A comprehensive study on ”system improvement” in the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has recommended a makeover for quick decision-making and delivery of services in a transparent, monitorable, and accountable manner. The report with around 130 recommendations was presented on Tuesday to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu who had instituted the study in January.
The study also covered the functioning of the committee sections and recommended increasing their tenure from the present year to two years. Given the importance of field visits by the department-related parliamentary standing committees, their field visits have been recommended to be increased from the present two visits for a maximum of 10 days in a year to three visits and 15 days.
Based on the importance of the memoranda furnished by various stakeholders to the panels during the examination of various issues, they have been recommended to be made part II of the reports to make them available in the public domain.
Keeping in mind the efforts that go into the preparation of reports by the committees and their import and implications, a committee hour has been recommended for consideration to discuss select major reports in Parliament for wider amplification of the content of the reports. The recommendations include a clear delegation of administrative and financial powers so that about 75 percent of the issues are disposed of at the lower and middle level in the 10-layer hierarchy that exists in the Secretariat at present by eliminating 4 to 5 layers as appropriate.
The report also recommended a clear definition of the mandate of all the 64 sections and their reorganization into 14 divisions to avoid duplication of work and overlap of mandate besides ensuring coherency in functioning.
The study conducted by former secretary-general P P K Ramacharyulu, Advisor, suggested pathways for quantification of output in respect of every aspect of the functioning of the Rajya Sabha, its committees, and the secretariat and corresponding additional mandate for each of the services for presenting a transparent account of their working in the public domain.
The report has identified the gaps and constraints in the coordinated functioning of various sections and services and suggested means of overcoming them.
Given the nature of the functioning of the Rajya Sabha and work and decision-making in the secretariat which are guided by clear rules, precedents, and conventions, the study concluded that most of the decisions could be taken at the lower and middle levels and accordingly, recommended administrative delegation pointing out that such delegation has not been defined and done so far. Pointing out that issues are unnecessarily taken to higher levels, the study has called for a delegation of powers based on the nature and complexity of issues involved and streamlining the reporting system accordingly. It has also recommended an increase in financial powers of divisional heads – joint secretaries, from the present ceiling of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh with a corresponding increase at the lower levels.
It has also recommended capacity building and a skill upgrade and preparing officials for higher positions through wider exposure and spending of 2.50 percent of the salary budget on training, besides a clear transfer policy.
The study called for the coordinated working of different divisions and sections instead of in silos and made suitable suggestions.
The Rajya Sabha Secretariat which came into being with about 200 officers and staff in 1952 has expanded to 1,700 personnel now with 10 different services to the needs of the times.
The reviews of the working of the secretariat undertaken so far by parliamentary pay committees and a couple of internal committees were limited to staff requirements and their salaries.
Chairman Naidu has appreciated the efforts that went into the preparation of this report touching upon all the systemic issues and called for an examination of the same for drawing up an action plan for implementation of various recommendations in specific time frames. This report was based on extensive consultations with all the senior and middle-level officials of the secretariat besides written responses to various issues framed for the study.