If the much-publicised CBI case against a top MHA official is a comment on the fragile nature of our border management, there’s more in an audit report crying for the government’s attention in Mizoram. It points to grave irregularities in projects designed to reach development to India’s borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The state Accountant General’s report countersigned by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) was tabled in the assembly on March 29. It contains the shocking revelation that Rs46.76 crore was withdrawn from the treasury against “before actual commencement of approved works” between 2005-2010.
Doubts have arisen on whether the findings will be taken to their logical conclusion, the irregularities spanning the Mizo National Front and the Congress regimes. Vanhela Pachuau, principal secretary, rural development from 2006-08 is now the state chief secretary. The state Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is chaired by the Opposition MNF that was in power when the rot set in.
For his part, Pachuau, considered close to chief minister Lalthanhawla, had nothing to say except referring to official explanations rejected by the AG’s report. PAC chairman and MNF MLA B Lalthlengliana couldn’t recall the report, details of which he sought from HT on being approached for his comments. “We’ve not yet studied; we’ll see the report,” he said.
Besides presentation of false bills, Rs30.93 crore was drawn from the treasury and parked in civil deposits for 2-12 months.
The central government account (receipt and payments rules) of 1983 bar withdrawal of funds “unless required for immediate disbursement.” The report rejected the official plea that work couldn’t have been executed without funds. Instead of false bills, money should have been drawn against abstract contingent bills, it said. The AG didn’t also buy the explanation that money in civil deposits helped avoid mandatory re-sanction of funds.
“The reply is not acceptable,” the report said. The first instalment of Rs20.07 crore out of the allocated Rs24.95 crore for 2008-09 was released in October 2008, affording enough time for withdrawals prior to the fag end of the financial year for timely implementation of schemes.
Funds for the border area development programme are provided as special central assistance on a 100% grant basis. The objective is to improve the quality of life in inhospitable terrains to check local support and sympathy for insurgent groups and foreign agents.
Mizoram’s 722-km border with Myanmar and Bangladesh is infested with insurgents, gun-runners and drug traffickers. The audit bares down to the bone the financial indiscipline, manipulation of rules and the lack of planning in development projects. “The perfunctory approach compromises border security,” said an official. For instance, fake bills contained cost of material and labour wages.
Instead of being disbursed to labourers or supplier, the entire Rs46.76 crore reached private individuals appointed for project execution. Over Rs22 crore out of the Rs46.76 crore were en-cashed in 2009-10 showing completion of approved projects in the period. But work commenced in the first quarter of 2010-11 and remained in progress as of July 2010, noted the report containing photographs of unfinished projects.
Another glaring anomaly was non-identification of villages located 0-20 kms from international borders in the plans for 2009-10. “This obviated the very purpose of prioritising these villages (for development).”