Rural audit to clear graft cloud

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  • Published 6.04.03

Calcutta, April 6: The Left Front today sought to counter the Opposition’s charges of lack of transparency and malfeasance against panchayat administration by announcing that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) would audit gram panchayats, the lowest panchayat tier in Bengal.

After a meeting of the Front constituents this evening, chairman Biman Bose said the coalition partners took a unanimous decision and said they would highlight it during the panchayat elections. The CAG audit would begin on an experimental basis, he added.

The CAG audits the zilla parishads and the panchayat samities in Bengal and was interested in doing the same for the gram panchayats.

“They (CAG) have been asking us for audit of the gram panchayats. So, the government is willing to give them a chance. But a backlog has accumulated in CAG auditing of the zilla parishad and panchayat samity levels. We wonder whether the CAG will be able to handle the gram-panchayat audit along with the two other upper tiers of rural administration,” a senior party functionary said.

Last year, finance minister Asim Dasgupta had expressed anxiety over whether the CAG had the adequate infrastructure to carry out audit in the gram panchayats in view of the backlogs in the zilla parishad and panchayat samity levels.

Observers feel that the nod for the CAG audit before the panchayat polls is a way of reassuring Front constituents who have often accused the CPM-run panchayats of indulging in corruption. “In seeking a CAG audit at the gram panchayat level, we have put forth our intention to bring about transparency,” said Bose of the CPM.

The Front unanimously finalised the manifesto for the panchayat polls in the meeting. It will be published on Tuesday. Bose said the process of selecting candidates and filing of nominations would begin tomorrow.

However, it was apparent from Bose’s comments that with a little over a month to go before the rural polls, deals on seat-sharing have not been completed in the districts except Burdwan. He said seat adjustments have been made for most of Bankura, Purulia, Hooghly, Nadia and Birbhum.