It is highly important that the system of reporting financial assets and properties by officials in J&K is an in-built mechanism in the state’s public administration
Lately, fresh and effective steps have been taken in the country to bring about greater accountability in public administration. One of the instruments in that is the public declaration of public servants’ financial assets and immovable properties.
This instrument, if implemented in letter and spirit, could strengthen the overall system of accountability and help in containing corruption in public services in Jammu & Kashmir. The unfortunate reality of this state is that there continues to be strong disinclination across public administration in submitting the mandatory Annual Property Returns (APRs). The ones submitted are normally very selective and hardly corroborate with the actual possessions. No wonder most of the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) and India Administrative Service (IAS) officers from the state cadre have not put their property statements in public domain this year. Governor N. N. Vohra’s proactive approach on this issue sounds reassuring – the deadline of January 31 for IAS and KAS public servants to file the necessary details is apt. Although the General Administration Department (GAD) has done well by directing all departments to constitute a committee to examine the property statements submitted by government officials, it is not clear how this internal mechanism could help in establishing a credible reporting system. Similarly, the system of obtaining permission for any possible acquisitions by public servants, as stipulated under the J&K Employees (Conduct) Rules 1956, has hardly been robust enough. Ideally, a robust system of reporting, documentation and verification of property returns could be extremely useful in feeding indicators into officials’ Annual Performance Reports (APRs) – and eventually linking that to incentives of promotions and postings. It is surprising that out of 462 KAS officers, only 62 officers have submitted their annual property statements. Out of 142 IAS officers of J&K Cadre, only 27 have done so so far. The defaulters include very senior officials as well. It is highly important that the system of reporting financial assets and properties by officials in J&K is an in-built mechanism in the state’s public administration. That system needs to be strengthened and supported by all who want an accountable, transparent and corruption-free public administration in J&K state.