter ‘not obeying certain dictates of the ministry.
In a clarification issued on Friday, the ministry said, ‘it has come to the notice of the ministry that a deliberate, sinister, motivated campaign has been launched by some elements to wrongfully tarnish the image of the ministry of I and B by reporting that money to Prasar Bharati is not being released after December, 2017 as a retaliation for Prasar Bharati not obeying certain dictates of the ministry.
The misinformation is based on ill-will and incorrect appreciation with half-baked facts and is tantamount to causing loss of reputation of the government in public eyes.”
The clarification came in response to a media report that Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani had not released any money to Prasar Bharati since December 2017, forcing the public broadcaster to depend on its contingency funds to pay the salaries of Doordarshan and All India Radio employees.
In its statement, the ministry, while reiterating that the government was committed to protect interests of all Prasar Bharati employees, said Prasar Bharti is bound by the government’s General Financial Rules to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the ministry that sets times for activities to be done and utilising the money granted during that financial year.
‘Fiscal prudence and accountability is the very fulcrum of functioning of any government organization. Prasar Bharati is bound by the government’s General Financial Rules as any ministry or any organization receiving grants-in-aid from the government of India.
As per provisions of any GFR, any autonomous organization receiving grants-in-aid from the government of India must sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the ministry, clearly bringing out physical and financial targets and setting timelines for activities to be done by utilising the money granted during that financial year. For the record, irrespective of repeated reminders from the ministry, no MOU has been signed by Prasar Bharati,’ the statement by the ministry said.
Citing an example of how fiscal accountability leads to curbing of wasteful expenditure, the ministry said, ‘by bringing in Human Resource Information System (HRIS) in Prasar Bharati, at repeated insistence of the Ministry, exact amount of expenditure on employees has been worked out and this has resulted in savings to the tune of nearly Rs 30 cr per month for the salary head (Rs 360 cr a year). The Sam Pitroda Committee had also suggested a number of measures such as manpower audit etc to enhance financial discipline. Hence, we are hopeful that following similar footsteps, together a lot can be done to enhance transparency and accountability.”
The reports appearing in the media said there have been differences between the I and B Ministry and Prasar Bharati over payments to a private firm that covered the 2017 International Film Festival of India.
As per reports, Doordarshan refused to pay Rs 2.92 crore to Mumbai-based SOL Productions Pvt Ltd, which arranged for live coverage of the festival.