Sunday, April 14, 2024

Dirty system

A number of state government departments have come under severe indictment of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG). It is a scathing criticism of the administration, just short of saying that the government cannot hide its inefficiency and is devoid of moral consciousness. Details of grave administrative irregularities, contravention of rules and procedures and intended mismanagement of things to create space for corruption and embezzlement etc. present the state administration in very poor light. One fails to understand whether there is an iota of truth and honesty in the entire administrative machinery of the state. The CAG report, which was tabled on the last day of the first session of the 14th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA), detected financial anomalies in almost all departments, including fraudulent/excess drawal of money in finance department (treasuries & accounts), evasion of Nagaland Value Added Tax in finance (taxation) department, loss of revenue due to non-renewal of license in finance department (Nagaland state lotteries) and default in payment of motor vehicle taxes in the Motor Vehicles Department. There are instances of stupendous subversion of established rules and laws and glaring cases of favouritism so that monetary benefit accrues to the beneficiaries. In the case of Finance Department (treasuries & accounts), the CAG report stated that failure of the drawing and disbursing officers and treasury officers to exercise prescribed checks resulted in fraudulent/double/ excess drawals amounting to Rs 2.78 crore. It pointed out that test check of pay bill vouches of various departments by audit revealed that 28 DDOs of 17 departments had misappropriated Rs 2.78 crore by fraudulently drawing pay and allowances. The money was withdrawn by inflating the net total of pay bills, double drawal of pay and allowances, arrears, etc in violation of the prescribed Financial Rules. With regards to Motor vehicles Department, CAG found that the department failed to invoke the provisions of Nagaland Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1967 and Nagaland Passengers and Goods Taxation Act, 1967 to recover the outstanding motor vehicles tax from vehicle owners resulting in shortfall of tax collection to the tune of Rs.9.37 crore. In Finance (Taxation) Department, CAG detected that 21 dealers evaded Nagaland Value Added tax of Rs 4.59 crore by utilizing invalid/obsolete C Forms. In addition, an amount of Rs 7.90 crore was also payable by them as penal interest, the report stated. Further CAG found out that 3 dealers defaulted payment of tax amounting to Rs 2.23 crore and were also liable to pay interest of Rs.1.62 crore. In Finance Department (Nagaland State Lotteries), CAG detected that the state lotteries sustained revenue loss of Rs 2 crore due to flaws in implementation of the Nagaland Prohibition of Gambling and Promotion and Regularization of Online Games of Skill Rules, 2016. The report stated that royalty receivable by the state government also remained un-assessed as the active licensees neither maintained the designated accounts nor the department had any technical expertise to monitor and analyze the gross revenue of the licensees. The CAG also detected ‘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. “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 Rs 90.54 lakh without actual execution of 2,338 metres of drainage works in 18 villages,” it reported. These are but just few of the irregularities highlighted in the CAG report. Indeed it is a moment of great anxiety that the administration of the state is ridden not only with inefficiency and corruption but with various kinds of mafias gripping it hard and squeezing its resources. This is a sordid situation and unless the government decides to embark on a comprehensive reformation campaign to ameliorate the administrative mechanism, things are likely to go from bad to worse. What the CAG report says is at best the tip of the iceberg. Much more dirt and filth lie at the bottom of the system.