A damaged building of the Sikkim Manipal Institute of Technology after the September 2011 earthquake
New Delhi, Aug. 9: A parliamentary panel has found that portions of money MPs diverted from their local area development fund for earthquake-hit Gujarat and the tsunami-pounded southern states were still lying unused with the state governments, years after the calamities struck.
The committee has recommended a specific time frame for implementing sanctioned projects and strict monitoring of works.
The committee, which submitted its report in the Lok Sabha today, also suggested simplifying the release of such funds to speed up the process.
The report said information provided by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation — the nodal agency to monitor the expenditure of MPLAD funds — indicated inordinate delay in carrying out rehabilitation work during calamities.
It suggested that contributions from MPLAD funds should be returned to the respective constituencies of the individual members if unutilised for more than a year.
The earthquake had struck Gujarat in January 2001, while the tsunami ravaged the coast in December 2004.
In Bengal, the committee found that even three years after cyclone Aila, 30 of 81 projects sanctioned for North 24-Parganas district and 56 of 73 sanctioned for South 24-Parganas were yet to be completed.
As for Sikkim, convulsed by a quake on September 18, 2011, no work proposal had come from the state government so far, though such calamities require immediate efforts at rehabilitation.
The committee lamented that most state governments didn’t respond to the ministry’s repeated queries regarding progress of work. Both Bihar and Gujarat ignored repeated reminders from the Centre on rehabilitation projects related to the 2001 quake and the 2008 Kosi floods.
The panel noted that the appeal for MPLAD funds came 24 days after the Kosi floods, 21 days after the Leh cloudburst, and 19 days after the Sikkim devastation, losing precious time.
The committee recommended that the nodal ministry appeal for funds within a week of a calamity and asked the home ministry to decide within three days whether a calamity was severe or not.
Members of Parliament were allowed to spend money outside their constituency — and outside their state in case of Rajya Sabha MPs — after the 1999 super cyclone that devastated Odisha. The experiment was successful as Rs 775 lakh, contributed by 77 MPs, was used to construct 83 schools in the state.
After the Gujarat quake, 153 MPs from the Lok Sabha and 163 from the Rajya Sabha contributed around Rs 49 crore for construction of health and care centres (aanganwadis).
The committee has recommended increasing the annual ceiling of fund diversion from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 50 lakh per MP and up to Rs 1 crore — or the whole fund — in case of severe calamities.
The panel also said the nodal ministry should review periodically the physical and financial progress of MPLAD funds provided for rehabilitation projects and the nodal department in state governments concerned should submit monthly progress reports.
The committee has also tried to address another problem related to utilisation and audit certificates.
The ministry of statistics and programme implementation does not release the next instalment of funds if utilisation and audit certificates are not made available for rehab projects in areas hit by calamities. This affects normal work in the constituencies of the MPs, a discouraging factor for those who divert funds in the larger national interest.
The committee has asked the ministry not to link release of funds for works in the constituencies of the MPs concerned with utilisation certificates from areas where rehab projects are going on. If that is not done, no MP will divert money from his or her fund as absence of utilisation certificates will hold up the next instalment.