CAG report: Gap in Bihar govt books swells to ₹80K cr in 10 years
Since 2010-11, the Bihar government has not submitted utilisation certificates (UCs) for nearly ₹80,000 crore of funds despite finance department’s 1975 executive order prescribing a deadline of one year from the date of sanction of fund for submission of UCs, which was extended to 18 months by a 2011 executive order, says the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for the financial year ending March 31, 2020, which was tabled in the state Assembly in December last year.
Of the total outstanding UCs, departments of panchayati raj, education, social welfare and rural development department account for 67.12%. This is so when data regarding the number of pending UCs/ misreporting, keeping funds in fixed deposit accounts or any other type of account with lesser returns could not be ascertained due to non-availability, says the report.
“Though such instances of non-submission of UCs feature in the CAG reports regularly, there has been no improvement, while in many cases the same recipients continue to get further grants from the same departments despite pending UCs. High pendency of UCs is fraught with the risk of misappropriation of funds,” says the report.
An audit officer said that the fact that UCs remaining pending for so long means there are no chances of their submission, unless bills are fudged. “Of the total outstanding UCs, ₹7,516 crore (9.43%) are for the 2010-11 to 2013-14 period, while the rest over 90% outstanding UCs are for the period since 2014-15, which covers almost the previous term of the government. There is no way old claims can be verified,” he said, citing the report.
Finance department principal secretary S Siddharth said the government was reviewing the matter on a monthly basis to reduce backlog and had succeeded to a great extent. “It is a matter of interpretation. Imagine the state annual budget is of over ₹2 lakh crore rupees. It means the spending in the last 10 years on an average may have touched at least ₹15 lakh crore. It means the non-submission of UCs account for only 5.53%. And it is an ongoing process. Every year, some new entry is added and some subtracted after submission. Besides, the panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies are the biggest source for delayed submission of UCs. We constantly work on it,” he said.
State’s panchayati raj minister Samrat Choudhary said the department was working to put in place a mechanism for regular monitoring of spending and auditing of funds spent. “The problem is there and that is why I decided to create a new system as soon as I assumed charge of the department barely 10 months ago,” he said.
Similarly, the CAG report has pointed out how a total of 20,642 abstract contingent (AC) bills amounting to ₹9155.44 crore had not been adjusted till March 2019-20, while 1,383 AC bills amounting to ₹644.13 crore had been drawn in March 2020 alone.
Abstract contingent (AC) bills are charges on items of expenditure by a state government, for which final classification and supporting vouchers is not available at the time of drawl.
“Substantial expenditure against AC bills in March 2020 indicates that the drawls was primarily to exhaust the budget provisions and reveals inadequate budgetary control. The fact that 5,689 AC bills amounting to ₹4231.06 crore were drawn under various capital heads for creation of capital assets indicate lack of objective planning and poor public expenditure management. The maximum pending AC bills ( ₹3390 crore) are under the head of relief on account of natural calamities,” says the report.
The report says that Bihar Treasury Code, 2011, provides that a certificate shall be furnished by the drawing and disbursing officer (DDO) to the effect that the money withdrawn on the contingent bills shall be spent within the same financial year and the unspent amount shall be remitted to the treasury before March 31 of that year. “The code also specifies that the detailed contingent (DC) bills shall be submitted within six months and no abstract bill shall be cashed after that period unless the detailed bill has been submitted,” says the report, highlighting how unadjusted amount has been growing since 2016-17, when it was just ₹2,375 crore.
The issue of AC-DC bills from 2003-04 to 2018-19 had snowballed into a major controversy a few years ago and had landed in the Patna High Court, which sought latest status from the departments concerned.
“The pendency was big, but now it has been almost controlled and things will further improve,” he said.
The finance department has recently also written to all the department heads, commissioners, district magistrates, treasury and drawing & disbursing officers to ensure timely submission of all contingency bills to avoid the usual last-minute rush at the end of the fiscal.
“It has been observed that there is usually a rush of contingency bills at the end of the fiscal, which causes undue stress on the software system and leads to difficulty in their disposal. To avoid this, all bills up to January 2022 must be submitted by February 28, 2022, and all February bills must be submitted by March 15, as intimated earlier. The March bills should also reach by March 22,” said a letter from the principal secretary.
A decade of lapses
Utilisation certificates (UCs) for nearly ₹80,000 crore of funds not submitted since 2010-11. Current deadline for submission of UCs is 18 months from the date of sanction of fund.
Departments of panchayati raj, education, social welfare and rural development account for 67.12% of the total backlog, according to the CAG report tabled in the Assembly.