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RTI activist asks CM, ministers to declare their assets

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OST Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 16 :

Noted RTI activist and Transparency International India board member, Dr Biswajit Mohanty has accused the Odisha chief minister and members of the council of ministers of gross violation of the Code of Conduct for Ministers by not declaring their assets and liabilities by August 31 every year as is required under the Code.

In a letter addressed to the chief minister (see below), Mohanty has urged him to ensure immediate compliance and live up to his projected image of being a ‘transparent politician’.

Incidentally,last year too, the chief minister and his ministerial colleagues had failed to declare their assets and liabilities before August 31 but were forced to do so in October 2012 only after Mohanty raised the issue.

The following is the text of Mohanty’s letter addressed to the chief minister :

Dated : 12th September,2013
By Email

The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha,

State Secretariat,Bhubaneswar -751001

Honourable Sir ,

Re : Violation of under the Code of Conduct for Ministers- non Declaration of assets and liabilities statement by Ministers

I invite your kind attention to the Code of Conduct for Ministers whereunder Ministers are required to declare their assets and liabilities by 31st August every year.

As per Paragraph 1(a) of the Codes..

“disclose to the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister, as the case may be, details of the assets and liabilities and of business interests of himself and of members of his family. The details to be disclosed shall consist of particulars of all immovable property and the total approximate value of (i) shares and debentures, (ii) cash holdings and (iii) jewellery. Such a statement of assets and liabilities could be in respect of the financial year for which the income tax return has already been filed by the Minister”.

Paragraph 2(a) states ……”after taking office, and so long as he remains in office, the Minister shall furnish annually by 31st August to the Prime Minister, or the Chief Minister, as the case may be, a declaration regarding his assets and liabilities for the previous financial year”.

I carried out a check of the Odisha government website today and regret to inform you that neither have you nor any of your Ministerial colleagues have disclosed the statement of assets and liabilities for the previous financial year of 2012-13 till date.

It is needless to say that the deadline expired on 31st August,2013, i.e., 12 days ago. It is also regrettable that a similar lapse had occurred last year and only after I reminded you vide my letter dated 24th September, 2012, the Asset and Liabilities statements of Ministers were put up in October,2012.

You will agree that every citizen has the right to know the details of assets and liabilities of each Minister of our state. Unless and until such details are disclosed, it will be difficult to accept that there is transparency regarding assets acquired/held by high ranking public servants like Ministers.

At the same time, I wish to point out that the Honourable Prime Minister has already made a disclosure of his assets and liabilities (as on 31.3.2013).

I urge you to emulate him and practice similar high standards of transparency since you have always claimed publicly that you practice transparency in public life.

At the same time, I have noted that many statements of Assets and Liabilities furnished by Ministers did not make complete disclosures as the market values of assets were not disclosed last year. The valuation of market values by professional valuers would lend credibility to such disclosures .

Biswajit Mohanty, FCA

Board Member, Transparency International India

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