Says project spillover, delay will not be allowed

Panchayats should complete welfare projects in time or else risk the prospect of being sidelined in the allocation of funds, Minister for Panchayats M.K. Muneer said here on Tuesday.

He was addressing a meeting of panchayat officials from Kozhikode and Malappuram districts at Town Hall here. Dr. Muneer said he would give under-performing panchayats, both at the block and village levels, time till the first week of January 2014 to complete 80 to 100 percent of their annual welfare and development works.

“From here on, there should not be the word ‘spillover’ in your dictionary. Projects meant to be completed this year, should be completed this year. Projects and its funds should neither lapse nor be conveniently spilled over to the next year,” he said in a strongly worded address.

“The government’s share of funds has been given in eight instalments. The Finance Commission’s recommendations on welfare projects have been complied with. What is left for you is the fund from the World Bank. And as you all know, the World Bank has decided to give money only to those panchayats which perform,” Dr. Muneer said.

Presentation

The review meet saw an official from each panchayat in both the districts give a detailed description of how funds allotted was spent.

The Minister said panchayats should use the January-March period to devise new projects for the financial year. “Do not scramble at the last minute to finish your projects. There should be no excuses such as the treasury did not supply the funds in time or the election caught us by surprise,” he said.

The day was tough on certain panchayat officials with the Minister expressing his displeasure over their fund utilisation, or rather, the lack of it.

The Kozhikode district panchayat was at the receiving end.

The local body had 675 projects to complete this year. Out of this, over 300 are spillover projects from the previous year.

District panchayat president K. Jameela, who was sharing the dais with the Minister, was compelled to intervene after her official in the audience could not explain why there was so much of spillover and delay in completion of projects.

She said work was held up due to the monsoon, and materials were already lying ‘stacked,’ waiting to be put to use.

Official sought

Ms. Jameela then chose to be on the offensive, saying that her panchayat which dealt with projects worth crores had not been given a Secretary.

“In the past three years we have had only one Secretary who was with us for hardly 10 months before he got a transfer and left. This has been a severe handicap for us, we are suffering a lot,” she said.

The Perumpadappu panchayat in Malappuram was also at the receiving end when an official said a major welfare project got cancelled after a ‘data entry operator pressed the wrong button on the panchayat office computer.’

“Computers are not given to you to play with,” S.D. Pillai, State Performance Audit Officer, Local Self Governing Department, said.

Block panchayats such as Kozhikode, Balussery, and Koduvally in the district submitted their performance sheets. Balussery block reported having spent 55 per cent of its welfare funds on projects while Kozhikode said it had completed 10 of its allotted 41 projects for this year. The meet also saw panchayats complain of staff shortage in the overseer and Assistant Engineer ranks.

“Many of you are yet to identify beneficiaries for projects. For example, the project called ‘padana muri’ (study room) is yet to take off in many panchayats,” Dr. Muneer said.

More In: Kozhikode