Penny-wise government sets up secret cell | NSA | Shiv Shankar Menon | The New Indian Express Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has sanctioned the creation of yet another powerful office under National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon Called the Strategic Programme Staff (SPS), it will be serviced by 33 officers at an annual cost of Rs 4.24 crore. While Menon holds the rank of Minister of State, the SPS will have one secretary, nine directors and 23 support staff, including one principal private secretary, nine private secretaries, four drivers and six multi-tasking employees. This is in addition to the people already working for the NSA and National Security Council Secretariat. The SPS has also been allocated a massive office in New Delhi.This is the first time that the PMO has not followed the normal procedure of seeking advance budgetary approval before setting up a new body. In fact, the SPS creation process was such a closely-guarded secret that not even top bureaucrats were involved. A top-secret note, dated April 8, 2011, signed by a joint secretary in the National Security Council Secretariat, says: â€œThis secretariat was not aware of the proposal of setting up the SPS at the time of formulating the Budget Estimates for 2011-2012 and, therefore, no provision has been included towards this in BE 2011-2012 and neither it is possible to meet the expenditure on the new raising from the NSS budget allocation.â€ The note reveals that the exercise started even before Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented his budget on February 28, 2011. Both Mukherjee and the Secretary (Expenditure) had given their official nod on January 10 itself. Surprisingly, the PMO conveyed its approval to the NCS only on March 5. As per the rules, any proposal for the creation of a new department has to be submitted to the Cabinet with full justification. In the case of the SPS, no such justification has been seen by anyone except a note seeking the release of funds The PMO seems to be in such a tearing hurry that it has sought money from the Contingency Fund of India for making the SPS functional immediately. Bureaucratic sources say that the SPS will be used by Menon to be independent of agencies like Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and Military Intelligence. None of the other 50 ministries and 150-odd departments has such massive paraphernalia to service a single authority. None of the previous NSAs like Brajesh Mishra, J N Dixit and M K Narayanan had demanded such huge infrastructure either. The government is already spending over Rs 200 crore on the IB and an unaudited sum on R&AW operations; the addition of yet another white elephant will significantly hike expenditure and start a turf war among the alreadyinimical security agencies.