State government directive eases Corporation’s worries

A State government directive that funds allotted for a particular project can be expended for another has come as a breather for the city Corporation, as March 31, the end of the financial year, is nearing and the civic body’s expenditure of the People’s Plan fund is low.

At a Council meeting on Friday, it was decided that Rs.18 crore of the Plan fund will be pumped into housing schemes and electricity- and drinking water-related projects so as to raise the expenditure to 80 per cent. Civic bodies across the State are grappling with the problem as underutilisation of funds will translate into a dip in allocation the next fiscal year.

Deputy Mayor G. Happykumar said the delay primarily stemmed from the fact that the government did not release the Plan fund and subsidy guidelines in time, and hence, it was only reasonable on its part to allow funds to be pooled in certain areas and not necessarily abide by the previously decided allocation terms.

A Corporation official said if there was no substantial increase in the figure by March-end, the difference between the amount spent and the 80 per cent mark would lapse. This would severely affect the progress of particular projects, be it construction of roads or health-related schemes.

However, the new guidelines of the Local Self-government Department permit the funds to be used for certain projects, thereby increasing the overall expenditure and enabling those projects whose implementation was poor to stay alive. These will then feature under the spillover schemes for the next year. Housing projects, such as the EMS Housing Scheme, Centrally aided Basic Services for the Urban Poor programme, and Rajiv Awas Yojana under which slum development at Karimadom and Kalladimukham is being carried out, will receive large grants before the end of the month. A final list of beneficiaries needs to be drawn up, and the promised grant allotted to them.

The Council meeting was calm, conspicuous in the wake of a tumultuous Budget session the past week. Councillors of the ruling front, the United Democratic Front (UDF), and the Bharatiya Janata Party concurred that much of the success of the projects depended on the work of implementing officials and contractors concerned. Strengthening of the monitoring mechanism and revision of the list of beneficiaries were stressed. A few UDF councillors said performance audits were not conducted on a timely basis.