N.J. Nair

Specific directives issued against diversion of funds

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Timely intervention by the government in releasing funds and the efforts taken to avert a treasury ban on the payments for Plan projects have been cited as the main factors that helped local self-government institutions (LSGIs) utilise 87 per cent of the funds within the prescribed timeframe.

The financial discipline enforced by the LSGIs by updating and streamlining the accounting system is expected to increase their efficiency in project implementation in the coming years. Unlike in the previous years, panchayat presidents and municipal chiefs did not have to face any hassles to get sanctioned funds on time. Frequent bans on treasury payments and cut in Plan funds have been major impediments the LSGIs had to deal with while implementing the Tenth Plan projects.

But the confusion over the guidelines had sparked off a row in the beginning. Stringent provisions framed against diversion of Plan funds and determining specific allocations for various sectors had drawn flak from civic chiefs this year. While a section of them had complained about the delay in issuing the guidelines, the others argued that the guidelines were against the spirit of decentralisation.

Since major amendments to the guidelines are unlikely in the coming years, allocation of funds and implementation of projects would not be an arduous task anymore. By updating the accounts, the fund utilisation has become more transparent and efficient. Problems in auditing the accounts too have been eliminated.

Main allegations

One of the main allegations during the Tenth Plan was the substantial diversion of Tribal Sub-Plan as well as funds allocated for SC/ST projects. Specific directions were given this year against diverting funds allocated for various sectors. While according top priority to the productive sectors, LSGIs have been told to exercise restraint against liberally doling out benefits to individuals using the Plan funds.

Certain civic bodies have even set a new model by routing funds from the general sector to SC/ST welfare projects. But for the funds deposited with the Kerala State Electricity Board and Water Resources Department for power and drinking water supply projects, deposit works have been restricted to the minimum.

This does not mean that everything has gone smoothly in the first year. Complaints galore have been raised about the quality of the projects. There have been complaints also that most of them were drawn up in a ritualistic manner without considering their feasibility or utility.

Duplication of projects due to lack of coordination among the three-tier system was also quite obvious. The reluctance of the civic chiefs and members in conducting grama sabhas too had come in for criticism. Still, the tough stance adopted by the Local Administration Department seems to have had the desired result and it is expected to fulfil the hope to provide a home for the poor and the landless within the next four years.