Hiring cabs was just meant to cut costs for the public exchequer. But it may have ended up spawning corruption too.
Over a decade after the government made the switch to taxis, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has woken up to the practice of officials abusing the system giving themselves, or their relatives, the contract.
The CVC has come across instances where vehicles owned by relatives of officials were being contracted by departments. This was done either by not following the tendering process or by reducing the process to a sham.
“There are also allegations that some officers are buying high-end expensive cars in the names of their relatives or persons known to them and are taking such vehicles on lease allegedly for official purposes,” the commission said, pointing out that it had conveyed its discovery to the government.
After the CVC told the finance ministry, the government has attempted to plug the loophole by mandating that departments could only hire vehicles registered as taxis. Also, the cabs have been told to maintain logs of the distance travelled and their purpose.
The move to reduce the number of government vehicles owes its origin to a study back in the mid-1990s on the cost of running the vehicles by the government. The decision to encourage departments to use cabs, rather than government vehicles, came soon after.
One estimate by the finance ministry back then had put this figure at close to Rs 26,000, including the driver’s salary. A government official said the cost of running a government vehicle every month could be close to Rs 1 lakh, depending on how many years the driver has spent in service.