Kerala

Two back-to-back walkouts rock Kerala Assembly

Kerala Legislative Assembly. File photo.

Kerala Legislative Assembly. File photo.   | Photo Credit: S. Mahinsha

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KIFFB, private firm’s access to police network cause uproar

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition staged two back-to-back walkouts in the Kerala Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

The government’s refusal to adjourn the usual business of the House to discuss the Police Department’s controversial decision to allow a software company “unrestricted access” to its classified Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems (CCTNS) “under the shallow pretext” to create a new passport verification application provoked the Opposition to stomp out in protest at the end of Zero Hour.

The second boycott came an hour later when the Opposition said during a submission on Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIFFB) that they felt outraged that Finance Minister Thomas Isaac had attempted to hide “nepotism, profligacy, and corruption” in the State-owned entity by stonewalling repeated requests by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to verify its accounts comprehensively under Section 20 (2) of the CAG Act.

Congress MLA Sabarinath spearheaded the initial boycott by accusing the government of having pressured the Police Department to permit the UL Technology Solutions (ULTS), a “paper” subsidiary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) controlled Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS) based in Kozhikode, access to CCTNS environment to develop a passport verification application using blockchain technology.

The Opposition found Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s reply that the police had not implemented the order “misleading” and walked out, demanding an investigation.

A letter to the government by the CAG regarding the auditing of KIIFB accounts provoked the second walkout.

The CAG had told the government that its grant to KIIFB was likely to fall below 75% of its total outlay as the State-controlled entity raised funds from the open market through bonds and other financial instruments.

Such a situation, the CAG feared, would push KIIFB out of the purview of its ongoing audit under Section 14 (1) of the CAG Act.

Hence, optimally, the government should allow CAG to audit KIIFB under Section 20 (2) of the CAG Act.

Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said a statutory examination of accounts by the CAG under 20 (2) was far more comprehensive than a “perfunctory” audit under Section 14 (1).

The CAG could question motives, check for procedure non-compliance and probe for corruption, he said.

The Opposition said it would not take Mr Isaac’s statement that the government would allow CAG to audit KIFFB even if the State grant for the entity falls below the mandatory 75%.

Mr Isaac had also said that the Delhi High Court had ruled that a CAG audit under Section 14 (1) was a comprehensive examination.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 2:13:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/two-back-to-back-walkouts-rock-kerala-assembly/article29961422.ece

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