The State Development Council has decided to infuse more flexibility in the utilisation of Plan funds by local bodies, with a view to improving the quality of expenditure and inducting transparency in the implementation of projects, especially in the context of the make over to Five Year Plans.

The council, which met here on Friday with Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in the chair, took a series of decisions to bring in qualitative changes in the implementation of Plan projects. The Cabinet would soon clear the proposed guidelines for utilisation of Plan funds that would ensure flexibility and transparency in the utilisation and improve the quality of expenditure.

Local bodies would be given the flexibility to utilise funds earmarking 45 per cent for basic amenities. The meeting decided to appoint a committee of secretaries to examine how the utilisation of funds for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes welfare could be improved. Another major decision that was taken related to the take over of panchayat roads.

District panchayats would be allowed to take back the roads that had been surrendered to the Public Works Department, but the funds for maintenance and repair would be made available only as per the recommendations of the State Finance Commission.

Presidents of district panchayats pointed out to the difficulties in tendering works for road construction and maintenance on account of the ban on allowing tender excess. The meeting decided to permit the district panchayat the facility to allow tender excess in road works to the extent of 10 per cent.

The meeting also decided to review the utilisation of funds available under Central schemes. It was also decided to give permissive sanction to local bodies to reduce the width of rural roads to six meter from the present eight meter stipulated under Central schemes such as Prime Minister's Sadak Yojana.

Delivering his introductory speech, Mr. Chandy said the shift to Five Year Plan mode would give a lot of leeway to the local bodies to prepare and implement projects since planning would be in tune with the Central and State Plans.

He said waste disposal and sanitation were the main subjects that deserved the attention of local bodies. The lack of a successful model was one of the main reasons for the failure to tackle the issue effectively. The meeting decided to focus on decentralised waste disposal, including segregation of waste at source and induction of new technology in waste disposal. However, privatisation of garbage plants would be discouraged because it would turn out to be a costly affair for the local bodies. However, night collection waste would be experimented.

The meeting decided to make all efforts to convert the observation of “Suchetwa Day” on May 17 a big movement by ensuring all round participation of local bodies, elected representatives, and the people. Representatives of local bodies untied a plethora of complaints about the numerous unrealistic norms in fund utilisation that prevented them from achieving targets.

The Chief Minister, who was accompanied by Rural Development Minister K.C. Joseph, Panchayats Minister M.K. Muneer, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, and Urban Development Minister Manjalamkuzhi Ali, promised them that the government would extend all possible assistance to their efforts to tackle the mounting garbage and sanitation problem and that availability of funds would not be a constraint.