Kohima: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India detected a ‘fraudulent payment’ of Rs 90.54 lakh out of Rs 5.01 crore allocated for the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) to the Executive Engineer of the Public Health Engineering (PHED) department in Dimapur division for 2018-19.
As per the CAG report tabled in the recently-concluded state Assembly, Rs 4.03 crore was earmarked for the implementation of Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) for the construction of drainage, waste collection depot, dustbins and wheel carts.
The CAG observed that the Department constructed 6,540 metres (m) of drainage with bricks for Rs 2.53 crore as departmental work. Scrutiny of cash books, work orders, running account bills (RA Bills), measurement books and so on, it informed, revealed that 4,665 m of drainage (with bricks) was constructed and certified as complete (March 2019) by the Junior Engineer (JE), PHED in the MBS and Rs 1.81 crore was incurred as expenditure in March 2019. Work completion was also countersigned by the SDO, PHED and the Executive Engineer.
Joint Physical Verification (JPV) by the Audit, along with the departmental officials, Village Council Chairman/Water and Sanitation committee members and beneficiaries of 21 villages in February 2021 found that in three out of 21 villages, construction of 600 m drainage with bricks with an expenditure of Rs 23.23 lakh was done as per work order.
In the remaining 18 villages, JPV revealed that against the reported construction of 4,065 m drainage with an expenditure of Rs 1.57 crore, only 1,727 m with an expenditure of Rs 66.87 lakh, was actually constructed which resulted in short/non-executions of 2,338 m (783 m short-execution and 1,555 m non-execution) of drainage with bricks valued at Rs 90.54 lakh.
“The Executive Engineer, PHED (Urban) Dimapur Division did not exercise due diligence to check the correctness of the quantities executed before passing the bills for payment which resulted in fraudulent payment of ₹90.54 lakh without actual execution of 2,338 metres of drainage works in 18 villages,” it reported.
As per rule 135 of the Receipt and Payment Rules, the CAG reminded that payment for all work done other than by daily labour and for all supplies shall be made on the basis of measurements recorded in MBS and that no payment other than an advance payment may be given unless the correctness of the claim in respect of quantities and rates as well as the quality of the works done are carefully checked by a responsible officer.
The Government in its reply to the CAG in January 2022 stated that the shortfall in drainage length was due to flash flood/ natural calamity which had washed off certain portions of the drainage and that in some villages drainage work was underway at the time of verification.
As for the non-construction of drainage, the concerned department had responded that the drainage works were delayed and work was underway at the time of verification and that works for both the shortfall and non-construction of drainage were completed.
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“The reply is not acceptable as the works were certified by the JE PHED as completed (March 2019) and were also countersigned by the SDO and EE. Moreover, the villages in Dimapur are located in plain areas which are not hilly and there is no sign of wash away or landslides. The Department also did not specify either the quantity or location of the wash-off area. Furthermore, no sign of wash off or work underway was seen and revealed during JPV,” the CAG concluded.
It recommended the state government to fix responsibility for fraudulent payments made on short and non-construction of drainage. The CAG also recommended the State Government introduce Geotagging in order to monitor future works to ascertain factual correctness. The matter was further recommended to be handed over to the investigative agencies for investigation.
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