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Crores in kitty, time too short

Ranchi, Dec. 25: Jharkhand, which has utilised less than a third of its planned budget of Rs 16,800 crore for the 2013-14 fiscal on development work, has bequeathed upon the Hemant Soren government the Herculean challenge of spending Rs 11,800 crore in three months, till March 31, 2014.

Different departments of the state have so far been able to utilise barely Rs 5,000 crore in the nine months of the fiscal year that began under President’s Rule and witnessed coalition drama and related compulsions in cabinet formation in July and August.

During President’s Rule as well as initial months of the Hemant government, which presumably was finding its feet, funds utilisation was tardy.

Till November, utilisation figures had hovered around Rs 4,500 crore.

The ongoing month of December has been particularly bad in terms of funds utilisation as only around Rs 400 crore could be spent, government sources said, citing the weeklong winter Assembly session and a spate of public holidays as reasons.

Funds in Jharkhand coffers come from three major sources — central assistance, state-generated revenue such as taxes and loans from banks and financial institutions.

State finance department secretary A.P. Singh minced no words. “The next three months will be really challenging for us and the government,” Singh told The Telegraph.

In a dismal scenario, sources said road construction, energy and welfare departments fared better in funds utilisation. The laggards were departments of disaster management, human resource development and health and family planning.

Finance department sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there were certain departments that had not spent a single penny in the last three-four months.

Development economist Ramesh Sharan, a member of the state audit advisory committee and a Ranchi University professor, said the staggering sum of unutilised funds was an example of “complete financial mismanagement of the government machinery”.

“Politicians are short-sighted. In Jharkhand, the domicile issue is more important than actual development of the region that comes from efficient funds utilisation,” he said.

He also stressed the state should send utilisation certificates of central funds to respective Union ministries on time.