NEW DELHI: A draft audit report has flagged expenditure by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, claiming that funds for certain schemes were not specified in the demand for grants approved by Parliament. The draft report of the Director General of Audit, Central Expenditure, accessed by The New Indian Express reveals that the ministry spent Rs 4 crore on professional services and another Rs 4 crore on the International Centre for Drinking Water Quality, allegedly flouting rules.
“The additional fund for two programmes was arranged from savings available in the same section of the grant, without giving amount-specific component-wise break-up for general component, special component plan for Scheduled Castes and Tribal Areas sub-plan in the supplementary demand for grant. The lump sum supplementary was apportioned (allocated) amongst three components of the scheme, without amount-specific prior approval of the Parliament,” the draft audit report says.
As per rules, no lump sum provision can be made in the budget except where urgent measures are to be provided for meeting emergency situations, or for meeting preliminary expenses on a project or scheme which has been accepted in principle for being taken up in the financial year.
The audit report also pointed out that while obtaining a supplementary grant of Rs 4,000 crore for water supply and sanitation in Northeastern areas and grants for state governments, the ministry did not specifically seek prior approval of Parliament. It further said that since “expenditure attracted the limitations of new service, new instruments and being the expenditure incurred on grants-in-aid, amount-specific prior approval of the Parliament distinctly for three schemes was necessary but the same was not obtained”.
A ministry official defended the government’s decision, arguing that such expenditure was given the go-ahead to ensure that projects were not stalled due to lack of resources. He said there was a clear instruction from the government to focus on the implementation of the schemes and remove all roadblocks, including in financial allocation. The officer also pointed out that only a few days before his retirement, then Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa had told ministries and government departments that necessary grants should be released to the states without delay.
The New Indian Express reviewed Lavasa’s letter dated October 27, 2018, which categorically said that projects undertaken by state governments under various centrally-sponsored schemes and other grants commensurate with the budgetary resources were likely to be made available to them. “This is necessary to ensure that projects undertaken by the state governments do not suffer on account of lack of adequate funds to implement the same on time,” Lavasa had written in his letter.