The Bengal government has asked all 128 urban local bodies (municipal corporations and municipalities) in the state to initiate a series of “corrective” measures in their day-to-day functioning after the office of the comptroller and auditor general
(CAG) identified several “irregularities” in the running of the civic bodies over the past few years.
“The CAG has raised several questions over the functioning of some urban local bodies.... The civic bodies have been asked to adopt corrective measures and avoid similar questions in future,” said a senior government official.
Sources said the state government had ordered the corrective measures soon after the CAG had pointed out the “irregularities”, which could result in the disruption in the flow of funds from New Delhi.
A senior government official said a meeting had been held between senior urban development and municipal affairs officials and representatives of the civic bodies on Tuesday where it was decided that the finance officers of the civic bodies would have to play an important role to ensure that those directives were followed properly.
“The urban local bodies get central funds under schemes like housing for the poor, installation of drinking water facilities and management of solid waste. Moreover, funds of the Finance Commission also reach the civic bodies. The cash-strapped state government does not want the release of the funds to be stopped like it happened for rural bodies,” said a bureaucrat.
The sources said the state government was worried as the Centre had suspended the release of funds under several schemes like 100 days’ work, PMAY and PMGSY citing alleged irregularities.
“So, a message has already been sent to the state that no financial irregularity will be tolerated any more. So, corrective measures had to be initiated,” said a source.
In the directives, the urban local bodies have been asked to maintain transparency in tender procedures, avoid excess payments and make payments according to government-approved rates.
“These apart, irregularities should be avoided in mid-day meal schemes and other schemes. The civic bodies were also asked to ensure that no unauthorised expenditure was incurred through engagement of casual workers,” said a source.
The sources said as the CAG had raised a maximum number of questions on those issues, the government had categorically told the civic bodies that those should not be repeated.
The CAG also pointed out that the civic bodies were losing revenue as they were not serious about collecting property taxes and other municipal fees and rent. The state also asked the civic bodies to be careful on this particular issue.