KERALA

Misuse of funds by Corporation detected

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 14. The Local Fund Accounts Committee of the Kerala Assembly has unravelled a shocking trail of misuse of funds by the Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation during 1998-2002.

In its fifth report, released at a news conference here today, the committee has pointed out that the Corporation's financial management during the period was marked by gross indiscipline, absolute ineptness in office management and violation of laws and regulations. The Assembly Committee's examination of the Corporation's financial management was based on the compilation of reports of the Directorate of Local Fund Audit for the period.

Releasing the report at a news conference, the Assembly Committee chairman, M. Murali, and other members expressed dismay at the manner in which purchases had been made during the period and the impunity shown by the Corporation authorities in withholding files and facts relating to several controversial decisions from the committee. They pointed out that none of the purchases made in connection with the People's Plan Campaign were in accordance with the stores purchase manual or with the attestation of the Mayor and that there was no proper documentation of the purchases and distribution of material to beneficiaries.

No proper records

The Committee termed `serious' the Corporation's failure to keep proper records of the selection of beneficiaries under various schemes and their stipulated and actual contributions. The Government, it said, should initiate department-level action against the officials and employees concerned and report back to the committee within the next two months. It also asked the Government to instruct the Corporation authorities to ensure that all future purchases were in strictly in accordance with the stores purchase norms.

Among the most glaring irregularities unravelled by the committee relates to the purchase of a pothole repairing machine costing Rs. 27.55 lakhs. The machine was meant for repair of roads with more than 4.5-metre width. Since a major share of the Corporation's roads are less than 4.5-metre wide, the machine could not be put to use so far. The committee also found wasteful expenditure of Rs. 29,124 for purchase of bitumen to operate the machine and another Rs. 64,813 for purchase of diesel. The committee recommended that the amount spent on purchase of the pothole repairing machine should be realised from the then Corporation engineer and project engineer.

Gross irregularities

The committee also found gross irregularities in the projects executed under the direct supervision of the Corporation secretary and that there was no proper documentation about allocation of Rs. 13 crores received as Plan funds during 1997-'98 for a specific project. The committee pointed out that the file relating to the Rs. 13-crore project was not submitted to it despite repeated requests. Referring to another unauthorised expenditure totalling Rs. 2.92 lakhs by the secretary during 1997-'98, the committee said the amount should be realised from him and that all files and documents relating to the relevant projects should be handed over for audit within 15 days.

The committee found that Rs. 40 lakhs out of the Rs. 1 crore received from Southern Railway as the price for C. P. Sathram and 44 cents of land on which it is situated was spent for clearing the salary arrears of contingent employees without the approval of the Government.

Bid to withhold file

According to the committee, there was a deliberate attempt to withhold the file relating to purchase of three diesel Ambassador cars for the Corproration. The decision to purchase was taken on September 29, 1997, but the actual purchase took place only in early 1999 and this resulted in a loss of Rs. 2.38 lakhs. To a query from the committee, the Corporation replied that the relevent files had been forwarded to the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau. However, the IG in charge of Vigilance informed the committee that no such file had been forwarded to the Bureau. This IG's reply clearly showed that the there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the committee. Stern action should be taken against the officials concerned, the committee said.

The committee members, K. P. Rajendran (CPI), C. Moyin Kutty (ML), V. K. C. Mammed Koya (CPI-M) and T. K. Balan (CPI-M) were also present at the news conference.

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