The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha dons funds monitor mantle

Calcutta/Burdwan, Sept. 26: Apprehensive of delays in utilising Central and foreign funds for development projects in the state, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has decided to monitor the money himself.

The decision follows several CAG reports and Central strictures on the state government’s inability to utilise development funds. Every year, the government has to return crores of unutilised money to the Centre.

The Centre provides Rs 1,000 crore to the departments of rural development and panchayats, health, urban development and public health and engineering every year. The funds are released for specific projects and should be spent within a deadline, failing which the state government has to return them.

“We cannot utilise Central funds for different reasons. The departments fail to submit specific schemes and complete formalities. Perhaps this is due to lack of initiative on the part of local bodies to draw up development plans. Moreover, funds often arrive towards the end of the year. Will you be able to spend Rs 250 crore in a fortnight'’’ asked a finance department official.

But the chief minister considers this “a gross failure” on the part of the departments. He recently expressed dissatisfaction over the state’s funds utilisation record at a Cabinet meeting. Such poor funds management is bad for the economy when the state is going through a crunch and gives the Opposition a stick to beat the government with, Bhattacharjee said.

Funds for food-for-work schemes or for the below poverty level population could not be disbursed among the panchayats last year. The utilisation rate for the golden jubilee income scheme in the state is 27.24 per cent. The national average is 73.33 per cent.

The panchayats spent Rs 73 crore in the last fiscal out of the Rs 135 crore sanctioned from the Prime Minister’s rural roads development scheme. The Centre will stop releasing funds for this scheme if the government fails to furnish a utilisation certificate by November.

The “districtwide performance rating” report also underscores the state’s indifferent record in funds utilisation. This “rating” was based on the employment assurance scheme, total rural income scheme and the Indira housing scheme, among other rural development projects.

The Centre has already slashed Rs 12 crore from the Rs 108 crore sanctioned for the Indira housing project as 12 out of the 18 zilla parishads failed to furnish utilisation certificates.

Two state civil service officers have been posted in the chief minister’s office to handle cases of delay in the utilisation of funds. An IAS officer has been posted in Delhi to pursue such cases.

The chief minister has asked the officers to submit monthly reports on the funds utilised and the causes of delay.

Bhattacharjee also plans to hold monthly meetings with the concerned departments to improve the state’s dismal record in funds utilisation.

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