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In Delhi, it swears by CAG, at home CPM dumps it in trash can

In Delhi, it swears by CAG, at home CPM dumps it in trash can

Author: Subrata Nagchoudhury & Navika Kumar
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 12, 2005
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=70205

CAG on Bengal: no accounts means lack of accountability, irregularities going undetected
On the issue of the Centaur hotel disinvestment, the CPM swears by the CAG's report, saying it should be the basis for a government probe into the sale of the hotel. But in West Bengal, the CPM's home turf, their own governments have been consigning to the bin reports by the same CAG, year after year.

Successive Left Front governments, says the CAG, are guilty of ignoring a mandatory Constitutional requirement: they have not been tabling audited accounts of government commercial enterprises, companies, statutory corporations. In some cases, for as many as 19 years.

The CAG's last report, placed before the West Bengal state legislature on August 4, 2004, pointed out that accounts of 37 ''working'' government companies had arrears for periods ranging from one year to nine years as of September 30, 2003.

Accounts of seven ''non-working'' government companies (in the queue for liquidation, closure or merger) had arrears for periods ranging from one year to 19 years.

The same CAG report pointed out that as many as 35 special audit reports (SARs), relating to eight state government corporations, had not been placed before the state assembly for periods ranging from one year to 16 years:

* SARs of West Bengal Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Development Finance Corporation not tabled for 16 years

* SARs of West Bengal State Warehousing Corporation for six years

* SARs of West Bengal Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation for three years

* SARs of Calcutta State Transport Corporation for three years

* SARs of North Bengal State Transport Corporation for three years

There are also instances of accounts that have been readied but not brought before the assembly. For example, the West Bengal Commission for Women has not tabled its report for the last four-five years though the CAG has completed scrutiny and the accounts finalised.

Government departments running special schemes also have a huge backlog:

* Sisal Plantation Scheme run by the state's agriculture department has not submitted accounts to the CAG since 1955-56, the year of the scheme's inception

* The Cottage and Small Scale Industries did not submit accounts of the government sales emporia in Kolkata and Howrah for the period 1951-52 to 1962-63 and again from 1969-70 to 1980-81. In September, 1980 the emporia merged with another government company. Hence, no accounts submitted

* The Urban Development department has not prepared accounts of the Kalyani township (Kanchrapara Area Development Scheme) since its inception in 1975-76

* Even the showcase Land and Land Reforms department has not prepared accounts of the haats under government management since 1982-83

Two years ago, in a report on the West Bengal government, the CAG said: ''Lack of accountability arising out of the failure to prepare accounts by department run units for years on end is a matter of serious concern as large amount of public funds are involved, coupled with the possibility of serious irregularities remaining undetected for long periods.''

''During 2000-01, out of Rs 23,426 crore of revenue and capital expenditure, expenditure of Rs 12,115 crore (52 per cent) was not reconciled by various departments including Home, labour, refugee, relief and rehabilitation and school education departments.''

There is no record of any action against any public servant or politician for the lapses in West Bengal so far.

Says Subrata Mukherjee, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly: ''It is part of a deliberate and conscious strategy of the CPM in the Left Front government not to table CAG reports on time. It is a violation of the Constitutional provision. Attempts to get these tabled in the assembly on time and have a discussion on financial irregularities have always been frustrated by the CPM.''

CPM's Nirupam Sen, the seniormost cabinet minister in West Bengal, admits to a ''serious backlog.''

''In most cases, there are adverse comments by the CAG. As far as my Department of Public Enterprises is concerned, I have asked my officers to update accounts. This is also necessary for companies which are being restructured and need financial aid,'' Sen said.

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