Bird flu had apparently been an excuse for the Assam government for sinking money in dead poultry farms. Even before the virus had struck!
Call it foresight or bad economics, the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department (AHVD) put Rs 2.49 crore in 15 State-run poultry farms that were defunct. These farms became non-functional prior to the 2004-05 fiscal.
In May last year, the Department argued that steps were taken since 2007 to make 13 of these 15 farms functional. But the outbreak of avian influenza put paid to the efforts.
"The contention of the Department is not correct, as outbreak of bird flu is a recent event. Failure to revive the farms reflected lack of adequate initiative," said a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for the year ending March 31, 2009.
If that were not enough, AHVD had during 2004-09 spent Rs 1.84 crore on payment of salary and wages to 120 drivers – for doing nothing.
“Scrutiny revealed that 71 out of 226 different types of vehicles (with AHVD) were auctioned during 2000-08. Out of the remaining 155 vehicles, 114 remained off-road prior to 2004-05 and only 41 vehicles were on road during 2004-09,” the CAG report said.
It added: “Against these 41 vehicles, 161 regular drivers were engaged since 2004-05 as against the requirement of 41 drivers. As a result 120 drivers were maintained in excess of requirement involving an expenditure of Rs 1.84 crore.”
Maintenance of idle manpower indicated poor manpower management on the part of AHVD, the report concluded.