MB Subba 

To control travel-related expenditure, which forms a large chunk of the government’s recurrent budget, the finance ministry will launch an ‘electronic Daily Allowance and Travel Claim System (e-DATS) next month.

The new system, the ministry believes, will not only facilitate timely processing of travel claims (TA/DA) and payments but also eliminate the practice of table tours and bogus payments. The system will be incorporated in all budgetary agencies, including dzongkhags and gewogs, by June.

Ngultse Lyonpo (Finance Minister) Namgay Tshering said that e-DATS will not only enhance transparency in the TA/DA expenditures of government agencies at all levels but also eliminate the practice of fictitious claims and payments.

The initiative is expected to inculcate the habit of proper travel plans in agencies and public servants.

Lyonpo said having annual travel plans at the beginning of the year as per the annual work plan would enable the government to make more accurate budget estimates and minimise unexpected expenditures.

He said, “Most travels currently are undertaken on an ad-hoc basis. All travels, except unforeseen travels, should be in line with the annual work plan,” he said.

The e-DATS is also aimed at doing away with chances of manipulation in the mileage and the number of travel days by civil servants.

“With this system in place, expenditure reduction will naturally happen. Considering, that a huge chunk of the recurrent budget goes to travel related expenses, it is time to streamline the system and promote digital processing of the claims and payment,” Lyonpo Namgay Tshering said.

For the fiscal year 2020-21, the government has earmarked Nu 32.9 billion (B), which is 44 percent of the total allocation, as recurrent expenditure.

The initiative is being undertaken at a time when handling and passing of papers from one person to another have been a concern during the pandemic given the chances of transmission. Public servants file two papers, one is the travel authorisation form and the other being travel claim form, besides other papers.

Such initiatives, Ngultse Lyonpo said, would also minimise the use of papers gradually. He said that the e-DATS would strengthen the public finance management system. The online web-based system was designed by experts within the ministry.

Some civil servants said they welcomed the new system.

“It would help stop fraudulent practices,” said a civil servant. But he added that the system should be transparent and that travel opportunities should be available for all employees in a fair manner.

According to the ministry, the government is also developing an integrated financial management information system (IFMIS) dashboard and 95 percent of the work has been completed. The system, it says, will consolidate the management of domestic revenue, keep track of government expenditure and ensure sustainable debt management.

The system will also give updated information in the form of system generated dashboard for the designated users. The initiative is aimed at creating a digital market place for the government agencies to promote transparency and efficiency in the public finance management.