Alas, Misutilisation Of Funds Even In Democratic Process
29 March 2005
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Election-related activities anywhere in India have to be in tune with the policy or guidelines put in place by the Election Commission of India from time to time. And at no point of time has the poll panel justified utilisation of Government funds on activities or purchases having nothing to do with the electoral process. If the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has voiced deep displeasure at the fiscal indiscipline in Jammu and Kashmir, it should be taken by the powers-that-be as a challenge, which calls for drastic changes in the system so as to ensure long- term relief and benefits for the State people. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for the year ended March 31, 2004 brings to the fore glaring instances of misutilisation and diversion of Government funds not only in the conduct of the electoral process in 2002 but also in several departments and undertakings run by the Government. The official machinery, which was assigned with the task of conducting the 2002 polls in Jammu and Kashmir, knew that incurring expenditure from divisible pool of fund on creation of assets of capital nature such as construction of buildings, purchase of vehicles, generators, repair works and purchase of non-election items was prohibited. Unfortunately, however, Rs 1.89 crores out of a total expenditure of Rs 9.08 crores were diverted and misutilised. The CAG report has, in this connection, indicted the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Divisional Commissioner (Jammu), Director General of Police, Additional Director General of Police (Armed), Jammu, five district election officers and 13 senior superintendents of police. According to the report, Rs 9.08 crores were incurred from July 2002 to April on the conduct of Assembly elections. Of this, a sum of Rs 1.89 crore was allowed to be diverted and misutilised. The CAG report termed as 'not incidental to elections' the expenditure of Rs 29.50 lakhs on construction and repair works, Rs 61.55 lakhs on purchase of inadmissible items, Rs 14.32 lakhs on clearance of liabilities and Rs 83.93 lakhs as pre-post-poll expenses. Inadmissible items included colour television sets, generators, furniture and fixtures, cordless telephones, photocopier, fax machines, refrigerator, kitchen ware and books. Officials commissioned by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India to carry out test-checks of the utilisation of Government funds were not satisfied by the unsatisfactory response to the queries with regard to the misutilisation of poll-related financial outlay. According to the report, in March 2004, the commandants, Indian Reserve Police-IV Battalion, J&K Armed Police-IV Battalion, Jammu, and SSP, Poonch, stated that the expenditure had been incurred under the orders of the Police Headquarters. The CAG finding runs thus: 'The replies were not tenable as expenditure incurred was not incidental to elections. No reasons for the diversion of election funds were furnished by other I9 offices'. Some sort of discipline and proper planning were expected from the State police force. If the findings of the CAG were any guide, the performance of the Home Department was, in no way, encouraging and productive. Instance number one: As many as 20 drawing and disbursing officers of the Police Department did not adhere to prescribed rules and instruction. This resulted in irregular payment of HRA (house rent allowance) of Rs 24.31 lakhs to I84 employees occupying Government accommodation. Instance number two: Purchase of uniform cloth (November 2002 to March 2003) at higher rates from a local firm by the DGP (Director-General of Police) resulted in avoidable extra expenditure of Rs 19.09 lakhs. Even as the matter was referred by the CAG to the State Government, there was no reply till September 2004. Instance number three: 'Wrong' planning by the Director-General of Police (December 2001) to purchase part machinery and equipment for printing press in Srinagar and the lack of trained manpower to operate it, resulted in unfruitful expenditure of Rs 43.97 lakhs. This apart, the objective of upgrading the printing press was also defeated. Instance number four: Director-General of Police (October 1998) demonstrated lack of proper planning and perception while placing an order with a Delhi- based firm for the supply of radio equipment. Injudicious purchase of the equipment, without ascertaining the actual requirements of accessories vital for their installation, resulted in idle investment of Rs 12.27 lakhs for over four years. The cost of financing idle investment worked out to Rs 5.93 lakhs.