Reluctant to reveal its mounting financial liabilities, the cash-strapped Punjab government on Wednesday admitted before the Punjab and Haryana high court that at least Rs 1,800-crore bills of five key departments were pending for clearance.
The state government submitted the details of the amount due during a hearing in the high court. The HC had initiated suo motu proceedings seeking details of the budgetary provision and source of funding of Mukh Mantri Tirath Darshan Yatra scheme “considering the fact that the state is failing to make even routine payments.”
In February 23 order, justice Rajesh Bindal had specifically directed chief secretary to file an affidavit stating how much amount was due to be paid by different departments such as education; local bodies, public works, sales tax and irrigation, irrespective of the fact whether cases had been sent to finance department or not for clearing the bills.
In his 14-page affidavit, chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal submitted that Rs 1,434 crore liability pertained to the bills of five departments---school and higher education, local bodies, public works, sales tax and irrigation---which were yet to be presented to the treasury.
Interestingly, the chief secretary stated that the information on pending bills not yet presented to the treasury “is subject to verification” as it was “collected in a very short span of time from multiple offices.”
This means the actual amount of liability could be much more than the government has revealed.
The government admitted that `354-crore bills of five departments in question were pending in the treasury. But the government didn’t mention since when these `354-crore bills were pending for clearance in the treasury.
The government also told the high court that its outstanding debt was estimated to go up to `1.24 lakh crore by the end of current fiscal—up from `1.12 lakh crore in March 2015.
The government told the court that all-out efforts were continuously made to mobilise sufficient resources for expeditious discharge of pending and recurring liabilities as a perpetual ongoing process.
The court was also told that of the `440 crore VAT refund dues of the sales tax department, `69 crore would be paid by March 8. The remaining amount had got delayed as the verification was not complete.
The court adjourned the hearing of the case for March 28.
The details were submitted by the state government after the high court observed on February 23 that the government was not furnishing complete details related to its finances. The court had found inconsistencies in the government submissions with regard to pending dues, compelling the court to direct the government to file a specific affidavit listing out details of the pending bills.