The move comes at a time when Niti Aayog itself is hiring external consultants to bring in talent to strengthen its workforce.
Hiring consultants—individuals or firms—by government departments is not new, but the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) thinks all is not well with this practice. Nudged by the PMO, government think-tank Niti Aayog has written to all ministries and departments to submit a database of consultants working with them and state how these postings don’t result in ‘conflicts of interest’. “Niti Aayog has received a note from the principal secretary to the Prime Minister of India regarding conflict of interest of consultants working for Government of India. It has been suggested that given the rising number of consultants being employed by every ministry, there is a need to streamline data pertaining to such appointments,” reads the letter sent by Niti Aayog to all government departments.
The move comes at a time when Niti Aayog itself is hiring external consultants to bring in talent to strengthen its workforce. Apart from hiring individuals—some at zero pay — it has also taken on-board consultancy firms such as Boston Consulting Group, EY, IPE Global and McKinsey for various projects depending on their expertise. Niti Aayog, which replaced the erstwhile Planning Commission and has been assigned the responsibility for preparing long-term vision for the country, plans to create a pool of experts who can be on deputation or on contracts. The experts can be deployed as advisers, deputy advisers, joint advisers, senior advisers, senior research officers or economic officers.
Most government departments also hire consultants either specifically for a project or for general brainstorming. However, this autonomy of hiring consultants individually by government departments is set to go. “Further, it has been proposed Niti Aayog will be made the coordinating body for consultants in ministries, departments and institutions entirely funded by the Government of India and it be made mandatory for all such entities that hire consultants to Niti Aayog to report data,” adds the letter. This would essentially mean that all ministries will have to go through the think-tank for hiring consultants.
In addition, all consultants will require to submit a self-declaration form, as specified by Niti Aayog, which will, besides personal details and photograph, require consultants to state if in anyway being a consultant for the Government of India leads to any ‘conflict of interest’.