MANGALDAI: The Mangaldai Division of Public Health Engineering Department (PHED), the nodal implementing agency in Darrang district for the implementation of Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin, is under the scanner for alleged misutilization of fund.
The department being the nodal implementing agency, in the last few months has reportedly released fund in such a way that the account of the central flagship programme became almost empty well ahead before six months of the new budget allocation, with a huge amount pending for payment to the tune of several crores of rupees.
Much to the embarrassment, the PHE Department has been compelled to order a departmental inquiry. Superintending Engineer of Tezpur Circle, Jayanta Bortamuli, who is also holding the charge of Additional Chief Engineer in Tezpur, recently visited the district and reportedly verified all the necessary documents during his day-long stay in Darrang. Though the findings of the inquiry are yet to be made public, the Executive Engineer of the Mangaldai division of PHED-cum-Nodal Officer, Jayanta Medhi, while talking to media persons, admitted the visit of the senior official from Tezpur and inspection of relevant documents. But he refused to comment on the reaction of the senior official while terming it a normal course of the departmental inspection procedure.
Significantly, the Nodal Officer-cum-Executive Engineer admitted their failure to pay the monthly remuneration of 12 contractual staff engaged in the scheme since the month of October. “There is an outstanding amount of around Rs. 34 crore for payment and we have already made necessary correspondence with the government,” he added. He further informed that at the time of taking over charge from outgoing Nodal Officer-cum-Executive Engineer Manabendra Bikash Dhar, who retired from Mangaldai, an amount of Rs 30 crore was released for construction of 39,652 Individual House Hold Latrines (IHHL) against an estimated cost of Rs 12,000 per IHHL.
“The office needed fund for construction of 39,652 IHHLs in addition to two per cent contingency for awareness and other relevant activities. We have submitted utilization certificate for Rs 30 crore and demand for sanction of the outstanding amount of Rs 34 crore,” said Nodal Officer-cum-Executive Engineer Jayanta Medhi.
However, the calculation of the cost of the said number of IHHLs and relevant contingency cost shows not only a huge disproportionate figure of not less than Rs. 13 crore, but also the alleged misappropriation of the fund during the tenure of the outgoing Nodal Officer in connivance with a section of dishonest office bearers of non-government agencies, SHGs and contractors which will come to the light only after the completion of the probe.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Darrang Pankaj Chakravarty has also initiated an inquiry over the alleged anomalies in the ongoing construction works of several piped water supply schemes of the district.