He may have started off by doling out largesse, but chief minister Siddaramaiah does not seem to be someone who will turn a blind eye to unnecessary expenditure. Sources in his office claim that the CM wants to downsize his secretariat from close to 200 employees to around 100. The sources put the ideal strength at between 90 and 120 employees.
Sources said that Siddaramaiah has directed officials to screen staff and send unwanted ones back to their original departments, and relieve those who have been hired on contract basis.
K R Srinivasa, secretary to the CM, said, “At present, around 180 staff are working in the CMO at various levels. But we can function with around 100.”
Sources said that several officials are on deputation from various departments while up to 40 per cent of the staff were hired on contract basis for data entry, handling complaints received during Janata Darshan, management of CM’s relief funds, etc.
Sources claim that the CMO had close to 300 staff during the tenure of B S Yeddyurappa. His successor D V Sadananda Gowda downsized, but the number went up again after Jagadish Shettar took over.
The CMO is the most sought-after work place among government officials. While a few sought challenging assignments, many manoeuvred themselves into the secretariat just to enjoy the perks and clout that comes with being in proximity to the chief minister.
An official in the secretariat claimed, “As the CMO handles various departments and also oversees important portfolios of other ministers, there has always been intense lobbying for a posting here. But it is difficult to tell who is doing what here. A few seem to be merely shuttling between various offices.”
However, the burgeoning secretariat has become a burden on the exchequer.
“Officials posted here draw good salaries, enjoy several perks and allowances, requisition stationery and vehicles, apart from miscellaneous expenses. The expense runs into several crores,” explained yet another official who previously worked in the CM’s secretariat.