No New Scheme, Office Renovation: Odisha Govt's Austerity Measures in Wake of Covid-19

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The Odisha government has decided not to take up new schemes except those of the health department and banned renovation of offices as part of its austerity measures in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, officials said on Wednesday.

The government has also put a ban on creation of new posts in all departments except health, and purchase of new vehicles for two years, they said.

The authorities stopped journey of officials outside the country and asked them to rationalise travel expenses.

"No new state schemes or projects will be taken up except those of the health and family welfare department.

Expenditure on existing state schemes will be capped for the current financial year, though the programmes relating to livelihoods in the agriculture and its allied sector and spending on combating the COVID-19 outbreak will be excluded from the austerity measures," the officials said.

In a letter to all departments, Finance Secretary Ashok Meena said the state is going through an unprecedented crisis due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has posed challenges in every sphere of life.

The state government has been fighting the pandemic but the nationwide lockdown has interrupted the economic activities which resulted in a shortfall in the realisation of resources, the letter said.

On the other hand, the management for the COVID-19 crisis would require higher expenditure. There would also be higher spending needs for generating employments for the most affected sections of the society, it said.

"Therefore, all administrative departments are required to prioritise their expenditure needs to limit the expenses within the resources available," the letter read.

The government has decided that there will be a complete ban on the purchase of new vehicles for the next two years, the officials said, adding that the officers were asked to avoid air travel, and meetings through video conferences may be preferred.

The government officers were also instructed to avoid 1st class AC compartments in trains for official trips, while new hiring of vehicles would require approval of the finance department.

"No officer, while on tour, will be allowed for reimbursement for occupancy in any hotel in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai, except when the home department will not be able to provide accommodation in the government's establishments," they said.

Purchase of new equipment except items for medical and internal security purposes has been prohibited.

"There will be a complete ban on expenditure on the renovation, remodelling and furnishing in the government offices. Meetings, seminars, workshops and hosting of official lunch and dinner in hotels using government funds will also be banned," the officials said.

The sanction of new long-term advances for house building, car, computer and other purposes will not be given, they said.

The austerity measures will also be followed in recruitment and manpower engagement.

"New engagement of consultants and retired government employees will be restricted and prior concurrence of the finance department would be required for the purpose," they added.