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- Officials question move to assess departments solely on basis of funds disbursal

Calcutta, May 28: Mamata Banerjee today assessed all departments based on their performance, but officials questioned the wisdom of an appraisal whose sole criterion is disbursal of funds for projects.

Several officials said a department’s performance appraisal should be based on the progress in implementing projects for which money has been released.

“A department can show that it has spent 100 per cent of the funds allotted to it by simply transferring the money to district magistrates or other project-implementing authorities such as development corporations. But transferring the funds is the first step towards implementing a project. A department’s performance should be evaluated on the basis of the projects it has completed,” an official said.

In the case of most projects, a department sends money it allocates for a project to the DM concerned. The DM transfers the money to the relevant block development officer, who in turn sends it to the gram panchayat concerned. The panchayat floats tenders and the contractor who makes the highest bid implements the project.

“Gram panchayats undertake 90 per cent of development projects in the country. Every department should monitor the entire process and be responsible for ensuring that all projects are completed on time,” a department secretary said.

An official who attended today’s meeting chaired by the chief minister at Town Hall later pointed out a “flaw” in the assessment process.

“The housing department has been placed under the ‘good’ category as it has spent more than 90 per cent of the funds allotted to it. But the department’s performance in its showpiece project, Geetanjali, has not been up to the mark,” the official said.

The official said that under Geetanjali, the housing department had set a target of building 91,871 houses for the poor in five years. But in the past three years, it has built only 33,802 dwelling units. Sources attributed the slow pace to lack of coordination between the housing department, the nodal agency for the project, and other departments to which it had allocated funds to build the houses.

The chief minister, the sources said, instructed all ministers, department secretaries and DMs present at the meeting to focus on development projects in the next few months, particularly before the advent of monsoon.

“You should not take leave now. You should work hard to complete projects on time,” Mamata was quoted as saying.

The chief minister told departments categorised as poor performers that the finance minister and the chief secretary would chalk out a roadmap for them.