No record of Rs 44,000 crore government spending

No record of Rs 44,000 crore government spending

NEW DELHI: Various ministries — led by health, agriculture and human resource development — have released close to Rs 44,000 crore over the past few years without getting utilization certificates or accounts of grants given to statutory bodies and organizations, resulting in spending without any evidence of gains flowing to the beneficiaries.

The concern has been flagged by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a new report which pointed to over 43,000 utilization certificates adding up to Rs 44,000 crore which were due at the end of March 2013 being pending even 12 months later. The numbers would be much higher as at least 13 ministries including power, panchayati raj, rural development, petroleum, public enterprises and commerce and industry did not share information with the federal auditor.

Some of the utilization certificates which are due date back to almost four decades. For instance, the department of higher education is still awaiting proof of spending related to a grant given as far back as 1977-78, while the space department goes further back to 1976-77. Similarly, even five years after the Commonwealth Games, which was marred by spending-related controversies, 141 utilization certificates involving expenditure of over Rs 1,000 crore are still pending.

For long, the absence of utilization certificates has been a problem in the government but is only during years of fiscal strain that the expenditure department in the finance ministry exercises strict control on release of funds. And, even in those years, the controls typically kick in during the last quarter of the financial year, by which time a large part of the funds are already released.

Several ministries led by health and HRD have protested the government’s decision to decentralize spending and do away with a majority of centrally-sponsored schemes, leaving it to states to decide based on their development needs. The argument has been that priority areas would be ignored by states and crucial human development parameters would suffer. The CAG findings, however, point to a completely careless approach where funds were repeatedly released without any evidence of spending having taken place.

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