GUWAHATI: Issuing supply orders without ensuring budget provision made the State PWD to cough up Rs 8.83 crore against the supply of RCC span pipes worth just Rs 47 lakh. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India termed it as a ‘laxity’ and ‘failure to release funds in time’.
The laxity was in the Karimganj and Dhubri divisions of the State PWD. The executive engineers of the two divisions separately ordered RCC span pipes worth Rs 47 lakh between August 1990 and October 1996.
The pipes were supplied as ordered. While the Karimganj division of the PWD paid the supplier Rs 8.7 lakh against pipes worth Rs 17 lakh, the Dhubri division paid Rs 14.5 lakh against pipes worth Rs 30 lakh. The cumulative balance of the two PWD divisions stood at Rs 24 lakh. However, after that the department made no payment to the supplier, and sat tight.
In the meantime, the supplier dragged the department to the Gauhati High Court. The High Court asked the State PWD to make the payment of the balance amount with penalty to the supplier. The department, however, did not comply with the High Court order, leading the Court to issue a fresh order. Finally at the directive of the High Court, the Executive Engineer of Karimganj PWD division had to pay Rs 5.32 crore in January, 2017 and the Executive Engineer of Dhubri division had to pay Rs 3.51 crore in March 2017. After making the department cough up Rs 8.83 crore against Rs 47 lakh, the two PWD divisions got the cases filed against them by the supplier disposed of.
The State PWD showed non-availability of funds as the reason behind non-clearance of bills to the supplier, leading to the extra payment. However, the CAG does not buy this excuse and says that the huge loss to the State exchequer could have been avoided. In its report for the year ended on March 31, 2018, the CAG has categorically said, “…though reasons for delay in payment was stated to be non-availability of fund, savings of substantial amount ranging from Rs 81.65 crore to Rs 1,908.88 crore were noticed under the Grants No. 64 ‘Roads and Brides’ during the year 2000-2016. This indicated that the laxity of the Department to assess the gravity of the matter and failure to release the amount in time resulted in huge financial burden on the State exchequer.”
The CAG report further said, “The CE, PWD issued supply order without ensuring budget provision. Further, the Commissioner & Special Secretary, GoA, PWD did not sanction the required fund to clear the liabilities which was increasing day by day. Thus, due to lack of proper attention to assess the gravity of the matter, the Government had to bear the financial burden. Government may consider for fixing responsibility accordingly for the lapses to avoid this sort of irregularities in future.”