For the first time ever, the UPA Government has decided to enlist services of private, independent consultants to scrutinise and assess the progress of major flagship schemes like Bharat Nirman, rural healthcare and sarva siksha abhiyan (universalisation of education).
Finance Ministry's decision to enlist the services of private consultants and evaluators assumes significance as at the official level, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation is expected to provide the inputs on the progress of various major projects and government's flagship schemes.
Inputs received from the private consultants and evaluators would form the basis for Finance Minister P.Chidambaram's 'outcome budget' to be presented to Parliament before March 20, i.e. before both the houses break for recess to scrutinize his budget proposals.
The directive to allow enlisting of private consultants came as part of the guidelines dished out by Expenditure Secretary Dr Sanjiv Mishra to various departments earlier this month to prepare the outcome budget.
Expenditure Secretary has asked Financial Advisors attached to various ministries and departments to take full responsibility of preparing a comprehensive 'outcome budget' that analyses the performance of major projects and schemes during first nine months of current fiscal and also set the targets for 2007-08 based on funds allocated - both plan and non-plan side.
"Outlays, Outputs and Outcomes" of various schemes would be analysed by private consultants before the outcome budget of the concerned department is finalized, Dr Sanjiv Mishra has directed.
Finance Ministry has also directed various departments and ministries to get their "outcome budget" document vetted by both North Block and Planning Commission before it is finalized.
This time round, already, the Government has decided to merge both the performance budget and outcome budget into one document that will be subject to scrutiny by Parliamentary Standing Committees attached to various ministries.
For the first time, the 'outcome budget' will also assess the impact of "tax expenditures". Tax expenditures essentially mean tax concessions, exemptions and preferential treatment in procurement of goods and services. The analysis, according to sources, would mostly be on the impact of revenue worth Rs 100,000 crore foregone due to concessions to trade and industry in terms of drawbacks and duties concessions.
It is learnt that the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) may be dealt with in the outcome budget from revenue impact angle. The outcome budget will also scrutinize the impact of "extra budget measures" announced by the Government during the course of the year.