Friday, June 6, 2014

[prpoint] Debate: Government Institutions engaging PR Agnecies.


Hi all

Today, Times of India has carried an interesting story on engagement of PR Agencies by Government Institutions.  One RTI activist alleges that Mumbai's MMRDA had engaged a PR Agency to project their projects and paid  around 40 lakhs to PR Agency between January and March 2014. The activists question the necessity of engaging PR Agencies for such projection.  The story is appended below.  I invite the members to share their views.

1.  The PR Agency concerned has also not explained as to the benefit derived by MMRDA by engaging them.  Some times, some of the Government agencies may engage agencies without any purpose, just to please some people. I also personally feel that only when needed agencies have to be appointed.   In this case, since the PR Agency has received Rs.40 lakhs, naturally, it has generated doubt among activists. The concerned PR Agency and the MMRDA should transparently come out as to the benefits derived to the organisation.  Otherwise, the credibility of the PR Agencies and PR concept will be doubted.

2.  Secondly, I would like to recall the discussion we had a couple of years ago in prpoint group about the Nuclear Power Project at Kudankulam and the lack of PR exercise.  At that time, we discussed as to how the  lack of proper PR exercise by Atomic Energy Commission and the Nuclear Power Corporation the country had suffered huge loss.  At that time, Dr Abdul Kalam while suggesting various measures to the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh, also suggested proper PR strategies by constituting panel of senior PR professionals.  In spite of Dr Manmohan Singh forwarding the suggestion to AEC and NPC, no action was initiated by these Government agencies, resulting in continuous loss of time and money.  Their internal competence of PR was / is not sufficient to handle such huge crisis which affects the energy production at national level.   

I think there is no properly policy in the Government Institutions to engage PR Agencies.  Presently Press Information Bureau (of Central Govt) and PR Departments of state Governments function only as a 'press dispensing' machines.  There are quite a few dynamic professionals in these Government PR Departments too and they are experts in formulating strategies.  I do not want to name them.  They are also in our group.  But their services are not utilised by these Government Departments.  

Some Government institutions like AEC/NPCL need the support of PR Agencies/experts to formulate strategies in the national interest.  But they never utilise the strategies.  AEC and NPCL are highly insensitive to PR needs.  Some Govt. institutions do not need any such strategies.  But they engage PR Agencies at huge cost. This is where the controversy starts.

I invite members to share their views.

Times of India report

Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority splurging on PR firm: Activists

Jun 6, 2014, 12.03AM IST TNNManthan K Mehta ]

MUMBAI: The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has spent Rs 7 lakh per month on a public relations agency, an RTI reply has revealed.

RTI activist Anil Galgali said, "The agency was appointed a few months before the dates of general election were announced. It is a waste of tax payers' money as the MMRDA projects were receiving wide publicity even without the help of any PR agency."

MMRDA has defended the appointment on the grounds that it does not have adequate staff to handle the publicity on such a large scale. Its joint project director (public relations) said, "The agency has been appointed for execution of communication strategy for projects implemented and executed by the authority by various ways." The RTI reply states that MMRDA has Rs 39.59 lakh for the period from January 2014 to March 2014. The contract with the agency is only for six months.

Meanwhile, activists have slammed the state government for allowing its department or agencies to appoint PR firms. Aftab Siddique, an activist from Khar, said, "It is a huge amount which could have been used on other productive projects. Imagine the state of finances if all government arms begin to hire PR firms." Rajkumar Sharma from Chembur said, "MMRDA should have used its internal resources for such work."

K. Srinivasan
Prime Point


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