Chandigarh admn to tighten noose around societies under govt departments - Hindustan Times
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Chandigarh admn to tighten noose around societies under govt departments

By, Chandigarh
Jun 13, 2024 08:36 AM IST

The Chandigarh finance department has directed heads of departments not to retain any income generated by a society without MHA approval

Acting on the directions of the Prime Minister’s Office, the UT administration has issued an order to control the activities of societies operating under various government agencies.

It has been alleged that these societies, formed around two decades back, are being misused to divert revenue generated from public properties. (HT Photo)
It has been alleged that these societies, formed around two decades back, are being misused to divert revenue generated from public properties. (HT Photo)

It has been alleged that these societies, formed around two decades back, are being misused to divert revenue generated from public properties.

Funds have reportedly been used to purchase luxury vehicles, expensive mobile phones, laptops and even to fund foreign trips for officers.

Audits have pointed out the diversion of funds several times, but the UT administration had failed to take any action so far.

Now, as per the orders issued recently by the UT finance department to the heads of departments, any income or revenue generated by a society should be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India as soon as possible.

Any retention of such income in the society’s account is permitted only with prior approval from the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA). Otherwise, it will be considered a diversion of income from the Consolidated Fund of India, which is not permissible.

Additionally, it must be ensured that each society’s audit is carried out regularly.

Some of these societies include the Rogi Kalyan Samiti under the health department, the Society for Promotion of IT in Chandigarh (SPIC) under the IT department, the Road Safety Society under the transport department, the Chandigarh Housing Board (CHB), the Society for Tourism and Entertainment Promotion in Chandigarh (STEPS) under the tourism department, the Rock Garden Society under the engineering department and the Post Graduate College Society under higher education department.

City-based RTI activist RK Garg, who has been pursuing this matter for more than a decade, eventually brought the matter to the attention of the PMO, that then directed the UT administration to investigate the issue, resulting in issuance of the order.

Garg said, “I urge the UT administrator to ensure that all income earned, and all movable and immovable properties acquired over the years be merged with the parent department. Also, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) should be requested to conduct a special audit of all such entities operating in the UT so that the extent of revenue diversion and misuse of funds can be determined, and responsibility fixed for any misuse found.”

A senior officer of the UT administration said only some societies were depositing their revenue in the Consolidated Fund of India, while the remaining were using the income at their discretion.

UT finance secretary Vijay Namdeorao Zade was not available for a comment.

Undue benefit of 1.62 crore provided to SPIC: Audit

An audit in 2022 had found that the IT department had made an overpayment of more than 1.62 crore to SPIC, providing them with undue benefits.

According to the report, the UT administration decided to hand over the Sampark project permanently to SPIC from July 1, 2015, at the rate of 25 per transaction for both urban and rural Sampark Centres. However, during scrutiny of the vouchers, it was discovered that the department had paid 25 per transaction to SPIC from February 1, 2015, instead of July 1, 2015, in violation of the order. This led to an overpayment of 1.62 crore to SPIC for the five-month period.

The department justified the payment of enhanced charges from February 1, 2015, by stating that SPIC had requested the enhancement of rates on February 5, 2015. However, this justification was not acceptable, as the contract for the period from January 1, 2015, to June 30, 2015, was extended on the same terms and conditions ( 8.89 for urban and 3.90 for rural centres per transaction). Furthermore, although the sanction for enhancement of transaction charges to 25 was sought from the administrator in August 2016, the payment of increased rates from February 1, 2015, was not authorised.

Anomalies pointed out in audit report of STEPS

In 2019, the local audit department of the UT administration had pointed out glaring anomalies in the audit report of STEPS, which is under the aegis of the UT tourism department. The audit report revealed numerous lapses and violations of general financial rules, with even trivial expenditures not being approved or appropriately sanctioned in a timely manner by the governing body of STEPS, which is headed by the UT adviser.

Officers were found to have purchased air tickets from private agencies for international trade participation without following norms. As per regulations, reimbursement of air ticket costs should be based on verification of the lowest cost of a ticket to a particular destination, which was not done in this case. The then director of tourism, Jatinder Yadav, had visited countries like Germany and the United Kingdom over three years.

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