Saturday, March 5, 2011

158 - Uncertainty looms large over UIDAI project reaching its target by Kalyan Ray

Uncertainty looms large over UIDAI project reaching its target
Kalyan Ray, New Delhi,
August 8, DH News Service:

The Nandan Nilekani-led Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has developed a snag...

The agency, which will eventually provide a unique ID number for more than 100 crore Indians, does not have enough foot soldiers for the enormous task. Almost half of the government officers chosen for UIDAI have either so far refused to join the agency or simply have not shown up even once after the posting.

Out of the total requirement of 55 officers at the headquarters and regional offices, only 10 have joined despite as many as 28 having been selected.

Nilekani tried to lure the bunch of unwilling officers by proposing extra financial incentives. But the Finance Ministry has now rejected the incentive proposals raising questions on how quickly the former Infosys boss could deliver on his most challenging assignment.

The rejection means UIDAI will have to continue handling the project with “just 50 percent” of the required manpower even as it plans to start the process of issuing the unique 12-digit numbers shortly. The UIDAI has targeted six crore Indians to be provided with the numbers in the next four years.

The gap in the officer cadre strength has been visible from the last few months. Subsequently, Nilekani approached the Prime Minister’s Office with a handsome incentive proposal that ranges from giving the officers 30 per cent of pay in the pay band as allowance plus grade pay besides housing, telephone and medical insurance facilities.
The Department of Expenditure, sources told Deccan Herald, has now turned down each and every proposal as they are not in agreement with the government norms.

The department mentioned that no special allowance could be given to the officers. Instead, it suggested to the Authority to start a performance-based incentive scheme. Nilekani proposed residential telephone up to the level of section officers, but the department stated no special dispensation can be sanctioned.

The UIDAI proposal seeking permission for leased accommodations (with certain ceiling limits) for its employees was shot down on the ground of being against the provisions under Delegation of Financial Powers Rules.

Out of the eight sanctioned posts of Deputy Director Generals - IAS officers in the rank of Joint Secretary – to man an identical number of regional offices, the Authority has got just two. And just three of the six selected for the headquarters have joined so far. The bureaucrats are understood to have been scuttling the UIDAI assignment because a central deputation in the authority does not necessarily mean a posting in Delhi.
A large number of officers are not interested in working in other cities on central deputation. There is also another group, which is not even interested in coming to Delhi because of the facilities they enjoy at the states. Some of the important vacancies are in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh as well as in the headquarters.