RTI activist Vivek Pandey shared information about two Right To Information (RTI) applications that he had submitted to get information about the money the Kejriwal government has spent on advertising in all formats. Interestingly, the figures shared by the Accounts Branch in reply to the first RTI that was filed in November 2020 and in reply to the second RTI do not match. Also, in the second RTI, the Delhi government did not share the complete information that was asked for.
What was asked in the RTI?
Vivek Pandey asked three questions to the Delhi government. In the first question, Pandey requested the government to provide information on the money spent by the Delhi government for advertisement in print media between January 2020 to June 2021. In the second question, he asked the government to provide information for the money spent on electronic media for the same period. In the third question, he asked to provide the information on the money spent on outdoor advertisement for the same period.
In its reply, the accounts department of the Delhi government did not provide the breakdown of the amount spent on advertisement based on the ad format. It said, “The Accounts Branch does not maintain the records through various medium (Television, newspapers, hoarding, radio, campaign and department-wise & others) separately.” The department only provided the accumulated data month-wise.
Delhi govt spent over 17 crores in June 2021 on advertisements
RTI reply has revealed that the Delhi government has spent Rs.24.84 crore so far in the financial year 2021-22 on advertisements. Notably, the accounts department did not share a breakdown of the expenditures in print, electronic and other formats claiming that they do not keep such records. However, they did share a monthly breakdown according to which the govt. had spent Rs. 3.42 crores in April 2021, 4.32 crores in May 2021 and 17.1 crores in June 2021.
The #Delhi govt. has spent 24.84 crores on #ads so far (April to June) 2021.— Vivek pandey (@Vivekpandey21) July 14, 2021
However, what interests me the most is the figures they mentioned. For January 2020 in previous #RTI reply they had spent Rs.15.32 cr and this time they claim to spent 72.60 cr. So which figure is true ? pic.twitter.com/N5mlENW8bM
It has to be noted that Aam Aadmi Party has started campaigning for Assembly elections in different states across the country, including Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Punjab. Recently, it was reported that the Delhi government has been spending public money to boost its image in other states. Reportedly, on July 9, the Delhi government ran a full-page advertisement not just in several national dailies but also in regional newspapers in Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, etc., informing about the launch of a new scheme, “Mukhyamantri Covid-19 Pariwar Aarthik Sahayata Yojana”. The sudden increase in ad expenditure may be related to these ads in other states.
The difference in the amount in two RTIs
Pandey has submitted two applications to get information on the ad expenditure by the Delhi government in recent times. The first application was submitted in November 2020, and the second was submitted in June 2021. Notably, when the Delhi government replied to the first application, it said that they spent Rs.15.32 crores on advertisements in January 2020. However, in reply to the second application in June 2021, the amount was changed to Rs.72.60 crores. While talking to OpIndia, Pandey said that such differences in figures create doubts over the government’s intentions. “How can I be sure if the rest of the replies that I got from the government are correct? One can only hope this was a human error.”
It is unclear if the government gave wrong figures in the first reply or the second. It also raises the question if the Delhi government has provided the correct information about the other months. It will be interesting to see if someone else has requested for the same information and the data provided by the Delhi government match or not.
Notably, there is a provision of penalty clause under section 20(1) of RTI Act 2005 which provides imposition of penalty of Rs.250 for each day till the information is furnished subject to a maximum of Rs.25000 if the information given is incorrect, incomplete or misleading.
The missing information from the RTIs
The Delhi government, in reply to the second RTI, did not provide month-wise breakdown information on the money spent by them from April 2020 to March 2021. However, as Pandey had submitted two applications, there was partial information available from the first RTI. After some calculations, it is visible that the government had spent 99.69 crores between April 2020 to October 2020. Another RTI that had the information about the first three months of 2021 revealed that the Delhi government had spent 150.33 crores on advertisements in the first three months of 2021. That makes a total of 250.02 crores. As of now, there is no information available on how much money the Delhi government spent on ads in November 2020 and December 2020.
Since the Aam Aadmi Party government has taken over Delhi, they have spent an enormous amount on advertisements. They used the public money on ads not only in Delhi but in other states as well.