Order choking funds for research reversed | India News

MUMBAI: The Union ministry of finance has revised the procedure for flow of funds for research under various Central sectoral schemes. The ministry “examined” the issue that earlier mandated that STEM researchers must open a zero-balance account for every project and on Friday reversed its March 2022 order.
TOI had last Sunday (Sept 11) carried the report ‘New R&D allocation system chokes funds flow to researchers’. After the report was published, several academicians and researchers spoke on the matter on social media and wrote to the department of science and technology.
Researchers wrote to Centre against new fund norms
TOI report had highlighted that the Centre’s revised norms for funds were stalling research. After the TOI report was published, several academicians and researchers wrote to the department of science and technology and also the department of biotechnology regarding the procedural issues and the broader institute-level implications of the new rules.
Earlier, allocations approved for a financial year would be transferred in advance into an institute’s central account and spent as needed. Under the new system, every project needed a separate “zero-balance” account from which money was to be directed to a vendor when an invoice would be raised. Project heads and institute directors had told TOI that the system had delayed funding — several researchers had not received funds from April 2022—and the new process would have left no elbow room for institutes to tackle unbudgeted overheads like support staff or maintenance expenses using interest earned on parked deposits.
It is understood that throughout the week, senior officials from the finance ministry called researchers to understand the problems they had with the new system. While some said they had been trying for over a month to open a zero-balance account, many others questioned how they would be able to function. Additionally, banks that were to open thousands of these accounts were also following up with researchers. But on Thursday, after a high-level meeting between officials of the Central education ministry and the department of expenditure, it was decided to “not mandate” the opening of zero-balance accounts. A deputy director in the know of matters said, the change was initiated after the PMO intervened in the matter.

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