Modi govt-appointed panel questions AAP’s ad spend

DELHI: Already upbraided by the CAG for its nationwide advertising blitz, Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government could be in further trouble with a central government-appointed panel of the view that the expenses are unnecessary and readying to ask the administration for an explanation.

In a move that could lead to the Arvind Kejriwal-led government losing the right to advertise in other states, the BB Tandon committee has taken serious note of the expenses, running into several crores, and will be asking for an explanation, sources told dna.

“The committee feels that publishing so many advertisements about the Delhi government’s initiatives in other states is unnecessary. So we are writing to the Delhi government seeking explanations on the multiple advertisements published in other states, and also the recent advertisements which were used to communicate their grievances to the Centre,” said a source privy to the development.

The three-member committee, headed by former chief election commissioner BB Tandon, was set up by the information and broadcasting ministry in April this year to monitor violations of Supreme Court guidelines in advertisements by the Central government and union territories.

According to an apex court order, states would set up their own committees to monitor violations in state government advertisements. The AAP government had done so too after a letter from the I&B ministry since the capital holds special status. In a major setback, however, the Delhi High Court stated this month that the Tandon committee would probe the Delhi government’s alleged misuse of public funds for advertisements.

The Tandon committee doesn’t have the power to take any punitive action even if it finds violations. It will submit its report on Delhi government’s advertisements to the apex court, sources said.

Interestingly, it has received just one complaint in the four-and-a-half months its inception – the complaint against the Delhi government filed by Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken.

The committee currently monitors only print advertisements, but has sought help from the I&B ministry, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the National Broadcasters Association in identifying violations in advertisements on electronic media.

It has been a series of setbacks for the government.
The Tandon committee’s adverse report comes just two months after a draft report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had indicted the AAP government of incurring “unfruitful” expenses to the tune of Rs.18.46 crore on its advertisements, especially on those published outside Delhi and Hindi advertisements in English newspapers.

Signalling more confrontation in the days to come, the Delhi High Court said earlier this month that the lieutenant governor was the administrative head of Delhi and not the chief minister.