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Amid fiscal crisis, Chandigarh MC allocates Rs 50 lakh for ‘unfruitful’ study tours

In 2017-18, the MC had allocated Rs 30 lakh for study tours, of which Rs 23 lakh were spent. However, a request for Rs 25 lakh was made to the accounts department, which was turned down.

punjab Updated: Feb 14, 2018 13:23 IST
Hillary Victor
Hillary Victor
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Chandigarh MC,Rs 50 lakh,fiscal crisis
The development comes amid major financial crunch being faced by the MC because of which several projects are hanging fire. (HT File )

Even as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in its report last year came down heavily on the Chandigarh municipal corporation (MC) for making “unfruitful” expenditure of Rs 50 lakh on study tours over four years, the civic body has allocated an equivalent budget for the purpose for just a single fiscal.

The development comes amid major financial crunch being faced by the MC because of which several projects are hanging fire.

FUTILE TOURS AND REBUKE
  • Intro: CAG last year questioned splurging of Rs 50 lakh on ‘unfruitful’ study tours in 4 years
  • 2013: In November, the then mayor, Subhash Chawla, then commissioner VP Singh and then executive engineer Rajesh Bansal visited Israel on a study tour to improve water and tertiary treated water supply. Rs 8 lakh were spent, but nothing came out of it.
  • 2014: Councillors went on a nine-day study tour to Port Blair, Chennai and Kolkata in August-September after spending Rs 28 lakh. Some councillors also took along their family members. The MC prepared a vague report and posted it on its website. The content was found to be ‘lifted verbatim’ from the websites of Chennai and Kolkata MCs.
  • 2017: After a gap of more than two years, 32 councillors and officers went to Mumbai, Pune and Vishakhapatnam in three groups in April this year. Rs 18 lakh were spent on the tours meant to study sanitation and improve water supply. But nothing worked out.

The provision for Rs 50 lakh for study tours has been kept in the budget of Rs 910 crore approved for 2018-19 by the MC’s finance and contract committee on Monday.

In 2017-18, the MC had allocated Rs 30 lakh for study tours, of which Rs 23 lakh were spent. However, a request for Rs 25 lakh was made to the accounts department, which was turned down.

CAG raised objection

In December last year, the CAG had questioned “wastage” of public money and found several irregularities in the conduct of study tours (see box).

The report stated that as study tours are conducted to bring about improvement in the existing infrastructure and facilities for the betterment of citizens or for implementing a new project of public interest, the reports should be submitted within 10 days. However, in the case of the Chandigarh MC, reports were not submitted even after three months, no improvement was made in the existing facilities and no new project was started, it said, adding that it resulted in Chandigarh “lagging behind far back in the race of the cleanest city of India”.

Calling the expenditure made on these study tours “unfruitful”, the report also questioned as to how nine councillors took along family members and didn’t submit the expenses incurred.

Finances in doldrums

Meanwhile, the UT has approved only Rs 269 crore grant to the MC against its demand of Rs 1,100 crore for 2018-19. With the civic body left with just Rs 25 crore in its fixed deposit and only Rs 10 crore being generated per month through its own sources of income, the MC faces exhaustion of its funds by February-end.

If it doesn’t receive central funds, it may not be able to pay salaries to its employees and carry out development works for the month of March. The MC spends Rs 60 crore every month on paying salaries and implementing various works.

First Published: Feb 14, 2018 13:23 IST