November 2008

eTreasury of Jharkhand

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http://www.jharkhand.gov.in/nmc

The operations of all thirty one Treasuries/Sub-Treasuries in Jharkhand are fully computerised and are networked with the State Data Centres (SDC) with high speed leased lines.

The extent of networking and computerisation of treasuries in Jharkhand makes them one of the most modern and integrated treasury system in the country. When one makes this assertion, people generally dismiss this as a mere publicity gimmick. Unfortunately we, in this part of the country, have started believing in the stereotype that anything in technology happens first in states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka or Gujarat before it can be replicated in states like Bihar, Jharkhand or Uttar Pradesh. The fact of the matter is that the above assertion is true.

The operations of all thirty one Treasuries/Sub-Treasuries in Jharkhand are fully computerised and are networked with the State Data Centres (SDC) with high speed leased lines. All the banks which conduct the business of the Treasuries are also linked with the State Data Centres and the concerned Treasuries with high speed leased lines. The details of every bill, which is passed in any of the treasuries are made available to the State Headquarters and the banks on a real time basis. In other words, the entire system is web-based and the data is kept on a centralised basis in the State Data Centres in Ranchi.

Bill Clearance System

There have been major changes in the procedures and processes of the bill clearance during the past 2-3 years. Earlier, list of bills passed by the Treasury used to go in paper form to the bank as a debit-scroll. The bills were bundled together in a bunch of about 50 bills. When the bills passed by the treasury used to reach the bank for payment, bank would match the bill with the debit-scroll before making payments. This procedure was there so as to ensure that fake bills did not get en-cashed. Now no debit-scroll goes to the bank. As soon as a bill is passed by the Treasury, the information becomes instantly available on the computer screen of the bank branch. When the bill reaches the bank, the bank makes the payment and, instantly again, the payment information becomes available to the Treasury Officer on his computer screen. It used to take months together to prepare the Statement of Accounts of each Treasury. Accountant General, as also the Finance Department used to remain busy monitoring the Statement of Accounts. Now each Treasury is able to prepare its Statement of Accounts  for a month by the fifth of next month.

The size of the pay bills used to be that of  an A-2 paper (a paper four times the size  of a normal page). The officers had to put their signatures at seven places (the writing on the pay-bill paper bore no relationship to the contents of the bill!). Each salary bill also had a number of Schedules for the payments/deductions made from the salary. There used to be separate Schedules relating to Provident Fund, Income Tax, Group Insurance Scheme and recoveries of House Building Advance. On an average, each pay bill used to have five such ‘Schedules’. The Schedules used to go to various offices after clearance of the bill by the Treasury. For example, the schedule relating to GPF used to travel to the Group Provident Fund (GPF) office and it was quite natural that many of the schedules used to be lost/misplaced in the transit resulting in serious information gaps relating to contributions/deductions made on account of  GPF contributions  for which the concerned officers used to suffer harassments. Now the Pay Bill of an officer is an A-4 size single sheet.  There is just one signature and there are no Schedules. The best part of it is that the information provided there is legible and correct. Now all the deductions and contributions become a part of the database and there is no need to keep accounts for various deductions at various places.

Earlier, bills presented at the treasury used to be checked manually for a number of things like availability of allocations (remember the Animal Husbandry  scam where money was withdrawn without allocations?), correct heads and Drawing & Disbursing Officers (DDOs) Codes etc.  Now the bills are generated on the computer and the information is already available to the Treasury officer about the bills, which are going to be presented in the near future.

Each Salary bill generated by the system has a control number and when it is presented at the Treasury, the Treasury officer just retrieves the bill from the computer through the control numbers. This has made the life of the people of the Treasury office very easy as they do not have to repeatedly enter the data every month for every bill.

Earlier the bill clerks in each department used to take weeks together to prepare bills. Now, they  are able to prepare bills through the computer in no time as the details of previous months’ salary bills etc. are already available and with minor modifications, they are again re-printed. This has ensured accuracy of the salary bills, optinum utilization of manpower and better account-keeping.

Provision of Better Services

The system has resulted in overall improvement in providing better services to the stake-holders. For getting GPF accounts, the employees had to run from Treasury to Treasury and used to collect Treasury Voucher (TV) numbers and what is described as ‘Collatera Evidences’ of their deposits. Now they can see their accounts online. In fact, the Government has now started the service of regularly informing the employees about their contribution through Short Messaging Services (SMS) at the end of  each month. This SMS includes the amount of contribution, Treasury Voucher (TV)  number and date of deduction. It has simplified and eased the work of bill clerks who can now prepare bills in no time. It has also made life easier for officials in the Treasuries because they do not have to prepare scrolls, check bills for various errors and make entries in various ledgers for preparing the accounts at the end of each month. The DDOs can now prepare their statutory reports online. The banks do not have to worry about the receipt of scrolls, illegible/incorrect heads of account and amounts. Now it is flashed on their computer screens with no ambiguity.

Fiscal Management

Lastly, the system has also enabled better fiscal management and planning at macro-level. As each employee’s data relating to salary, scale of pay are available on the system, it is possible to calculate the requirement of salary and other allowances for all employees of any department or organisation with high degree of precision. Earlier there were examples of surrendering hundreds of crores, especially in departments with large employees like Education and Health on account of salary, as the salary requirements were not correctly estimated. Now with the precise data available, it is possible to compute the salary requirements with high degree of accuracy.

It is possible to set and enforce policies relating to withdrawal from the Treasury. As an example, if the state’s fiscal position deteriorates and government has to put certain restrictions on withdrawals of certain categories of expenditures (e.g. arrear bills or other bills relating to contractors etc.) it can be easily done centrally. The computer will just not allow the clearance of the bills for which restrictions have been imposed by the Finance Department. Similarly, if there are temporal restrictions (for example the department should not spend more than 50 percent of the allocations within the first six months of the financial year) this can also be implemented.

The Finance Department has now access to withdrawal / expenditure figures period-wise, treasury-wise, department-wise and head-wise. There is now no need to call for the information from each department regarding the progress of expenditure as this information is available centrally.

As information relating to all the employees and their departments are available, it is possible to do better resource planning. It is also possible to estimate the pensionery liabilities or the payments of the GPF etc. In other words, financial/expend planning of the state has become highly scientific and precise.

We do not intend to stop here. We are already in the process of developing an Integrated Financial Management System, which will integrate planning, budgeting, sanctions, allocations and withdrawals so that the entire financial system of the state works in an integrated and connected manner.

All the above has been possible because of two important facts. The first is the availability of the State Data Centres (SDCs) and the second is the availability of the State Wide Area Network (SWAN). The state has been able to leverage the power of connectivity of JharNet and State Data Centres to achieve an Integrated Treasury System christened as ‘Kuber’.

The system is also a fine example of perfect coordination between the Information Technology and Finance Department of the state. Both the departments have worked together to ensure that we achieve the target of developing an integrated system of the treasuries.  In fact the Finance Department has been very proactive in the process reforms. It would have been nearly impossible to change forms, processes and even system of bill preparation in the normal course but for the personal interest of the Finance Secretary.
The Accountant General has also been very helpful in going ahead with changes. Finally, National Informatics Centre (NIC) has also done a commendable work in developing the entire software from the scratch. Any consultant would have charged huge amounts for this work. There are no consultants in this project.

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