Shillong, April 22: Meghalaya chief electoral officer (CEO) Prashant Naik today countered critics for charging that the model code of conduct, which is in place because of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls in the country, was responsible for withholding funds meant for already-completed development work in the state.
Naik also countered allegations of delay in release of the money for development work already completed. He said, going by the last records, even the government money kept in civil deposit was never released immediately as the sanctioned amount was released only in the month of May or June.
It was alleged that because of the prolonged model code of conduct, funds even for work done was withheld by various departments, including central funds.
“The model code of conduct has nothing to do with the delay in releasing money for work done provided that sanction had already been made,” Naik said.
He also said blaming the model code of conduct for the delay in releasing fund could be only an “excuse”.
Quoting instructions of the Election Commission on the model code of conduct related to welfare schemes and government work, Naik said: “There shall be no bar on release of payments for completed work subject to the full satisfaction of the officials concerned.”
He also made it clear that no work shall start even if work orders have been issued before the model code of conduct came into effect, if the work has not actually started in the field. “Work can start only after the completion of election process and if a work has actually started, that can continue,” he clarified.
Naik also said that the commission does not refuse approval for schemes undertaken for tackling emergencies or unforeseen calamities. But in these matters, prior approval of the Election Commission should be taken and all ostentatious functions should be strictly avoided. No impression should be allowed to be created that such welfare measures are undertaken by the government in office so as to influence the electors.
According to Naik, tender or advertisement for appointment can be floated while the model code of conduct is still in place but no bidder or appointment can be finalised.
On the implementation of the central schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Naik said the commission had made it clear that the ministry of rural development shall not increase the number of districts for implementing NREGA after the announcement of elections in any state or Union territory.
But job card holders would be provided employment if they demand work after announcement of elections in the ongoing works.
“In case no employment can be provided in ongoing works, the competent authority may start new work from the shelf of projects that has been approved and informed the fact to the concerned district election officer. In case no shelf of project is available or all works available on shelf have been exhausted, then the competent authority concerned shall make a reference to the commission for approval,” Naik said while quoting from the Election Commission’s instructions.
Though Meghalaya’s two parliamentary constituencies — Shillong and Tura — went to polls in the second phase polling on April 9, the model code is still effective as the final phase polling in the other remaining constituencies in the country will end on May 12.