Hyderabad: Information and public relations minister DK Aruna is in the news again for wrong reasons. She is off on an ‘official’ tour of USA, though there are restrictions on such visits imposed by the government to control unnecessary expenditure in view of difficult economic situation. It is just less than a month since the state government renewed the ban on foreign trips by ministers and bureaucrats.
The minister, who also holds the portfolio of cinematography, left for USA on Monday for attending the 12th American Telugu Association (ATA) conference and youth convention in Atlanta, from July 6 to 8.
Though, the programme is only for four days, the minister left on a 16-day trip, and according to officials, the entire expenditure will be borne by the state government. When asked, a senior bureaucrat commented that it is the government that made the rule and it can relax it for one of its own.
Though ATA invitations were extended to ministers P Sabita Indra Reddy, Galla Aruna Kumari, D Sridhar Babu, Anam Ramanarayana Reddy, N Uttam Kumar Reddy and Kasu Venakata Krishna Reddy, none of them had sought permission to go abroad and attend the programme.
Several eyebrows were raised over the ‘extravagance’ of the minister at the expense of the taxpayers. The order issued by general administration department (GAD) special secretary (protocol) N V Ramana Reddy said: “The minister’s visit is for official purpose and the expenditure shall be borne by the Government of Andhra Pradesh.” Union external affairs ministry had given clearance to the visit from a ‘political angle’, he said. Barring the ATA event, there is no other apparent ‘official purpose’ in Aruna’s US trip, sources in the GAD said.
Coupled with journey period, the visit could stretch to 20 days. An official said even the prime minister doesn’t go on a 20-day official foreign trip in one go.
As per the state finance department GO no. 152, issued on June 12 listing various austerity measures for 2012-13, foreign visits at the cost of state exchequer will not be allowed.
This is not the first time that the government’s orders on economy measures are violated. Though such orders are issued every year, ministers and bureaucrats go on foreign jaunts at the state’s expense regularly. “The order on economy measures is implemented more in breach,” a bureaucrat noted.