|State Govt, Council responsible for fund misuse|
R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Nov 24 – The special audit of the financial management of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council carried out by the office of the Accountant General (AG) proved that the Assam Government as well as the Council were responsible for misuse of crores of rupees over the years. Major cases of financial irregularities were found in the audit and interestingly, the Assam Government also committed financial irregularities by releasing excess funds to the Council in violation of the financial rules.
The special audit was carried out as per the request of the Central and State Governments for the period from 2007-08 to June 12, 2009 and though the audit was initially proposed to be taken up from November 23, 2009 to January 13 this year, it had to be postponed due to non-production of the records. Finally, the audit was carried out only in the months of May to July this year and non production of records also affected the audit.
Though there are 30 departments of the Council, eight departments – Public Health Engineering, Agriculture, Forest, Social Welfare, Public Works, Education, Medical and Tourism were covered in the special audit and the selection of departments were made on the basis of allegations of serious irregularities in fund management. A copy of the special audit report is now available with The Assam Tribune and it is evident that large scale financial irregularities took place in all the departments concerned and almost none of the schemes were implemented properly.
The report said that the Council received Rs 185.43 crore from the Government of Assam in 2007-08, Rs 193.10 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 32.55 crore up to June 12 , 2009 in the financial year 2009-10. But some of the vital records were not produced during the audit as the concerned officials claimed that the documents were either with the National Investigating Agency (NIA) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The AG report said that major discrepancies were found between release of funds by the Assam Government and receipt of funds by the Council, which is totally against financial rules. The report pointed out that as per information furnished by the Hill Areas Department and records of receipts of funds by the Council during the period of audit, the Council received excess of funds amounting to Rs 27264.23 lakh. The Hill Areas Department informed that Rs 15140.11 lakh was released, while, the records of the Council proved that it received Rs 42404.34 lakh. This is a major discrepancy on the part of the Assam Government, the report pointed out.
The report pointed out yet another major discrepancy on the part of the State Government in the next paragraph. The Government released funds in excess of budget provision to the Council in violation of the financial rules. The release of excess fund by the Government over the budget provision fraught with the risk of misutilisation and misappropriation of funds, the report said.
The report pointed out that the scrutiny of the records and information furnished by the Council revealed that the Government of Assam released excess fund amounting to Rs 1146.59 lakh during 2007-08 and 2008-09 under both plan and non plan heads over the budget provisions. But interestingly, there was nothing on record to show whether any supplementary grant was provided or any re-appropriation was made as per the law. Reasons for excess release of funds by the State Government over the budget provision were also not available on records, the report said.
The AG , during the special audit, found major diversion of funds by the Council in utter violation of the financial rules. The report said that as per the memorandum of understanding between the Government and the Council signed on December 31, 1996, the Council is not empowered to re-appropriate funds from one major head of account to another and is required to restrict expenditure within the budget provision and funds released by the State Government. But in two years, the Council incurred excess expenditure amounting to Rs 425.15 lakh in PWD, Roads, Industries, PHE, Medical, Irrigation etc. The excess expenditure in the departments was done with re-appropriation from other major heads of accounts.
There were major discrepancies in the personal ledger account (PLA) and the PLA cash books. For the year ending 2007-08, the PLA cash book showed closing balance of Rs 12,64,526, while, the PL account showed balance of Rs 3,77,49,117, thus having a discrepancy of Rs 3,64,84,591. Similar was the case in the following year when the discrepancy was Rs 51,60,304. Nothing was done to correct the discrepancies and the reasons for the same were not known. The report further said that 16 cheques amounting to Rs 14,19,235 were issued to different departments during the period from January to March, 2008 and the amounts were entered in the payment side of the PLA cash book. Subsequently, the cheques were cancelled because of reasons like treasury objections, time barred etc but the same were not entered back in the receipt side of the PLA cash book. Similar cases were fund in subsequent periods also and no one knows where the money went.