In what may provide some relief to the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government in Haryana, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has decided to stop midway the audit of licences issued by the town and country planning department to private developers for developing colonies etc. in the state.
The CAG, which had approved a “thematic” audit of licences for development of colonies, decided to abandon it around the same time IAS officer Ashok Khemka, whose allegations against Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s businessman son-in-law Robert Vadra caused a political storm, recommended a detailed audit into grant of licences to develop private colonies, release of land from acquisition etc “to get to the bottom of the land scams occurring" in the state.
The IAS officer made the recommendation in a 105-page reply to the state government on May 21 on the findings of a three-member committee constituted to examine his orders on the Gurgaon land deal. “The entire gamut of land scams occurring in Haryana cannot possibly be inquired into objectively by the committee or any other executive agency under the control of the State government.
In order to get a true and complete picture, only a performance audit by an independent CAG, as was done in the case of discretionary allotments of 2G telecom spectrum and coal mines, can examine and unravel the damage and detriment to the moral, economic and social capital of the country and/or the State,” he wrote. The present government has granted licences for the development of a staggering 21000 acres of land during the past eight years.
The CAG team was on the job for a few months and done considerable amount of work when its top brass decided to call off the audit of licences for colonies in the first week of June 2013, asking it to conduct thematic audit of procurement and utilization of pipes in public health department instead. However, CAG officials are tight-lipped on the fate of the work already done by its auditors on licences issued to colonizers in the state.
While it is not clear whether the state authorities had anything to do with the CAG’s sudden decision to call off the audit, they were certainly not in favour of the exercise and had sought deferment on one ground or the other. “In addition to regular annual audit, special audit has been carried out recently.
This special audit was conduct in January 2012 in which 160 licence files of the office of director general, town and country planning, were taken up for audit scrutiny. It is felt that sufficient audit scrutiny has been done and any further audit would be repetitive in nature.
The department would extend full cooperation if the audit party still wants to conduct yet another audit,” SS Dhillon, the then principal secretary, town and country planning, wrote to principal accountant general (audit) Onkar Nath on March 28, 2013.
At the same time, the town and country planning department (T&CPD) asked for postponement of audit due to budget session of the state assembly and the process of shifting of office building. The auditors agreed to give one month’s time and postponed the exercise till April 30. On April 29 too, chief accounts officer, T&CPD, again asked for further postponement of the audit “for the time being”, citing difficulty in providing the record to the audit during the process of shifting of records.
There were also issues of lack of cooperation by the field staff of the department. “The CAG team faced problems in doing the audit of field offices of the department as verbal instructions had reportedly been issued to senior town planners that no record relating to licenses should be produced to audit till specific concurrence is given by the state government,” sources told HT.
PAG (audit) took up the matter with principal secretary, T&CPD, on May 2, 2013, urging him to advise the departmental authorities to get the audit conducted without any delays. “It is their statutory duty to produce the record to audit as and when demanded,” he wrote.
While the department instructed all its district town planners to extend full cooperation, Nath also raised the issue of delay in availability of records from three departments, including T&CPD, in the meeting of Committee on Public Accounts of the Haryana Assembly wherein the chairman asked the finance department to take up the matter with them, according to sources. The then principal secretary, finance, immediately wrote to the three departments asking them to cooperate with the audit team.
On being contacted, principal secretary, T&CPD, TC Gupta said that his department had cooperated with CAG and provided all the files and documents related to licences for development of colonies to the audit team as required by them. “The department officials were also directed to extend cooperation to them. As far as I know, the audit team had completed its exercise,” he told HT.